|Barber in front of Toad Hall|
Saturday, September 7, 2019
A meeting with Tom Barber, part 2
During our first meeting at his Andover, NH home in August, Tom mentioned that several more of his paintings were in storage in a gallery in the neighboring city of Franklin. This past Labor Day weekend I was able to fold in a second trip to meet Tom at Toad Hall, a beautiful old brick commercial building in the heart of Franklin whose third floor houses many of his paintings.
The gallery opened to the public on June 5, 2015 with art and live music, but on this fine Saturday afternoon Tom had to let us in with a key, as the gallery has since shuttered its doors. Aand a speak to what it was, briefly—an attempt to bring some art and light into a run-down community, trying to shake off its image as a mill city that never recovered from the economic downturn of the 1970s. Toad Hall had big plans for this revitalization with the art gallery and a first floor restaurant and microbrewery, but these seem to have stalled out and construction on the restaurant has ceased.
But apparently revitalization efforts continue in New Hampshire’s smallest and poorest city, with a.
But up on the sunlit third floor gallery Tom’s paintings were vibrant and powerful. Tom walked me through pictures of knights in renaissance armor, burning spacecraft, beautiful enchantresses, and scenes from Arizona where he lived for a short stretch in the 1980s. An image of King Lear brooding over his life as he looks into a rapidly fading sunset. Tom also showed me several conceptual pieces which I found particularly arresting, including this one (above, left) of a soul embracing and thus breaking free of the fear of death which looms over all our collective shoulders. There was also a wonderful image of a crusader silhouetted against the moon, still in need of some finishing touches. All of this is for sale by the way.
Some more interesting facts about Tom: The two artists that inspired him most were Monet and N.C. Wyeth. The latter is of course a hugely popular illustrator perhaps best known for his western art and his wonderful illustrations for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. You can see the clear influence of Wyeth in Tom’s work. Monet meanwhile I can see in his hazy interstellar art and images of the night sky. Tom’s agent once hosted a dinner in his apartment with Tom and a second guest named Fritz Leiber. He met legendary sword-and-sorcery artist Jeffrey Jones at a Boskone convention, and at another show displayed his art between Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury.
I can now say I’m one degree removed from these artistic legends, which is pretty cool.
During this meeting Tom also revealed the striking cover art he has created for my forthcoming book, Flame and Crimson: A history of sword-and-sorcery fiction. It’s awesome. I’ll post a picture of that shortly.