WBAA Arts: My View From Seven Feet

Nov 22, 2019

Joe Barry Carroll’s appreciation for art isn’t anything new—he began accumulating a collection of artworks after receiving his first NBA check in 1980. In an effort to understand an artist’s process, he picked up a paintbrush himself a little more than five years ago, and he’s been hooked ever since.  

But he says the transition into art hasn’t come without criticism, and while he’s sometimes sensitive to comments, he says he’s become confident in his abilities.

“For anyone to say they don’t care what people say, it feels a little disingenuous to me. I do think that what people say will not stop me from doing what I want to do,” Carroll says.

Each painting in the exhibition is paired alongside a narrative written by Carroll.

Although the exhibition showcases a wide variety of artistic styles, curator Michael Crowthers says there’s a cohesive artistic voice that binds the collection.

“We’ve got very abstract work—geometric shapes as well as, next to it, a representational little girl right there at a piano. The fact that they sit on the same wall together and you don’t question it, going, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the same artist for sure,’ that artistic voice is very strong there then,” Crowthers says.

When he paints, Carroll says his original intention is often transformed into an entirely different image. While painting what was supposed to be a depiction of himself, his mother, and his sisters, the artist says he began to reconsider his original plan, and his idea evolved into the abstract work titled Po’.

“And it just became almost impossible to get the four of us on that board, and so I went to something more abstract with it. With each of these, there’s probably like eight or nine layers of painting under them to where I tried to do something that didn’t work and tried again,” Carroll says.

Some of Joe’s paintings have reoccurring themes or images. In a painting titled Man, a yellow sky hangs over a dirt pathway leading to a small white house in the background. This is Joe’s childhood home—a place he says he feels attached to. In Favela, a more abstract representation of the same home, a small patch of white swims amidst an almost completely yellow canvas.

Curator Michael Crowthers says museum attendance is up since the exhibits debuted, including by people living outside of the Lafayette area.

“We’ve seen different people come to the museum. For instance, even at the opening reception we had a couple families calling ahead from Illinois making sure that he’d be here to meet them, and we asked, and they had never been here before,” Crowthers says.

The gallery space that neighbors Carroll’s exhibition has on view 32 pieces from The Antonio and Betty Zamora Collection of African Art. This separate exhibition, titled Black American Voices: Shared Culture, Values, and Emotions presents African pieces of art alongside pictures of people from Carroll’s life and a short personal narrative.

The narratives in both exhibits are true accounts of his experiences and the lives of his family and friends, but Carroll says he wants people who view them to reflect more on their own lives than on his.

“But I think the real richness of it all is if they see this piece behind you and say, ‘Oh he reminds me of my cousin,’ and then it sends them into this spiral into their own history and makes them reflect on their own lives,” Carroll says.

And he says he hopes his work will inspire others to create art themselves.

“For practical purposes, people may not explore different things because they have people depending on them, so they have to stay put, but to the extent that you can, I encourage everybody to look inside yourself and maybe dabble in the things that you thought you would always do,” Carroll says.

My View from Seven Feet and Black American Voices: Shared Culture, Values, and Emotions will be on display in the McDonald and East galleries at the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette until December 1.