If you've spent any time within the local art and cultural circles in recent years, you certainly know Jason Barr already. Chances are you've seen his work, drank a beer with him, done some "DRUGGZ," swam with him at Village Square pool, punched him in the face, or been punched in the face by him (perhaps all in the same afternoon). He's poised to leave Larryville soon for the KC art scene, so we like to think of this lengthy interview as BARRR's final love letter to Larryville.
Also, you'll want to make sure to pick up one of the limited edition "black metal Brownback" T-shirts he's made for this Saturday's Hospital Ships' show at the Arts Center. See the design at the end of the interview and pick one up at the show or on-line afterward, if any remain.
Enjoy the interview, which goes frighteningly deep into both the man and the myth! And stop by the BARRR Heaven website for info on his art and podcasts.
Chip: You tend to paint a lot of stuff that gives me nightmares, such as masturbating demons. Why can’t you offer up the occasional nice landscape, or bowl of fruit, or a tasteful nude?
BARRR: I've always painted over landscapes & still lifes. It's something I'm drawn to but definitely not to create them. I just want all the hard work someone else put into creating a boring/shitty piece and then I wanna vandalize it. Don't forget that Welcome To Asteroid Head Land was an installation landscape...just our psychedelic nightmare version of it. Ha.
The whole masturbating demon painting is such a joke now. I didn't even want to include that painting in that show. It wasn't really finished and it was washed out. You could definitely see a cock shooting a bullet thru his face but that's about it....and you really had to look thru all that purple paint to even see what the fuck was going on. I showed it to Kenneth Kupfer and he said "You're putting an angel with a boner sniffing coke with God in heaven...why wouldn't you put that piece in your show?!" So I did and now I'm regionally famous. Ha. How dumb.
Richard: How would you describe your work and who are your influences? And can you incorporate one of those “My work is like _______ meets ________” comparisons that critics love so well?
BARRR: Hmmmm.... I really like a lot of stereotypical stuff like Picasso, Paul Klee, Salvador Dali, Mondrian, Francis Bacon, and also some pop art like Basquiat, & Warhol of course. But more modern characters like Vincent Gallo, Skinner, Larry Clark, Travis Millard, Jay Howell, Chris Johanson, Clint Rickets, Scott McPherson, Michael Krueger, Ed Templeton, & Kenneth Kupfer def inspire me daily. People always say my work reminds them of a million different people. Film really inspires me as well. I love Harmony Korine. I like people that make raw art that is really about the attitude & feeling it emits. I could care less about someone trying to make a drawing look like a photo. I'm not dissing it. It just doesn't make me feel anything other than damn, that's good, probably took a long ass time to make.
Chip: We hear that local Twitter celebrity Fake Jeff Withey commissioned you to do some paintings for him? Is that dude as fucking cool as I imagine, and how did this all come about?
BARRR: Yeah.. I reached out to @FakeJeffWithey & we had a little meeting of the minds. I hoped to contribute to the modern myth & maniac that is Fake Jeff Withey. We vibed on the same level… and I created the Hot Tub Party which is supposed to be the secret lair in which Fake Jeff Withey brews his secret Gatorade with babes soakin in it. It kind of turned into an acid nightmare….but that shouldn't be a surprise. It's really just me throwin ideas at that guy & him responding….ok…that's hilarious….just don't get me sued and we're golden. I love that guys acct & yes…we partied hard together. I can't talk about that night legally. Dude makes me look like a total puss….parties harder than Andrew WK.
Richard: Tell us what you’re working on for the next Final Friday and how hyped should we be about it?
BARRR: Well… I won't have anything in the next Final Friday show here in LFK.
I'd say the most important event going down will be the new Lawrence Art Auction on display. That's a huge swath of artists all in one giant group show. I think Ben Ahlvers has really improved the quality of work. I've seen the show. It's up now. It's amazing.
I also have a painting in the show titled "Happy Birthday Langston Hughes. Thanks For The Cake." It's basically about how I didn't realize that this huge cake was for some Langston Hughes literary prize being given out here at the Arts Center and I seriously just cut the corner out before the event and ate it. Yeah. Real smooth. I'm an idiot. Everyone's been making fun of me about it for a month now. So... I made the painting of the cake with the piece missing. Pretty straight forward, but I hope people can see the charm in making fun of yourself.
Richard: Your public persona, which can be pretty confrontational and abrasive, is well-known in local scenester circles. How much of that is a cultivated act and how much is the “real” Barr?
BARRR: I was definitely bullied a lot as a kid. I also moved a lot. My parents were artists and Christians. So.. I def did not feel like I fit in anywhere I went. I was too weird for the Christians and I was too Christians for the dudes at school. I was also really sick out of nowhere when I was in 5th grade. I had seizures & was hospitalized for almost an entire year in Chicago. That was rough. I was then the full on weirdo/outcast/retard at my middle school. BUT I realized I was funny and could talk a mile a minute. I slowly won people over with my wit & charm. Thank god for that. Luckily we moved to Olathe KS and I was able to be myself. Hence the over confident, loud mouth clown persona. It was all skateboarding, punk rock and fucking shit up with Kenneth & Alex Kupfer. Embracing the absurd & just not apologizing for anything after being a poor, sick outcast up until my sophomore year of High School.
I had to give you that upfront. I have to say that's my excuse for some of my outrageous attitude & personality. The biggest thing people say to me after only reading my tweets or hearing some ridiculous story is "I can't believe how nice you are." It's like they think the blogger or stage persona is how I am all the time. I'm generally lampooning someone that thinks he's too cool for school but at the same time...I'm definitely a snobby know-it-all. It just comes out. I do not suffer fools.
