Spring 2022 Competition
The winner of the Freedom Competition is Sonia Barnett whose buoyant free-flying composition is uplifting to look at and also tells more than one story.
We received many images that beautifully illustrate the idea of freedom. We chose this one because it not only illustrates freedom by the way in which colorful flags of various nations float against a timeless pale blue sky, but when one looks closer it becomes clear that the flags are also masks, sailing in the wind like small kites. Hands of various shades reach up to seemingly release the masks, indicating a freedom from the pandemic illness. However, this image can also indicate unity of all people and nations reaching toward flags flowing together, implying freedom from wars, anger, and conflict, all so prevalent in the 21st Century. This emblematic artwork could also be a flag of hope for humanity.
Sonia Barnett is self-taught and has painted for over 20 years. Her first solo exhibition in 2002 was organized by Roger Parris where she sold 18 of 36 paintings. She has not looked back since. She fondly remembers the encouragement she received from her high school arts teacher who saw a portrait that she had drawn of President Kennedy and said “You’re good! You have a touch.”
Barnett is inspired by her environment, nature, people and music. She was born in Jamaica and moved to New York when she was eight years old. She also spent some time in the Virgin Islands, and that is what comes through in many of her paintings. It is that Caribbean spirit of multicultural inclusion, relaxed vibe and welcoming camaraderie wrapped in the warmth of the islands’ sun.
Early in Barnett’s career, she worked in foster adoptions, earning a master’s in social work. Later she taught English to middle school students. She also made time to teach art to Seniors and showcased their work with grants that she applied for. Her career impacts her artwork which displays compassion and encouragement for diversity and inclusion.
The Covid-19 pandemic reinforced the “the oneness, the commonality” of the world according to Barnett and the easing of the mandates is what inspired her winning painting. She herself found that she couldn’t paint during the early days of lock-down but continued to sketch a little which slowly returned her to painting again.
She is enthusiastic and genuine. “Art is Love. Art tells a story.” These simple words underly her instinctual style of art which draws people to buy her work. Even the Obamas have a painting created by Sonia Barnett.