"Masteller's Dreamy Strokes Brush Imagination
Philosopher-poet Friedrich Nietzsche didn't anticipate the surrealist movement when he wrote ''We use up too much artist effort in our dreams, in consequence, our waking life is often poor'' Almost a quarter century after Nietzsche's death, writers, then artists, began the surrealist movement, dedicated to the expression of imagination as revealed in dreams - art free of the conscious control of reason. (Freud had only recently revealed the psychological importance of dreams, whereas surrealists valued them as poetic experiences, liberating them from normal constraints of logic.)
Barry Masteller's Acrylic and watercolor surrealistic paintings are full of unlikely combinations whose subject matter consists of entities living out unexplained existence's: Steam locomotives, bananas, musical instruments and half and double beat musical notes that cascade across floors and walls, shadowy figures, befuddled or sleeping dogs, alert cats, rats in a bewildering situation, stepladders moving through rooms without the help of human hands, stars and galaxies in fireplaces, lots of real as well as imaginary windows and other sundry objects all liberated by the artist's imagination.
The small watercolors that linethe corridor leading to the central gallery are cleaver, particularly the series titled ''Breakfast'', ''Lunch'' and ''Dinner'', In which the plates, with unfinished meals, sit on brown paper place mats on which the artist has scribbled remarks such as:
"I know that somewhere there's an answer to this whole mystery of life...sometimes I think that maybe, written down on some obscure wall someplace is the the answer I have been searching for, down some dark alley in some unknown city, are three words, scrawled there by some drunk transient thirty six years ago. Within those three words lies the answer to this whole strange puzzle of life. But then I think about it for awhile and realize that there's no way it could happen like that! Or could it? It might be possible, but who cares anyway...''
In the midst of this stream of conscious, Masteller has drawn in the head of a pig (the breakfast consists of bacon, among other things) with the caption "Ask me about the stock market''
''Distant Thunder'' shows a fireplace mantel on which an old-fashioned clock reads 10:25. Above the fireplace a large drawing by a child of an orange sun, blue clouds, a red schoolhouse, an apple tree, flowers and a child with arms extended. An old dog is curled up on a blue rug before the fireplace in which there is no fire, instead one sees a background studded with stars and a galaxy advancing into the living room.
Several of Masteller's pictures deal with musical instruments, among them ''Traveling song,'' ''His Masters Voice'' and ''Explorers Song'' and are of rational objects in irrational situations. The canvases with bananas, however are unripe, immature (''Appealing Act'' is a series of six pictures within a picture of a theatrical stage on which a banana peels it's skin.) This attempt at a fruit striptease is simply too contrived.
Masteller's pictures are much like those of Rene Magritte in that certain themes question the relationship between object and its object represented. Ordinary things, free of the conscious control of reason and free of convention, take on extraordinary capabilities: A human engineer sits in the cab of a toy train locomotive hurtling it out of the house and into the dark night; fish swim through a living room as a sleeping cat dreams about them; water pours out of a framed picture of a stormy sea hung crookedly on a living room wall; and a pigeon looks out of a window at a car moving swiftly down a deserted street.
The indefinable world of Barry Masteller is one of mystery in which one's own sense of imagination is stimulated.
Richard Reilly, Art Critic, The San Diego Union, August 23, 1981
All text and images contained on this site copyright: Barry Masteller 2012