At last, some images have arrived from Outbreak, my solo show at the Smithsonian's Global Health Odyssey Museum at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Outbreak is an educational show, and for this reason alone you won't be reading about it in ArtForum anytime soon. It's didactic. Like my book of the same title, the shows turns on the idea that epidemics have shaped us. The paintings, though framed and hung, are unapologetically illustrations. They tell stories.
Julie Just of the New York Times described one illustration that depicts a medieval European doctor tending a plague victim in wide-brimmed hat, gloves and long-beaked mask with goggles. "The cure looks at least as deadly as the disease," said Just.
Barnard claims his illustrations "span the range from magic realist landscapes, to scientific and historical tableaux, to children's book illustration." Each of his art works are thoroughly researched to ensure it accurately depicts historical events. Barnard's images, which he began creating in 1984, mostly consist of oil on panel, and he also uses acrylic and digital imagery.
Trudi Ellerman, one of the main tour guides of the exhibit, views the exhibit as an opportunity to apply a scientific perspective to social history.
"Smallpox enabled the conquistadores to take over the new world more easily," said Ellerman. "The Black Death contributed to the fact that Europe has a middle class now and it's not just the serfs and the landowners. It's full of just really interesting perspectives like this. She added, "We pride ourselves on showing you some funky stuff you might not see anywhere else."
The exhibit runs until January 30, 2009 and the museum is open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m to 4 p.m, Thursday from 9 a.m. - 7 p.m, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and a driver's license or passport is required for entry.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/gcc/exhibit.