Hurray, summer is here! It’s time to pile into the RV, throw the old tent in the back of the family station wagon, grab a case of beer, a fishing rod, and a few firearms, and head for the hills where we can romanticize still being the pioneers, explorers, and capable woodsmen that we once prided ourselves as being.
It is ingrained into our beings as Americans that we should familiarize ourselves and our families with such skills as setting up tents, cooking over a camp fire, fishing, hunting, and defending ourselves from fierce wild beasts, and, if necessary, from each other. We drag our families out on fishing trips to lakes stocked with farmed trout, teach them the skills of shooting exotic Chinese Ringneck pheasant out of wheat fields, or brave the outdoors for a weekend of sleeping in temporary shelters with hundreds of others in impermanent neighborhoods known as campgrounds.
In his current work, Howard Barlow uses children's story and coloring book imagery intermingled with hunting and camping illustrations to create innocently sinister and peculiar scenes of confused wilderness recreation. Many of these works render woodsy gender stereotypes, in particular, the notion of protective male and helpless female. Barlow uses wood burning to concoct these narrative scenes and to decoratively embellish objects such as rifle stocks. Howard also collaborates with his wife Lorraine Barlow on a few pieces which involve complex hand knit elements. The relentless "taming" of nature and the associated exploitation, trepidation, idealization, and confusion permeating contemporary recreational outdoor culture are explored in these works.