PORT TOWNSEND — A few years ago, everything changed for songwriter-banjo player Danny Barnes.
“I got hurt,” he recalls, from a “super loud blast from a monitor wedge [a speaker] in my right ear. It damaged my hearing to where I can’t understand normal conversation without hearing aids. As a musician it severely weirded me out, and I was afraid of going completely deaf.
“So I started drawing in total desperation, because I didn’t know how I was going to work.”
Barnes, now 61, has made music over the past several decades with a galaxy of collaborators, from rocker Dave Matthews to jazz guitarist Bill Frisell to John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame.
Fifteen records can be found on the artist’s website, Danny Barnes.com. His most recent, 2020’s “Man on Fire,” received a Grammy award nomination. Barnes has won the Steve Martin Banjo Prize, and been inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame.
Yet after the blast stole much of his hearing, Barnes threw himself into his visual art. With his drawings, he has created a new world in his home studio in rural Jefferson County.
Now Tracy Bigelow Grisman, Barnes’ friend and a teaching artist at the Northwind Art School at Fort Worden, has invited him to show a collection of his works. Titled “My World Wipe Your Feet,” the exhibition — Barnes’ debut as a visual artist — opens this Friday at Northwind Art’s Grover Gallery, 236 Taylor St.
The gallery, open noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays, also will stay open from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. for Port Townsend’s Art Walk this Saturday.
“My World Wipe Your Feet” also will feature art by Grisman, including her portrait sketch of Barnes himself.
“My part is called ‘Feet Wiped,’” she quipped.
Barnes grew up in Texas, and calls his work Southern outsider art.
In India ink and watercolor, he draws from many parts of life, and his artist statement has a list of those parts. They range from classic bluegrass and country music, the Bible and Delta blues to William Blake poetry, surrealism, motorcycles, Western movies and banjos.
Visual art and music are not so separate, Barnes writes.
He explains more about where the drawings come from: “On the little screen in my head there’s music playing and images going. These are some stills from that universe.”
Barnes, Grisman and her husband David have been musical friends for years; Barnes had been coming to the Grismans’ every week when the pandemic hit.
Around that time, Barnes was developing his drawing, and gaining admirers for this new art form. In these creations, Grisman said, “he just found what he needed. He worked really hard at refining what he wanted to do.
“He’s always learning and asking questions,” she said, adding Barnes’ works have humor and imagination — “they’re just really cool.”
Barnes, for his part, writes: “I’m just trying to provide some relief for my viewers,” maybe through laughter.
“My World Wipe Your Feet” will run through May 28 at the Grover Gallery, while at Northwind Art’s other downtown space, the Jeanette Best Gallery at 701 Water St., another world is on display. “Wet: Reflections on Water,” a photography exhibition, exploring the power of water, stays up through April 30.