Another Talented and Funny Couple: Mary Barczak and Christopher Tennant

Mary and Chris

Mary and Chris

Mary Barczak and I initially met a couple of years ago when Tacocat first opened and I was introduced to her by her partner in crime, Christopher Tennant. Since that time, we have run into each other at art events, parties, 614 gatherings and 400 West Rich and every time she has cracked me up cause she has a wicked funny sense of humor (and the fact that she loves to paint kitties also is a plus!)  So, I’ve been bugging her and Chris to do an interview for over a year now and must’ve worn both of them down (hehe!) so she has finally consented!!!
mary's painting
Originally, from New Jersey, she moved to Columbus in high school. During high school, she took art courses over at CCAD and did some summer college prep courses as well as being a commercial art student at Fort Hayes.When going to college she first majored in painting and drawing, but switched the end of her sophomore year to photography. Her reason for doing this was that she liked that she could have surrealism and realism all together in a much easier way with photography. But wait, that wasn’t enough so she also minored in marketing, ‘because I like to know business stuff as well when it comes to art.’ Smart cookie!
Much to the dismay of her grandparents (who would have preferred she became an accountant!), she’s always wanted to be an artist. They’ve since changed their minds though seeing how dedicated she is to making art happen. Mary does say however, that if she wasn’t an artist, she’d probably be in science – biology, physics, or chemistry-or business. But she does feel strongly that she already IS in business because in order to be successful with art you have to work at aspects of business like marketing and promoting.
The Owl and the Pussycat, to be seen in her upcoming show

The Owl and the Pussycat, to be seen in her upcoming show

Her grandparents ARE probably pretty happy that she is not a starving artist! Although her full time gig is not as an artist, she does use her creativity for her day job. She works at Camp Quest Inc. as their program manager. It’s a free-thought camp for kids age 8-17 that focuses on philosophy, ethics, and STEM programming for kids. It’s really rewarding work and I love getting to help the organization grow stronger as we grow larger. Plus she gets to travel part of the year and uses her time on planes to draw (as you can see above!).
mary cat
When asked to categorize her art, her great sense of humor shines through:
It’s cartoonish with a sense of humor, but placed in more close-to-home themes that can relate with most people. Like surrealism on it’s day off at the grocery store or at home playing video games. Like if instead of seeing a celebrity at the grocery store, imagine if you saw Mickey Mouse picking up his dry cleaning. You’d be a little excited, but also confused and disappointed that he gets those shorts pressed at a place next to your favorite Chinese restaurant. 
And the same can be said about what inspires her: Oh geez… Everything. Mostly really good stories. Or weird things that happen to me, like the time that I literally slipped on a banana peel and messed up my back so I had to not go to one of my art openings.
One technique that sets her apart from other artists is the manner in which she makes blacks look so sharp in her paintings. With a lot of experimenting she has found that first drawing an image with Copic drawing pens followed by going in with India ink to lay in the back base of black, creates the look she wants. After that,  she goes over the large areas with acrylic gouache to get it to lay flat. Although this takes a while, she says that it’s totally worth it because of the seamless look she achieves.  AND she describes her process as ” a lot of madness usually’! Did I say I just love this lady’s sense of humor!!!?
mary last year at US
Her work is available under the name Barczak Studios where she has created as both a commercial and fine artist (photography and painting) for 6 years. She sells mainly through social media like her Instagram account.She just ‘plunks’ her work on social media and then people contact her by expressing “I’d like that piece”. Details then get worked out through e-mail.  She’s thankful for that even though she knows that it may appear to be a ‘weird’ way to do business. In addition, she shows a fair amount around town both in galleries and art shows allowing folks to buy her art that way. Besides those venues, she is lucky to show with lowbrow art gallery called ArtBot in the DC area which she says “is really rad” although she’s never actually been there but they do a bang up job selling her pieces.
Her piece for Urban Scrawl while in process

Her piece for Urban Scrawl while in process

Once again this year she was chosen to be one of the more than 60 artists to participate in Urban Scrawl. She says that it is her favorite show of the year because, as she put it,  There (are) so many artists and everyone is around painting and eating and drinking. Small children breakdance and it’s adorable. Plus all the open studios at 400. Worth it.
Coming this month, she will also have a solo show  at Fresh Air Gallery of her photography and since she hasn’t shown these works much since moving to Columbus 6 years ago so she is psyched to see so many of her pics in one place.
Promo West Mural

