Artist Profile: Brent Barnidge

Thom Bennett

Brent Barnidge’s introduction to sculpture was a post-college job in the 1990s at Kern Studios in Algiers, building Mardi Gras floats and other whimsical constructions meant to be appreciated by parade-goers in the brief moments as they rattled past. Today, he works from his own Mid-City studio on fine art sculpture in relief that mesmerizes with its complex interpretations of perspective, shadow and texture, telling stories and revealing powerful metaphors along the way.

His latest project is shaping up to be his most visible so far. As part of the comprehensive renovation of the French Market, Barnidge was commissioned to sculpt a 19th-century scene of vendors, shoppers and the market’s Creole cornucopia. It will be unveiled this spring at the entrance to the farmers market portion of the historic public bazaar.

Originally from Thibodaux, Barnidge earned master’s degrees in economics and business administration before an artistic impulse led him to the float-building business, which he credits as an invaluable crash course in technical skills he still draws on today.  After about a year, Barnidge decided to strike out on his own and developed a base of clients for his commercial sculpture that now includes film crews, museum fabrication companies, zoos and museums, casinos and theme parks. At the same time, he kept cultivating his fine art work, branching out into different modes. That led him to sculpture in relief, which he first undertook after Hurricane Katrina. 

“Working in relief, you can expand from a snapshot to make an entire allegory in one piece,” he says. “It allows me to work out different thoughts, composition and figures and really expand the depth of what I’m trying to say.”

Indeed, entire stories and parables seem to come to life in Barnidge’s clay panels. In a piece titled Weapons of Mass Distraction, a coliseum audience seems transfixed on a single figure being controlled by a looming puppet master while an unnoticed bomber disgorges its deadly cargo high above. Another piece, titled The Seduction of Commerce, shows a beautiful female figure gently handling the lever on a network of wheels and gears leading to distant smokestacks. 

“I don’t have any regrets for studying business and economics but going down a different path,” says Barnidge. “A lot of that background gets into my work
in different ways.”

Barnidge continues his commercial work and public commissions while pursing his fine art projects.

He also teaches sculpture at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts. 

You Might Also Like

New New Orleans Architecture

6 buildings among the best

Sold Out in Five Days

Jacques Rodrigue says the success of George Rodrigue's first posthumous print is a testament to his father's legacy.

French Quarter Adventures

See, eat & sleep New Orleans’ most famous neighborhood

Capturing the Moment

As the official Visual Artist for Festival International, Lafayette's D.D. Manly paints dancer Tanya Evanson, exemplifying the majesty and mystery of the annual event.

Graced by the handprint of George Rodrigue

Add your comment:

Latest Posts

On the Move

With the right tools, even moving day can be infused with little luxuries.

Five Cheap Red Wines

Some grapes and the wines they make are available at lower prices than you might have imagined.

Checking in on New Year's Resolutions

Trying to stick to fun New Year's resolutions

Preservation Resource Center: First Time Renovator Training

Suzanne Blaum discusses the PRC's "Renovate Right" program.

Preserving Jazz History

Four places in New Orleans to explore the city's jazz history