Public radio from Western Michigan University 102.1 NPR News | 89.9 Classical WMUK
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Art As A Spiritual Experience

Anna Barnhart

Anna Barnhart uses more than just brush strokes when she paints. She uses cotton swabs. She uses bubble wrap. She uses found objects – just to see what they can do. 

She paints to music and describes her paintings using musical terms – the staccato rhythm of dappled light, the legato background harmonies from stems, shadows, and slopes. To Anna Barnhart, art is a spiritual experience, and she’s been exploring it since she was a child.

An interview with with Anna Barnhart.

Credit Anna Barnhart
A painting by Anna Barnhart

“Half of my family were musicians,” Barnhart says. “I was always very hands-on with art … it’s always come back to art. I’ve tried other things, but I’ve always just loved art, making messes and making them pretty, and creating things and inventing things.”

Bringing creativity to her technique, Barnhart enjoys experimenting with interesting tools.

“Bubble wrap is my favorite,” she laughs. “I use it in watercolor paintings, and acrylics can be very versatile.”

Part of her experimentation, Barnhart says, is to find ways to recycle materials around her before tossing them out.

Credit Anna Barnhart
A painting by Anna Barnhart

“You’re going to use up some stuff,” she says. “But as long as you can use something at least once, it helps give it one more life. Like bubble wrap. It’s kind of useless after being used for what it’s for, for packaging. So I give it one more life, and you get a really cool texture with it.”

Another aspect of Barnhart’s approach to her art involves not only technique and tools, but placement. Of deep faith, she likes to take her art to church services.

“They call it live prophetic painting,” Barnhart explains. “It could be prophetic or not. In this sense, it could be getting a picture from God or from the Bible or something like that, that tells a story, and it’s very timely. I will use really big canvases so people can see at church. I use different kinds of materials.”

Barnhart then listens to the sermon and paints in response.

“The really cool thing, about 90 percent of the time that I’ve done this, they’ve given me a theme to begin with that they are teaching from, and I won’t know anything else. It’s kind of exciting and kind of scary. I’ll just start painting … and the painting will end up being exactly what they are teaching that day. And it’s a different style than what I do at home.”

Barnhart also offers online video classes and workshops. To view her work, including holiday greeting cards, visit

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
Related Content