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A Collage of Faith

Gary Barton’s unique collage paintings demonstrate how faith is built layer by layer.

Art requires risk; for a collage painting, artists must be willing to sacrifice what came before in order to create a more perfect and complete painting, exhibiting faith as they paint over elements they love. Sometimes it works out to brilliant effect. Sometimes it does not. Professor Gary Barton (Art) plays with this idea of layers, veiling, and revealing in his untitled series of painted collages, which currently reside on the fourth floor of the Joseph F. Smith Building.

Barton’s collection centers on the idea of faith and how it contains layers and veils. Regarding faith, Barton said, “We are surrounded by information. We put these parts together in an effort to understand. There’s a lot of gaps, but there’s a beauty to it too.” Faith requires an acceptance that one will not know everything exactly. As one gains faith, he or she begins to understand the meaning behind different layers of doctrine. The physical form of the paintings matches this idea in the collage style, taking pieces and fragments to create a whole. Some items veil others or even block them out entirely, alluding to the faith to accept what we cannot see or perhaps do not yet understand. The paintings also build on what can be seen and the faith-promoting experiences that the viewer has had.

Michelangelo’s unfinished painting The Entombment served as a catalyst for the collection. Barton examined what had been physically painted and what had been left undone, sparking the idea of what is seen and unseen in terms of faith. Barton utilized other historical representations of Christ as the base for further paintings that he would then veil and layer with symbols and references, such as a gloved hand to represent the body and spirit, to create a complex finished work. The symbols give each painting further layers, since they can be interpreted in a number of different ways. A glove can relate to industry and how Christ worked with his hands. But a glove can also relate to protection from the world. Viewers go on their own journey of faith as they find meaning inside the layers.

Barton’s Latter-day Saint upbringing instilled in him an interest in issues of belief and spirituality. Art helped him work through these ideas. Barton said, “I’m interested in the search for truth. And art and its history has been a laboratory of that search. Art questions truth; it alludes to truth.” He hopes that as others view his paintings, they will consider their own journeys of faith and find the paintings engaging and spiritually nourishing.

This collection by Gary Barton can be viewed in person on the fourth floor of the Joseph F. Smith Building.