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By John A. Barry And Bill Carmel

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About this blog: John Barry is the creator of trAction Painting, a process/performance genre in which he applies paint to large surfaces with bicycles, roller skates, and other wheeled conveyances. With Bill Carmel and other associates, he has bro...  (More)

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Adult Ed

Uploaded: Aug 19, 2015

The physical and intellectual pacing may have been more deliberate and deliberative, but the adults in their 60s and 70s were kids at heart as they rolled across a 5 x 8 canvas on August 16 in my garage-studio. Fun is the operative word in these events, and all participants had a heaping helping of it, in spite of the 100-plus-degree temperatures. (Upside of the hellish weather: we occasionally dragged the work-in-progress onto the driveway, where the paint dried very quickly between layers.)

The group, known as the Extended Family, meets once a month for an activity or excursion. Past gatherings have included trips to the Rosie the Riveter Museum in Richmond and the Oakland Zoo. My wife, Eva, and I are members of the group and hosted the trAction Painting party, featuring an array of "brushes" from which to choose: skates, scooters, rollers constructed from old lawnmower wheels, Thomas the Tank Engine tricycle, bike, Razors, and a walker. The BMX bike proved to be most popular, and I'm happy to report that no one had to resort to the walker. I call the accompanying midsession photo, with Catherine perched on the Thomas trike, "Pas de trois." More layers went on subsequently, but as is customary with short-duration trAction events, there wasn't enough time to complete the painting?so some residual tweaking will be in order.

I'm now focused primarily on what I see as the educational potential of trAction Painting. To date, my colleagues and I have staged events with young artists and have attempted to incorporate the respective activities into studies of motion, math, science, and writing. But the lightbulb doesn't go on just for kids. One of the adult participants at my place made the following observations:

"Abstract art is challenging. We can never quite figure out the intent of the artist. Your trAction-art, however, was easy for me. If I were a 'GPS' looking down in a slow motion, I would see the humanity crisscrossing paths endlessly, randomly, and purposely in every which way?somewhat like the canvas we painted. Just think about it, in real life people are traveling here, there and everywhere, in cars, airplanes, ships, bicycles, on foot, on horsebacks or camels, etc. round the clock. The paths are different, yet if we can juxtapose the paths in one plan?like on your canvas?it manifests a complementary oneness of the infinitely diverse paths of human family. Perhaps that is why the end result of trAction-painting, chaotic as it may seem, looks beautiful."

As another participant noted about these observations: "I cannot say it any better."

Neither can I.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Aug 21, 2015 at 6:10 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

I didn't make it to the event, so it is nice to read about it here. I was planning to go, but I get so tired and don't sleep well. So I slept late and didn't go.

I knew John would write about it in his blog. The new trAction painting looks great. Congratulations to all of the participants. I will try to get to one of these, one of these days.


Posted by Hannah, a resident of San Ramon Valley High School,
on Oct 27, 2015 at 5:25 am

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Posted by Shane Filan, a resident of Danville,
on Feb 15, 2016 at 9:16 am

Amazing painting and I love the way you folks present it. I am learning painting and your work has inspired me a lot.

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on Sep 28, 2016 at 12:40 am

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on Jun 23, 2017 at 6:35 pm

John A. Barry is a registered user.

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