Bronzing the Golden Years
Luckily for Beth Barnard, she has a daughter who happened to help out at a 2017 summer camp of the talented and successful Nashville sculptor, Alan LeQuire. Because of that, Barnard received an email from LeQuire, saying that he was having an Open Studio. At 63, by this random fluke, she started going to LeQuire’s Open Studio to try sculpting on a whim, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Barnard graduated from Peabody College in Nashville, majoring in Biology, and later learned a bit about the body as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist at Vanderbilt Hospital, scanning pictures and running blood tests on almost every structural and functional part of the human body. The thing she loved most about her job there was not scanning the patients or drawing their blood, but was talking with them and their families.
Five years later, another life skill was consciously born as she realized she could transfer this skill in pursuit of a Masters in Social Work, forgetting about art all the while and eventually pursuing a lifetime career as a psychotherapist. She never imagined that all of these experiences and skills would come together toward the Winter season of her life. As a therapist, Barnard developed a high tolerance for the intensity of others’ feelings as she paid close attention to their emotional and physicial state, body language, pain or joy, and to the nuances of their mind and body connection.
Eventually sculpting became a way to express her observations of humanity in a more tactile way as she began to focus on expressions and body language in the pieces she created.
As the Pandemic hit, Barnard used the lockdown to study sculpting more seriously, studying artistic anatomy, taking a number of online sculpting courses, and going to a number of portrait and figurative workshops across the country.
But at the same time, she began to have a bit of an identity crisis…was she a therapist who was also a sculptor or a sculptor who was also a therapist? Did she want to do ceramic sculptures or functional pieces? Was she a craftsperson or a fine artist? Could she afford to invest more financially to have her pieces molded and cast in a medium other than clay? The questions almost paralyzed Barnard for nearly a year, but it was by attending various sculptural workshops across the country taught by experienced fine artists that helped her begin to figure out her journey.
In 1997, about the time that her daughter was born, Barnard met a talented sculpting student, whose talent and passions for sculpting were off the charts. She found herself drawn to his pieces like a bear is drawn to honey. She couldn’t explain her strong attraction to his work, but remembered a similar feeling of awe in seeing photos of the statue of Michaelangelo’s, The David, in her Peabody art and music classes. Then, in 2019, Barnard took her daughter on a trip to Italy and her dream came true of actually seeing The David as well as the sculptures of Bernini and Rodan. Of course she had to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain with the hopes of one day being able to return to Rome to sculpt with one of her former teachers. She was then even more hooked on the perfection of the classics.
Barnard’s sculpting instructors over the years have also been a great source of inspiration, but they are becoming too many to name.
Born in Alton, Illinois, sculpting was never on her radar. But as a child, she always enjoyed observing people when in public and drew pictures of faces in the basement of her home where her mother kept a kiln. Although Barnard was not as excited as her mother was pouring molds, painting and glazing, she took typical high school art classes. There she found a love of photography, thinking this was what she would pursue in her lifelong career.
Developing relationships with other artists at the Clay Lady Campus, where she has one of her studios in Nashville, has deepened Barnard’s creativity and been a source of day to day joy in being surrounded by so many other types of artists. She has been able to participate in various shows and exhibits throughout Nashville, while at the same time, she has been able to develop relationships with other sculptors she has met in classes in other cities.
Barnard believes that sculpting has unlocked talents that were hidden to her as well as reigniting a natural love of art that had been pushed deep within. Ironically, although she is now in the Winter of her life, she feels more complete and looks forward to seeing where her sculptures will evolve as she continues to pursue life with her art, family, and Standard Poodle, Odie.
As of this writing, Barnard's first bronze has been cast. And so it begins…