from the Greeley Tribune by Nikki Work:

Rodney Barnes gestured toward the front of the Madison & Main Gallery to the city beyond the glass window panes. He was quiet a moment as he looked at the canopy of lush green over the University of Northern Colorado campus and the blur of cars zooming by, passengers unaware of the aging artist’s appreciation.

Barnes sees beauty in unexpected places.

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“Like a lot of artists, probably, I see it everywhere,” Barnes said. “There’s art in every place.”

Even bicycles are art to Barnes, though many artists don’t see it that way. When he attaches each part to a new bike, from the pedals to the handlebars, he treats it with the same meticulous care he uses to craft his signature pottery.

Though he started riding bikes through the busy streets of Yonkers with the other kids in his New York neighborhood, he grew up to view bikes as more than a form of transportation, exercise or recreation. Though he still uses bikes in all these ways, Barnes believes each spin of a bicycle wheel is as artistic as the turn of a pottery wheel.

The candy apple red fixed gear bike he built by hand for Bike Show 5 at the Madison & Main Gallery, 927 16th St., already has more than 300 miles on it since he finished it earlier this year. In the last seven years, he has built 11 bikes.

“I think bikes are beautiful,” Barnes said, peering down at his custom cycle like a father looks at a newborn child.

The now 65-year-old Evans resident is far from the 8-year-old wheeling around in the Big Apple. He has daughters, already grown, getting married and starting families of their own. His beard is peppered with gray. His body is wiry and lean after more than 40 years of difficult labor, lifting huge blocks of clay and hand molding it into pots, bowls and more.

Barnes has long been a force in Greeley’s artistic community. He was a founding member of the Madison & Main Gallery 28 years ago.

When the Bike Show started five years ago, he said it was hard to get the other artists in the gallery and the community to view spokes, chains and gears as creative. The outdoor bike show was just held concurrently with the opening gala for another gallery show.

Then, the wheels started turning. Barnes convinced the gallery to incorporate a bike-related theme, like motion, into the curated show. Last year’s show marked the first time the gallery featured exclusively bike-centered art along with the bicycles themselves.

Barnes described the show’s history as a give and take of energy. He brought his enthusiasm for bikes to the gallery, and now, participating artists are giving it back.

“People are excited, it’s not just me,” he said, explaining that strong childhood memories deserve part of the credit. “When you’re a kid, (riding a bike) is one of the first things you do. It’s one of the greatest joys in your life.”

That feeling is what keeps Barnes pedaling. He feels young when he rides, and he enjoys the opportunity to stay physical. He needs to stay fit so he can continue to do the physical work pottery requires. Though he loves building bicycles, he still loses his words when he talks about clay, his first love. Several pieces of his pottery will also be in Bike Show 5.

When Barnes curated this year’s show, he said he looked at every display as an individual art piece. Hanging and arranging the artwork is just like sculpting or painting, he said. A wall is a blank canvas and another chance to create.

He hopes the Bike Show will help bring a new generation of artists to the Madison & Main Gallery and help fuel Greeley’s current artistic climate. Barnes calls it a renaissance.

He rides his bike several times a week, mostly with 20- and 30-somethings. It’s this generation of people he hopes to bring into the community’s art scene.

“The challenge has always been to bring new people into the gallery,” he said. “I’m on a mission, and part of it is the bikes.”

Nikki Work is The Tribune’s features writer. To contact her, call (970)392-4466 or nwork@greeleytribune.com. Follow her on Twitter at @nikkidoeswork.

http://www.greeleytribune.com/news/17039101-113/evans-artist-brings-love-for-art-to-new

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