If you've ever noticed the amazing cover art to the last few Of Montreal albums, then you've seen the work of David Barnes. He's the brother of the band's wildly imaginative, flamboyant frontman, Kevin Barnes.
David Barnes' paintings are remarkably intricate, spectacularly detailed and spread across the pages of What's Weird? — a new book of his work — like a strange and beautiful mystery. It's a mystery you may never solve, but it's an incredibly curious one that invites hours of searching and discovery.
We asked David to share a few of his favorite paintings from What's Weird? and tell us how they came to be.
The title of my book hearkens back to when I was in high school. I think that was the last time I tried to fit into worlds that weren't my own. When I was compiling the paintings for the book, I drifted back to those days and remembered people saying things were weird all the time. As I aged, traveled, developed and gained knowledge, I realized how what's considered strange is so subjective. That led me to the title, "What's Weird?" Honestly, I can't tell anymore. The only thing I find weird is an adult who still struggles to enforce some definition of normalcy on others. As a bit of a joke on that idea, I have myself on the cover attempting to teach a confused population of animals how to read.
I think that human perception is very iceberg-esque. We tend to let our emotions allow our brains to believe our experiences are more important than anything else going on around us. We tend to think of ourselves as the invaluable briefcase handcuffed to the right hand of god. When in fact grass is growing, minerals are crystallizing and mountains are forming while the solar system is rotating and suns are imploding. Below us, magma is flowing, million-year-old bones are transforming, and tectonic plates are shifting. It makes me wonder how interesting we really are.
This painting was made when my friend Barlow found out he had a tumor in his brain. I'm not really one for prayer, but at times like that you need to feel some sort of faith. So I made this image of god pulling the cancer out of my friend, taking that devastating wave of disease and turning it back onto himself. My thinking was that what would be an ocean to us would be a trickle to god.
I made this while working on the album art for the Of Montreal record "Skeletal Lamping." The idea is that plants have been on the bottom of the food chain for a good long while. Trampled, eaten, pissed upon, they finally say enough and evolve into the most vicious predators this world has ever seen.
There is something disturbing about the dark secrets hidden in the robes of the people we have given leadership to. I hate it when the people that should be heroes, the ones we tell our children they can trust, end up using the power we gave them to manipulate. It's really gross the way some leaders use their positions for nefarious and often full-on perverted gain.
This is a mythology-based tale of two lovers so dedicated to each other that they are in constant danger. He begs her to flee while he holds up the incredible weight of an erupting volcano. She refuses, knowing that if she lets go of the horrible serpent, its bite will cause him to weaken and be devoured by the hot magma above.
I'm not an especially political person, leaning more toward fantastical worlds over the comings and goings of the inner workings of government. That being said, I can't help but see a circular pattern to war. I fear that, oftentimes, dropping bombs fuels the flames that fan the smoldering feathers that cause the need for dropping bombs.