I will also say, it's not calculated. Almost everything I do is impulsive. I have no plan for my career either. I am what I am. I think people are both drawn to strong personalities & also intimidated by them. It's people's insecurity that makes them paranoid. I'm just confident. Everyone got a damn trophy in soccer growing up and now suddenly there's this guy making ridiculous art, standup, music, etc... challenging them on every level.
It started with my blog Farmhouse Blues over 10 yrs ago for Lawrence.com. I was given a platform here locally and I ran with it. I mean, no one even knew what blogs were back then and BAM... I come in as a 20 YO pointing out the absurdity of politics, hipsters, religion & liberals here in Lawrence. It def shook people up. I was also conservative then. Not kidding. I thought it gave me an edge to run with this character who still partied but was confessed to be a believer & a Republican. (I was also obsessed with Vincent Gallo) It got more of a response than I'd ever imagined and at this point it's hilarious to me. I'm NOT a conservative or a believer at 30. But...I still have the same personality. It's a blessing & a curse to be manic depressive & have panic disorder. Ha. I guess I could've just answered your question with that last line but why make this simple.
Chip: Rumor has it that you’re moving out of the Lost Art Space? Will you be working closer to home in North Larryville and, if so, aren’t you scared of being knifed by the hobos that wander the streets of No Law like wild dogs?
BARRR: You know I'm not afraid of anyone. Especially hobos. I think I hold the record for quickest knock out at the Replay Lounge as well. Dude spit on the back of my head once, I turned took two steps and knocked his ass out with one punch. I then turned around and walked out. I was there for a total of 1 minute. Dri was dj'ing there that night. I had my nice crushed velvet jacket on too. Coulda been a great night. HA.
Well. I lasted 2 months at Lost Art Space. It was awesome. I learned so much in the area of craft (mine sucks) and how to be self sufficient. I made a TON of work there. Those dudes really pushed me in a good direction. It also goes without saying that my aforementioned personality quirks impact whether I can mesh with people. We've all got egos and everyone thinks they're doing all the work. That's the hardest part of a group run project or space. It's stressful at times & challenging.
I've already got my art collective Asteroid Head and I just sold Wonder Fair. I have no real desire to try and do another collaborative art thing. Making art is weird. Especially when you have a specific vision of what you're doing and why, like I do. I want to be in charge of my surroundings & in control of my image/brand 200%. That's why I'm back working out of my home studio. I think I probably sold 5 paintings out of that space off the wall. It's not advantageous for me to pay rent & kick back $$$ for events I can book in a living room. I sell 75% of my work online.
If you can find a commodity to sell to the general public, you can make a living in Lawrence KS. BUT if you're doing what I'm doing... it's not gonna sell to the rich west side folks unless they're a fucking maniac. I've met a couple west side bros that immediately melted and freaked out when they saw my work. They wanted to talk about acid & when they were young but none of those bros bought anything. So, that's cool but it made me analyze what I'm doing on Mass St. Am I here to just hang out or am I really trying to put in the type of quality hours that I need to further my artistic vision. I'm too easily distracted too. That's def on me. Ha.
In the end you have to surround yourself with people that have the same vision. It doesn't mean another attitude or vision is bad or wrong. It's just different and can cause for weird vibes. Concerning the Lost Art Space...I hope those guys keep doing what they're doing. They're good for Lawrence KS. Big shout out to George & Judy Paley too. That space wouldn't even be possible if they weren't such giving people & supporters of the arts. If you haven't made it to 845 Mass yet, do it before it's gone! It's an original space.
I want to talk about N. Lawrence too... I love that place. I'm trying to nail down Frank Dorsey who just bought LATINO SI!!!!! If you follow my twitter feed, that shit was the bane of my existence! I hope to paint 3 murals there before I leave! It's only 4 houses down from me at 5th & Locust. Should be a great way to leave some BARRR art in Lawrence. I'm also working out some new stuff for the Taproom bathrooms like my homie Travis Millard. I'm gonna go hard before I exit this beautiful place I've loved for so long.
Richard: You seem to have a prolific output. Do you have a personal favorite piece from some point in your career? Tell us about it.
BARRR: I pretty much love whatever I'm making at the moment. It's like some sort of weird delusion. As soon as you finish something, you're like…this is fucking genius and hilarious. Just because you made it. Ha. I think that's what keeps artists working. BUT some of us are simply lucky enough to be really dumb & stubborn…so we keep making art. I'm just lucky. Dumb & lucky.I think I'll name my next painting that. LOLZZZ. Although I'll throw this out there… I'm making a limited edt. shirt for Hospital Ships that will only be available at his show March 17th at the Arts Center. It's an anti-Brownback tee…. BARRR x Hospital Ships = Best shit you've ever seen! #HeavyMetalGraffitti is all I'm gonna say on that. It'll be available online after the show…. but if you wanna guarantee that you get one come to that sicccc show!
I want to send out positive vibes here. It's easy to be critical of everything or reactionary just because you're bored. If you use Twitter, you know what I'm talking about. I also don't want to discourage people from being critical. Just find a good balance and remember that if you put out a lot of criticism or negativity you'll get that back. Just be ready to roll with what you're doing. Thanks for being an amazing place to live and work Lawrence KS!
Here's BARRR's Hospital Ships T-shirt: