Glenn Barr is an illustrator/painter from America’s favorite city, Detroit, who has been making a name for himself crafting up some of the most unique artwork you can witness. It must have been destiny for Glenn to become an artist, as he would occupy himself with painting, drawing, and even shredding the guitar in a band. Launching his art career in high school, receiving commissions from his classmates, which eventually led him to meet up with Paul Stanley (Kiss front man), and then off into the freelance world. I discovered Mr. Barr when I stumbled across one of my favorite graphic novels, Brooklyn Dreams, which contained his beautifully intricate, detailed, comical, and disturbing artwork. I was a fan instantly after witnessing this spectacle. Hey, if you loved The Ren and Stimpy Show, then it should impress you to know that he teamed up with fellow genius, John Kricfalusi, at his animation studio, Spumco, to create some of the nightmare inducing animations.
I got the chance to ask him a few questions to find out what he has been doing since then.
How did you begin your career as an artist?
I started out doing t-shirts for my friends when I was in junior high. I would draw their favorite bands on a shirt or jacket in marker. I would take that money and buy art books and records. Then there was college where I earned a BFA in illustration. At the same time I worked on underground mags and illustrations for local bands, like albums, CD, posters, etc. And I did ads for local resale stores and comic shops. Then I did a stint in advertising, then comics, then animation, then I quit all that and began to paint for myself and started exhibiting my work in galleries. I had to pay a lot of dues to get to where I am today.
Who or what were some of your biggest influences?
I loved ’60s and ’70s illustrators along with the fine artists of the 20th century. I don’t think I can name all the artists here but early on in my career I gravitated toward Ralph Steadman and Francis Bacon, Schiele, Rivera, Warhol, Shahn, Bellows, Turner, Frazetta and a ton of comic artists like Kirby, Buscema, Aparo, Wrightson, Jeff Jones ….
Your work has a quality to it that looks like it was influenced by the futuristic 1950s art to the grindhouse/exploitation films of the 1970s, does the art styles from those periods in time play an important influence on your work?
I don’t really like the ’50s sci-fi much; it’s a little too goofy for me. But I do like the exploitation cinema of the ’60s and ’70s. I like the idea of a subculture that exists parallel to ours, a world that rejects the morays of the “norm.” So, immersing myself in the genre I felt it liberated me and gave me the power to create my own world, my own reality where anything can happen.
I want to ask you some questions about a few pieces of your work that I really liked; one piece that stood out to me the most was Summer. It looks like a classic rock album cover, what inspired you to create that piece?
Summer was a painting I did for a group show at Seattle’s Roq La Rue Gallery. The show was titled “Lush Life” and I thought a beautiful reptilian water nymph playing an electric guitar fit the theme quite nicely.
Fashionable Wrath and Happiness look like a satire or political commentary on war and drug abuse, was that the intended message behind them, or am I looking too far into things?
I lost a lot of friends to drugs and Happiness was a commentary to its tragic allure. Fashionable Wrath came at a time when war was all over the news and it seemed to be quite fashionable. I absolutely hate war and us sticking our noses in other countries business. That painting was the antithesis of a lot of my paintings were I depict beauty and then something repelling or dangerous. Something to bring you in and hold you yet there is that darn bomb just floating there. I love an ended narration with no beginning and no ending or finish … I let the viewer make up their own scenario.
I noticed on your website's events page that there was this exhibit called Detroidland, what was that all about? What have you been doing since then?
Ahhh, Detroitland is the name of my product line that is offered online at Retro-a-go-go. I’ve been doing mostly exhibitions. I have a toy Skelve called LUCKY DEVIL that will be released through Circus Posterus. I have released several prints through 1XRUN too. I really have to update my site, sheesh.
On your Facebook page, I saw that you have been painting some wall murals for this exhibit, Pow Wow, tell us about it, how did you enter the exhibition, what is the subject matter for your entries , do you have any competition?
I was invited by 1XRUN and Pow Wow Hawaii to do a mural. So I did. My first outdoor big scale painting. Very fun! I learned a lot and look forward to the next one.
What does the future hold for Mr. Glenn Barr?
A group show in Berlin, May ( ThinkSpace Gallery ), lots of commissions, a solo show at Roq La Rue in September, a group show in SF at Hashimoto Contemporary Gallery in November, some art for Scope at Miami Basel in December ( ThinkSpace Gallery ). More toys, sculpture and bronzes too I hope. Working on character design for an up coming animated series.