Promo West Mural

In addition, GCAC asked to use her piece from Sign Your Art (an awesome show by Stephanie Rond and Cathy Bell Smith) for a mural at Promowest and she also was asked to represent Fresh A.I.R. Gallery in the Columbus Invitational. But best of all: a small child awarded me the best vocalist at summer camp this year, however I feel like that’s probably not as notable since I’m wicked tone deaf and sing songs about dying moose. LOL!!!
mary 2
Explanation of her show at Fresh A.I.R.:
Tell You A Story. Constructed photographic scenes of fairytales and fables by Mary Barczak. Artist’s opening reception is Wednesday September 23 from 5:30-7:00 and the exhibition through November 20, 2015.
Mary states this body of work addresses the complexities of real life and the fantasies that so many of us are familiar with. Fairytales are for children, or so we tell ourselves, but the stories themselves become part of the adult psyche.
A couple of other things that she wanted readers to know about her…
I have a fish phobia and two calico cats, Oscar and Sophia. I really like gaming and the N64 is my favorite videogame system.
Contact info for readers:

Now on to her partner, Christopher Tennant:

chris t selfAs with Mary, Chris and I initially met at Tacocat but have run into each other multitudinous times over the last couple of years….comically, the last time was at Tacocat!!!  I’m glad that I have finally gotten the opportunity to feature him, too, as I love his take on the human face and features and his robots!
Art has been his preferred means of communicating and understanding the world around him for as long as he remembers. He studied Fine Art at Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center and continued with this focus while attending CCAD (Columbus College of Art and Design).  Since graduation from there, he has held a variety of production art jobs and taught anatomy for about a year at the Cultural Arts Center. His first job was as a gilder at Hackman Frame but now he designs mascots for Costume Specialist (Costume Specialists is a full-service custom mascot, walkabout, and costume character company designed to fit your specific and individual needs. We offer an extensive range of products and services to complete your custom mascot costume programs.) and pounds metal with Lundberg Industrial Arts (Andrew Lundberg was previously featured artisan!)
Chris at 2014 Urban Scrawl

Chris at 2014 Urban Scrawl

He has also maintained a regular studio practice since 2005 both at 400 West Rich and now at his home.About 4 years ago he named it Heathen Hoard Studios.
When asked to categorize his art, he stated: ‘Badass! Haha just joking.!! ‘ Seriously speaking, he creates paintings and drawings that emphasis life through his eyes. Sometimes I feel like it would be easier to say what doesn’t inspire me, and that’s a pretty short list. Mostly I like to painting cool looking stuff …and… maybe not as cool but supportive looking stuff to make narratives. But every so often a pretty person will pop up. I’ve painted quite a few lips lately. 
chris t
His latest obsession has been painting with graphite which he says is comparable to watercolors using ground up pencil lead.  Getting what he calls ‘really nice dark values’ with this technique is what thrills him.  AND, the rich textures of old construction, mending, and erosion are integral aspects of his work. His painting surfaces mimic these designs, smooth new surfaces give way to fault lines of broken and torn edges. On top of these formed grounds, he paints from observation.
Flowers for Your Mom

Flowers for Your Mom

chris t and michael bushHe recently had a solo show at The Vanderelli Room mid-August through early September that  featured lots of new work including paintings and drawings mostly portraits and still lifes.   During this show guests were treated to a behind the scenes take on his work, getting to see how he starts all of his  paintings-from raw materials to priming for paint.
Like Mary, Chris sells most of his work through the internet either on his Instagram account or his Big Cartel page.
All of this has kept him very busy this year but his next project will  keep him busy through at least the end of the year! Let’s hear about it in his own words:
Starting in October I will be crowd funding a robot sculpture that will be placed on the corner of McDowell and Rich streets. It will be an 8 foot tall painted fiberglass and resin sculpture similar to what you would see a Big Boy restaurant. The FAD awarded me the Bellows Grant at Urban Scrawl in August. In order to receive their grant, I need to raise $3-5k to fully fund the project.  I’m looking forward to making a high quality long lasting sculpture for Franklinton and downtown Columbus. I’ve worked as mascot designer for a few years now so this will be nice to apply some of those concepts as a fine artist out in the world. Info about design, donating, updates can be found here: http://www.fritztherobot.tumblr. (The link may not be active for a few days, still getting everything up and running. )
chris at id
Another thing that has kept him hopping is his involvement in AWL  (Artist’s Wrestling League). This crazy group of artists are a take off on Wrestle-mania with artistic bent.  I’ve attended one of these and they’re hysterical!  Each group member has a persona like a super hero with unique personalities and styles.  They  meet up every month or 2 and have bouts between two artist or 4 if it’s a tag team match. Each round is about 7 minutes long and the audience decides what  subject matter will be painted and, then through applause, which of the contestants win. ‘You know performance art. Haha. My character’s name is Thunder, I have a mask and spiky shoulder pads I wear. Lotsa fun!!’  Most recently, the group performed at Independents’ Day to thunderous (no pun intended, hehe!) applause …crazy antics and crazy funny art from a pretty hilarious and talented guy!
         Thunder Undies

Thunder Undies

Contact info for readers: and follow him on Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook.

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