Paint expressions

By: Jessica Ricks, Staff Writer

Senior painting and art history major Nessi Alexander-Barnes’s art studio in the Center for the Arts is reflective of xyr* work and creative mind. Xe* paints with oil, watercolor and ink paint, which cover the table in the center of the room. The walls hold several large paintings on cloth of the animal characters xe creates. Although Alexander-Barnes has been drawing xyr whole life, xe really got into it at the age of 15.

“I kind of just grew into it organically,” Alexander-Barnes said. “My family has always been really interested in art and art history. My mom was an artist so I kind of just got into it naturally.”

Xyr serious art education began in high school where xyr professors were very serious about art, and provided good feedback as well as high-end materials to use.

After deciding to major in science, Alexander-Barnes avoided art for two years before deciding to continue xyr art education at community college before coming to Towson. Although Alexander-Barnes decided not to take on science as a major, xe still enjoys science and frequently incorporates it into xyr art.

“I loved chemistry and I really get into the chemistry of my paint,” Alexander-Barnes said. “I look at pigments a lot. It’s basically colored dirt suspended in something that acts like fat. They have slightly different uses and slightly different textures and they interact with each other differently.”

Alexander-Barnes recently received the William Denner Award and scholarship for painting. In addition, xe has also been involved at shows in the Towson Arts Collective. Alexander-Barnes is also member of Maryland Federation of Art, Maryland Art Place and was previously a member of Towson’s art history club and LGBT club. After leaving Towson, Alexander-Barnes plans to go into an MFA program. Xe is currently applying to as many schools as possible and will take whichever school offers the best combination of aid and education. After graduation, xe plans to teach painting and studio art.

Alexander-Barnes is mainly inspired by art history and xyr own experiences as a gender queer person. Xe turns personal feelings about those experiences into artwork, and creates characters that are symbolic of these themes.

“It’s the root of everything,” xe said. “My characters are created in a way that art historians pick apart.”

Alexander-Barnes sticks with art because of the process of coming up with the symbolism and solving problems that arise. Not only that, but xe can have a voice.

“I can have a voice in art as a non-binary trans person that I wouldn’t be able to have otherwise,” Alexander-Barnes said.

As for how people receive xyr art, it’s not as important that people see it in the way that xe does, Alexander-Barnes said.

“I would like my work to be charming enough that people get into it and then they’ll realize what I’m saying and then the meaning becomes clear because they’ve gotten invested in how it looks,” Alexander-Barnes said. “But mostly I’ll be happy for anyone who looks at it.”

Editor’s note: Alexander-Barnes prefers the use of the pronouns “xe” and “xyr” in place of “she” and “her,” or “he” and “his.”

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