As a painter, Corey Barksdale’s work is continually inspired by jazz. “It frees me to do what I feel when I’m painting,” Barksdale says. When he’s in the studio creating, he often listens to jazz greats like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. The result is a stunning collection of more than 30 paintings that celebrate the jazz experience.
“Coltrane is at the top of my list when it comes to jazz musicians,” says Barksdale. A Coltrane recording he particularly enjoys is Africa. “Coltrane is improvisational in the piece, but he has structure in his sound. I like the freedom that he has when he’s playing Africa. It’s rhythmic and free.”
Barksdale admires Miles Davis with equal measure for his rawness. “Davis was into experimenting and trying different things with his sound. He was a catalyst for other musicians and he was a pioneer in his time, all without commercializing the music.”
So what is it about jazz that inspires Barksdale’s creativity as a painter? “I love the improvisation of jazz musicians from the ‘50s and ‘60s. There was a lot of experimentation going on. In much the same way, I want to create something totally new with my paintings each time – to be different in the way I portray certain subjects.”
Barksdale clearly appreciates traditional jazz artists – the Jazz Crusaders and Sonny Rollins included – but he also gets a certain amount of inspiration from legendary contemporaries like Joe Sample and David Sanborn.
Of all his paintings, his personal favorite is one he’s entitled Jazz Reflections. “The painting is of six guys playing various horn instruments, a bass and piano. It’s one of my favorites because it gives off the vibe of what it’s like being in a jazz club,” explains Barksdale, an Atlanta College of Art graduate. Many of Barksdale’s oil paintings are an infusion of vivid colors tinged with earth tones. His choice colors, a sky blue and a rich orange – almost like Georgia clay with a hint of brown – are used with bold strokes throughout his collection.
“Ultimately, I want individuals to feel what I felt at the time I produced a piece. And whatever the scene happens to be in a painting, I want them to look beyond that and find other things in the painting they can relate to. It’s my attempt to connect on a more personal level.”