Michael Barnes was born in 1969 in Michigan of the United States. He grew up outside the small town of Ithaca, where his family lived on a wooded plot in the midst of farmland. This wooded plot contained a 19th century family cemetery where he spent much of his youth playing and fostering his imagination for later ventures in his artistic life. He went on to receive his BFA from Alma College, Michigan in 1991 and his MFA from the University of Iowa in 1996, both with a focus on Printmaking. Michael developed a passion for the medium of lithography during his graduate studies at Iowa and has focused on this process for much of his work since. His research seeks to document and retain traditional methods of this fine art printing medium, while investigating means of integrating them with new media. His art has been exhibited and has received awards in venues worldwide. His research and artistry have taken him to such places as Germany, France, Serbia, Belgium, Italy, China, Estonia, Poland, and New Zealand, and he was recently supported by a Fulbright Specialist Grant. Michael now resides in St. Charles, Illinois, near Chicago, and is a Presidential Research, Scholarship, and Artistry Professor and Head of the Printmaking program at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
The recent body of graphic works by Michael Barnes depicts figures that wander or are stranded within the vacuum that has been created for them by the specific world in which they exist. They are oblivious to their immediate surroundings and the menial tasks to which they are assigned or have voluntarily adopted to cope with their existence. The work addresses, in part, the destructive nature and absurdities that so readily prevail for humankind, along with themes of mortality and the philosophical questions of existence in general. The images are concerned with environment, social decay leaning towards an inward and isolated path, and cynicism about the historical evolution of so-called civilization and its effects upon the world and its inhabitants.