Home Magazine "Head in the Clouds"; an interview to the Artists

Marc Barker and Josette-Simon Gestin have been part of the same artist community since the 2000s. They have now found a common ground; clouds. Through very different interpretation, these artists came together for the exhibition "Head in the Clouds" taking place at 1515 Lincoln Gallery in Oklahoma City until June 1st 2024. 

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Kooness: Tell us about your series and exhibition “head in the clouds.” 

Josette Simon-Gestin: During Covid, I was stuck in France and couldn’t go to China, where my husband was living. I felt stuck and constrained. When travel restrictions ended and I was finally able to go there, I started working on one of my series called “Secret Garden”, followed by another series called “Flowers of Shanghai.” During this time, I wanted to stay outdoors and rediscover the city. I looked at the sky a lot and that was where the “Clouds” were born. The first country I visited was Oklahoma,  where I found Marc and the best artist community.  After that, I moved to six different countries. 

Josette Simon-Gestin. Secret Garden #3. Courtesy of 1515 Lincoln Gallery

Marc Barker: I have always lived here in the city, and haven’t visited around much. For me, it all started when I met Josette on the Paseo, the biggest art district in Oklahoma City. At the time, I was working with a printmaking studio. 

Kooness: What inspired you for the title of the exhibition?

J: The saying “head in the clouds” in french is “La tête dans la nuages” inspired me a lot. I liked this idea because of the meaning behind the phrase; being original, creative. In art, you must be unique and there must be something personal. I think the title also shows the connection between us, and I definitely wanted to show this, because Marc has always done a lot for the art community.

M: I wanted the title to be hers. I have had several shows both here and in Tulsa in the past however mostly were political or with other meanings. My cloud-artworks were perfect for this title.

Kooness: How do you feel your art evolved through the years? How did your style change?

J: I have always been painting women and kids, swimmers and families. I think I have always tried to address the same question through different angles. For me, it is a particular way to situate myself in the world. I used to use fabrics that will be coming back, too, because I like to sew. I have tried to integrate this in my artworks and still try today. I think Bretagne, the region of France where I grew up, also gave me strong traditional values that I’ve transferred on canvas over the years. 

M: It all started in Paseo for me. When I was in the printmaking studios, I learnt to use different techniques like monotypes and etchings. I liked the plates I would create, I liked the plans that came through it. As well, masonite paintings, printed monotypes, is where it all started. For the clouds, I am not sure of how and why the clouds, however several of my series depict the clouds. 

 

Marc Barker. Aligning. Courtesy of 1515 Lincoln Gallery 

Kooness: If you had to attribute a personality to your artworks, which one would you choose?

J: Poetical and Colourful.

M: Contemplative. 

Kooness: How has your background and upbringing influenced your work? 

J: I didn’t grow up in an arts family, I had three older sisters. I have always loved poetry, to draw, and to spend time alone. I have always seen myself as a bit of a loner. I spent a lot of time by myself writing and reflecting. 

M: Before becoming an artist, I was a Cave Explorer. I have a bachelor’s degree and master’s work in Zoology. Cave exploring was my passion during the weekend. So, it all began because I bumped into photography while photographing caves. Cave photographs soon became cave monotypes, and then cave paintings, until today. I still have a strong bond towards nature, as you might notice with the clouds. 

Kooness: What have critics and collectors said about your works?

J: Usually, they wonder where I get my ideas from. And the answer is that with all the alone-time I had while growing up, I sang, rode my bike in the countryside, and I let my mind go a lot. So, from there I have a lot of imagination. 

M: One of my gallerists told me that my works were attractive to professionals. Her clients were doctors and lawyers and he thought they found them interesting. I have worked on a series called “the Illusion of Mattering '' that played between figurative and illusion. I used to collect a lot of photographs that portrayed active immigrants.

 

Josette Simon-Gestin. On the Crest of the Waves #1. Courtesy of 1515 Lincoln Gallery

Kooness: What do you want to transmit through your works?

J: I am trying to bring some poetry to the world. Instead of taking an aspirin, people should look at an artwork. My aim is to cure, to slow down. I got inspired from a game of my times that was different, that wanted to bring people together all over the world, and that didn’t need a language.

M: Through the clouds, I want to transmit the quiet, the peace, and the minute of contemplation. I’ve had women come up to me with tears in their eyes and say “these make me want to cry.” In other times, when I worked on redactive immigrants, I wanted to transmit a political statement. I wanted people to look at them, and stop labeling!

Kooness: What techniques did you use for your artworks?

J: I always do things differently; I don’t follow an order. It can be said that these artworks are mixed media. I sometimes start with acrylic, sometimes with fabric or pencil. Sometimes I add linen to make it more interesting. 

M: I used black and white pigments on textured canvas and paper.  I take advantage of texture and I don’t paint using white, I mainly paint using black. Often people mistake my artworks for lithographs and charcoal drawings.

 

Marc Barker. Winds of Procidence. Courtesy of 1515 Lincoln Gallery 

Kooness: Please describe one of your exhibited pieces - chosen.

J: The artworks “On the Crest of the Waves #1” is all covid-related. It is all about openness. I like swimming, and I used that as a metaphor for floating, and lightheartedness after all the heaviness. I have done artworks that depict swimming before, however it is coming up again. I have been touching a lot of different things through my artworks, and my goal now is to bring everything together, even things that are in contrast. I don’t like black and white nor the middle gray, I like colours!

M: The chosen artwork is “Pending”. In this artwork, clouds are moving. When I work with clouds, I work on top and on top of them until I see the artwork moving on canvas. When the cloud starts moving, that’s my sign that I am nearly finished. My purpose is to combine all of the techniques I have used in the past together, and put them into caves.

Written by Kooness

Cover Image: Marc Barker. Imminent. Courtesy of 1515 Lincoln Gallery

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