Jack Barkla Solo Exhibition

Jack Barkla Solo Exhibition

Hennes Art Company is proud to announce an upcoming gallery show and art sale featuring the work of Jack Barkla.

Minneapolis, MN – Jack Barkla, set designer and artist, is one of the most prolific creators in Minnesota history that you probably don’t know. Barkla, now 82, has been working behind the scenes for decades, literally creating the scenes for more than 1,400 theatrical events and productions at venues including the Guthrie Theater, Children's Theatre, Dayton’s holiday and the spring Dayton’s/Bachman’s floral shows, and Holidazzle. This doesn’t count commercial work for several Super Bowl halftime shows, the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Renaissance Festival and the Festival of Nations. 

The Barkla Gallery Show and Art Sale reveals almost 100 works, nearly all available for purchase, from the theater veteran’s lesser-known artistic life. Original paintings reflect his career’s diversity, encompassing styles from abstract to figurative, cubist, still life, figure studies and surrealist abstracts. There will also be 3D dioramas and unframed watercolors and sketches, drawing on the techniques, sophistication and attention to detail that he used as a set designer. Barkla’s explorations of painting and sculpture led to sculptural elements in many of his works.

Barkla explained, in a previous interview, his varied styles, “An actor who comes onstage, he can be an old Italian man, he can be a Shakespearean character. I discovered that’s what I think about painting. I do believe in adapting my style to what I’m saying.”

"Jack is one of the most interesting artists I have met in my career,” commented Greg Hennes, host of the show at Hennes Art Company. “His talents are multi-faceted. He has the ability to take a flat drawing and make it into a dimensional object. I think that is also why he is so good at painting dimensional objects flat, while giving them a dimensional perspective. "

About the Artist

Barkla grew up in Edina and was influenced as a child by his family’s annual trip to downtown Minneapolis to see Dayton’s Christmas windows. In 1965, Barkla earned a degree in art education from the University of Minnesota, where he taught for a decade, taking a part-time gig at Dayton’s painting scenery and backdrops, a job that later grew in stature and stretched into three decades. During a summer session at Germany’s Bayreuth Festival Master Classes, exposure to Friedelind Wagner and the innovative work of director-designer Wieland Wagner, the grandchildren of composer Richard Wagner (great-grandchildren of the composer Franz Liszt) proved to be a life-altering inspiration. After Children’s Theatre hired him as prop master, he ended up designing most of the shows. This also led to work at the Guthrie, where in 10 years, Barkla recalled, he designed more shows than any other designer there. All this helped pave the way for the rest of his prolific career. His home is also famously packed with objects he has created or collected: sculptures, puppets, old stage props, intricate models, drawings and renderings of imaginative sets.

And, of course, paintings, sketches and other artworks which the upcoming Show and Art Sale will finally share with the public.

Barkla has been called “Magic Man” and “Mr. Christmas” for his work creating illusion for the Guthrie’s Christmas Carol, Minnesota Dance Theatre’s Nutcracker Fantasy, and his 1977 Dayton’s animated installation of Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Colleagues and clients have called him a genius and his work on the 1980 Children’s Theatre production of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins led to a note (now framed) from Theodore Seuss Geisel who said Barkla’s work made him cry. And December 7, 1989, was declared “Jack Barkla Day” by then Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich. Kristal Leebrick, author of Thank You for Shopping: The Golden Age of Minnesota Department Stores (Minnesota Historical Society Press) included a segment on Barkla in her book, calling him “The Wizard,” and someone who can create something astounding out of nothing.

Gallery Hours

Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Photo credit: Mark Luinenburg 

Find out what's up every week.

No spam. Just local art news and events straight to your inbox.