Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Denee Barr: A Woman for All Seasons

Her Music, Her Art
In May of 2008, I met Denee Barr in person when she responded to be part of something I was doing called "The Multicultural Hat Project." The project later became a party at my place; I photographed over 100 people in the black hat. Afterward, I learned Denee was an art photographer.

I told Denee when last I saw her at The Still Life Gallery’s Bastille Day Celebration in Ellicott City Historic District this past July 12th, that I planned to call her “The Renaissance Woman” in my feature. I changed it slightly.

Denee is everywhere you go, literally, with her family, or alone. Always working, always engaging others--this woman is seemingly indefatigable.

Then I found out first hand when she attended another yard party this June that she is an incredible singer. When she hit a sustained high note at the end of SUMMERTIME and became one with the song--the sign of a passionate and accomplished artist--I almost fell out of my chair. And she was playing impromptu with Paul Snyder, a fine guitarist. I hope they will join forces again. I could see immediately why Denee is comfortable performing in front of small or large audiences!

I learned later that Denee had been honored as the first recipient of the "International Vocalist Solo Competition 1979" at Howard University in Washington, DC, so I began to ask more. Since life is complex and some lives are more complex than others, I felt as if I needed a guide! That was when I asked Denee Barr to give me a brief chronological history, which involved several moves across the country.

The Early Years. I was born in Washington, DC on July 1, 1961. My maternal grandparents came to Washington, DC in the early 1940's from Daytona Beach, Florida. President Truman used to greet my Mother as she walked to school each morning.

Growing Up. In 1972, while living in Walnut Creek, California I studied voice in Concord California with Mimi Foord, an exceptional music teacher who cast me as the mother in a production of Amahl and the Night Visitors. Also during this time I toured in performance with a county-wide jazz band in Oakland California under the direction of Rich Martin.

In 1973, my family moved to Fort Worth, Texas where I became a member of the Texas Girls' Choir under the direction of Founder Shirley Thompson Carter (Texas Hall of Fame 1999) and toured over 7 European countries. It was also during this time that I performed with the Wedgewood Middle School choir under the direction of grammy award winning music producer Darrell Bledsoe.

Into our vicinity. In 1975, my family moved to Columbia, Maryland from Fort Worth, Texas. From 1975-1979 I studied theatre and dance at the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts in Columbia, Maryland under the direction of Toby Orenstein and was an original member of the Junior Young Columbians, a troupe founded in 1978 by renowned by Orenstein of Toby's Dinner Theatre of Baltimore and Columbia, Maryland.

In the summer of 1979 I performed in a production of "Godspell" at the Wye Mills Dinner Theatre in Maryland under her direction and also performed in the Oakland Mills High School Chorus under the direction of director George Drummond. He later submitted my application for the International Vocalist Solo Competition 1979 at Howard University.

The photo, left, with children Mariama and Hadar, was taken by Nina Lagervall at the Let There Be Art Gallery art show reception in June,2009, in which both Denee and I participated. The show continues at the Catonsville Presbyterian Church until August 1st.

The College Years. At the University of Maryland, I studied Radio, Television, Film, Printmaking, Painting, and Papermaking after originally studying engineering from 1979-1989 and 1996-1997.

During my student days at University of Maryland College Park in the 1980’s, I also interned as assistant to producer at Potomac News Entertainment Division on Capitol Hill and vividly recall a rousing interview/photo shoot with country singing legend Loretta Lynn. I also served as a production assistant at Yellow Cat Productions, a video production company also based in Washington, DC, founded by Michael Ford.

From 1989- 1994, I studied photography privately for over 5 years originally at the Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City, Maryland with Michael Starke and Judy Herrmann of Herrmann + Starke Studio of Ellicott City, Maryland. Denee added: “You know my photo career began shooting photos for the Rouse Company in the late 1980's into the 1990's...”

Photo, above by Bonnie Schupp,
April, 2008, in Columbia, Maryland.

Current Time Frame. Denee is a 2003 Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award Grant Recipient for artistic excellence in photography. Her photos are featured in DC’s Wilson Building City Hall’s Permanent Public Art Collection and in the Corporate Office Properties Trust in Columbia, Maryland, as well as The Fish Out of Water Group Sculpture entitled "Fish Eye" by the American Society of Media Photographers, Baltimore Chapter.

Denee Barr's philosophy:

"I know for myself that I am more interested
in the evolution of the photographic image
than the perfection of it."
Check this out! Denee's artwork, including a new line of unique note cards, is available for purchase. You may contact her at deneebarr@gmail.com  Web site is http://www.deneebarrartnews.blogspot.com/

One last note, so to speak: Denee will be performing at Open MIC night at HoCo Arts on July 22nd , accompanied by John Milton Wesley on keyboards--featuring his original music and lyrics. I certainly plan to be there! Hope to see you!

Lone Tree, Kent Island
Maryland 2003 c Denee Barr
Medium: silver gelatin photo emulsion
on Arches paper 19" x 17"

Blog feature by Kay Weeks;
Photograph credits, as noted.


Denee Barr Art News and More said...

Kay thanks for posting...I would like to make a comment about Loretta Lynn who was utterly charming, gracious, and a wonderful sense of humor. I'm a fan. I hope I get to meet her again someday. We had such fun on the photo shoot, a true pleasure.

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