Keith A. Barker seeks out spaces and places that hold both a sense of history as well as an acknowledgement of the present. His portfolio includes nearby locations of historical and spiritual significance around the Central Kentucky region, such as Cane Ridge in Bourbon County and the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY. More recently he has been working in his hometown exploring specific people and places that point toward universal realities. In 2013 Keith was selected to participate in an artist workshop in South Africa, traveling and investigating that country's history, culture, religion, and how art forms and is informed by it all. Keith received his Masters degree in Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design (Georgia, USA), currently teaches Photography, and chairs the Art Department at Asbury University in Wilmore, KY, where he enjoys spending as much time as possible with his wife and three children.
Artist's Statement I've come to realize that South Africa as a nation is like life itself: it is full of dichotomous tension. Tension can be both positive and negative. It is a necessary part of life, and facilitates healthy balance in all sorts of contexts. However we usually use the word to describe struggle. It was said prior to departure that the country to which we were headed is where the best humankind can offer is set right next to the absolute worst. These tensions indicate both struggles unique to the country, along with distinct similarities to our collective human experience. As many South Africans I encountered—artists, philanthropists, pastors, professors, and poets—recounted personal experiences and perspectives of their homeland, I found myself identifying with much of their stories; they embody our common human story.
Alan Paton, South African author who wrote the 1948 novel Cry, the Beloved Country said of his home that, "When one thinks of it and remembers it, one is aware…of solemn and deep undertones that have nothing to do with any mountain or any valley, but have to do with men." In my time there I saw and felt these undertones in South Africans from all walks of life. I grappled with a way to understand them without trying to naïvely fix anything—It was all more overwhelmingly complex than I had thought. What I came home with besides a bunch of pictures, and a refreshed appreciation for all that I take for granted, was a realization of how South Africa's successes, failures and attempts to engender hope and harmony can be seen as a microcosm of the human condition. I also saw it as a macrocosm of my own experience—my own shortcomings and failures. The experience opened my eyes and heart to the presence of hope, despite the invisible, impossible realities that we all share.