Barn Poetry and Art Come to the Eastern Shore


[slideshow id=50]Bill Dunlap has been spending a good part of this spring and summer painting barns, but perhaps only one side, and the finished product does not look like your average Eastern Shore farm building. Rather he is working with the “Poetry and  Art  in Rural Maryland” project, combining poetry and contemporary visual art to transform rural settings. Curated by John Shipman, director of the University of Maryland’s Art Gallery, the project began in fall of 2010, with the goal of finding “tucked away gems” in different counties to create a barn mural trail.

Dunlap arrived in Kent County at Crow Farm the last week of August and set to work prepping the old corn crib/barn. Although Dunlap’s previous murals had been primarily fantastical creatures, the Crows opted for a more folk art approach, a “barn quilt.” After a day and a half of scraping and priming, he measured and drew the star shapes and proceeded to paint. Generally Dunlap uses spray paint for his barn murals, but as this was a quilt, with a specific geometric pattern, brush was the tool of choice.

The Spy arrived at Crow Farm just as he had completed the quilt pattern, but prior to  painting the poem the Crows had chosen, “Sweet is the Breath”, from Milton’s Paradise Lost. Dunlap commented on certain characteristics of the barn that contributed to the overall effect in unexpected ways; opening the door changes the pattern dramatically, vertical ridges in the siding create differing shadows depending on the time of day. One  star appears to be made of scraps of fabric, another is blue and green, mimicking the sky and earth.

Four days later we met at Infinity Recycling, where Dunlap had just completed another mural on a smaller building, perhaps a smokehouse in a previous lifetime. And this time he painted three sides. The wood took two coats of primer; Dunlap said he painted over his first attempt, as he wasn’t satisfied with it. The Infinity mural combines the quilt pattern with his earlier graffiti style. One pattern bends around the corner; your eye follows and you realize he has copied the geometric lines of the roof as well.

This fall Dunlap will be working with the students at The Lucy School in Middletown, MD to create a unique mural inspired by the kids’ drawings and writing. This past spring, he worked with West Nottingham Academy students on a mural at Kilbey Cream in Rising Sun.  Pictures of previous barn murals, other exhibits by the artist, and his bio here. (It’s a great website, definitely worth the visit). The project continues in 2012.

Upon completion of “Poetry and Art in Rural Maryland,” The Art Gallery will publish a hard-bound monograph about the project featuring an essay by Alix Sloan, owner and director of Sloan Fine Art in New York; an interview with the artist and the curator; and images of the murals.

The Spy asked Marilee Schumann, (Infinity Recycling), and Judy Crow to send their thoughts on the project.

Marilee Schumann, “This project has a so many interesting aspects, traditional barn-painting mixed with some graffiti style, adding poetry and then taking the murals out into the backyards of farms and rural settings: these are all unconventional juxtapositions of ideas and processes. We love that it’s part of Infinity Recycling, where we also try to think of creative solutions to the questions of what to do with discarded materials, and it makes us aware that people are thinking creatively in unexpected places, like Crow Farm, for example, where the Crow family is taking the family farm to a new level. This is one of the things that art is good at – illustrating a new way to look at the world.”

Judy Crow, “The barn project for me is just another way for us at Crow Farm to take a piece of history of the farm, the old corn crib, and make it beautiful to draw your attention to the object. The art and poetry together makes an interesting conversation piece. I enjoyed working with Bill, the artist, to create something that I could look upon each morning as I head out to feed the animals and feel the connection with the beauty of the farm and nature.”

She continues, “I imagine when we open our winery in the spring of 2012 that folks stroll down the farm lane toward the corn crib/barn to take a closer look at the barn and they will be drawn in by sounds of the chickens, cattle and the crisp breeze that is always here at the farm.”

Letters to Editor

  1. We love the mural and poem that Bill painted on our barn last year.

  2. THOMAS DUNLAP says:

    Billy, you are quite the artist and i am very proud of the man you have become and the things you have done and the things you have seen. Your dad would also be proud of the things you have done and will do. I love you Uncle Tom.

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