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Arts Talk

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 23, 2003

Local artist prepares for one-man show in Pittsburgh

These are good times for St. Petersburg artist Jack Barrett. While local gallery owners report that sales in general are sluggish, Barrett is selling "right out the studio door," he says. And he's preparing for a one-man show in April at his alma mater, the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

He contacted the institute in January about showing some of his work, but officials said they were booked for the next year. He was asked to submit slides anyway and received a call that week offering him the entire gallery, with all expenses for the exhibition paid.

Barrett, who was a St. Petersburg Times artist for 20 years, used the GI Bill to pay for his art education after his Korean War service.

"That was the place to go for illustration and cartooning," he said. "I considered Carnegie Tech, but it was all abstract expressionism there."

After graduation, he taught in Pittsburgh for several years, saw an ad in a trade paper and called Joe Tonelli, then the head of the Times' art department.

"I flew down on Dec. 26, 1969, and stayed at the newspaper until 1990," he said.

A lifelong people-watcher, Barrett has filled journals with sketches of interesting faces that he often translates to oil or acrylic portraits, sometimes highly figurative, sometimes colorful abstractions. The work he's sending to Pittsburgh is new and mostly large, some measuring 48-by-60 inches. He's also showing 22 mixed media watercolors and a group of drawings, a total of about 50 pieces.

"When I told my mother I was going to be an artist, she told me that if I didn't go into banking, I'd be a failure," Barrett said. "She's very proud of me now."

-- LENNIE BENNETT, Times art critic

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