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Frank Barnett was born in Chicago in 1939, the second child of Jewish parents from very different backgrounds. His father was a first generation American with ties to an Eastern European Orthodox heritage. His mother, an only child of wealth and privilege, traced her ancestry to 18th century Dutch Jews whose portraits hung in the living room of Frank's childhood home. He was influenced in childhood by art dealer Frank Perls, whom his parents had met during WWII. Perls was assigned to the Arts and Monuments Section of the Allied Military Government in Germany with the objective of recovering artworks looted by the Nazis. When Perls opened his gallery in Beverly Hills, young Frank Barnett made frequent visits in the early 1950s, pedaling his Schwinn bicycle from his home in West Los Angeles. Perl’s self-assigned mission was to introduce southern Californians to the best of modern art that included his close friends, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, as well as Georges Braque, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, and Jean Dubuffet. Frank has always credited his passion for fine art, and in particular, gallery ownership – he has founded five – to his early association and friendship with Frank Perls.
Frank earned his undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and his Master’s Degree in Cultural Anthropology at UCLA where he also spent a year as an Anthropology Fellow at the Neuropsychiatric Institute, studying Psychological Anthropology. He began focusing on documentary photography as early as 1964 when he spent a year in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Today he describes himself as a Visual Anthropologist.
His experience in publishing includes serving as the Manager of Marketing and Public Relations for the University of California Press, one of the largest academic publishers in the nation during the 1970s. There he revolutionized the Press’s direct mail catalog operation, exhibits program and advertising. After leaving UC Press, he founded The Piedmont Book Company, The Piedmont Book Company Gallery, and Parsons Barnett Gallery in Oakland, California. Exhibits at the latter included the works of Imogen Cunningham, Mel Ramos, Lucien Clergue, Eliot Porter, Hundertwasser, the work of Hispanic artists of the Ernest de Soto Workshop, and Oakland’s best-attended exhibit at that time, the first West Coast show by African American artist Romare Bearden. For that exhibit, Frank designed and produced a limited edition silk screen poster with Bearden’s collage “The Family.”
His first book, Working Together: Entrepreneurial Couples, co-authored with his late wife, Sharan, was published in 1988 and led to many appearances on radio and television. The Wall Street Journal described the couple as the “chief gurus” of spousal business.
In 1993 two of Frank’s campaigns for the Museum of New Mexico Foundation were the recipients of Addy Awards from the Santa Fe Ad Club. He created a national direct mail membership advertising campaign, “Discover the Treasures Coronado Overlooked,” as well as a highly successful national direct mail catalog that included the original artworks of indigenous Native American and Hispanic artists curated by the Barnetts.
As a commercial photographer, Frank found great success creating images of Oregon wine country, food and specialty beverages. The Oregon Wine Board featured his vineyard images which appeared in publications as far afield as the Washington Post and as close to home as Portland Monthly.
After being named “Business Member of the Year” by the Salem Convention and Visitors Association in 2002, Frank spent three years as a documentary photographer in rodeo arenas from the Pendleton Round-Up to the Angola Prison Rodeo at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. He wrote about these experiences in an article entitled “Bulls Ain’t Supposed to be Rode.”
In addition to three of his rodeo images, Pendleton® Woolen Mills wove Frank’s images of New York Harbor 1964, Bourbon Street, and Ranchos de Taos into fine art tapestries on antique Jacquard looms in Pendleton, Oregon. Frank suggested to Brot Bishop, Pendleton’s late CEO, that Pendleton establish “The Pendleton Studio.” The Studio’s charter was to translate iconic art into limited edition fine art tapestries that could be added to the company’s already existing Contemporary Artist Limited Edition Tapestry Collection.
Toward the end of the last century, Frank began focusing on his fine art photography, earning national and international recognition. His numerous photographic awards include the 2017 Silver Medal in photography from the Independent Publishers Awards for his book, Photography In My Bones – Half a Century of Images by Frank Barnett. Conducted annually, the Independent Publisher Book Awards honor the year's best independently published titles from around the world. The awards are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university, and self-published books released each year.. Frank was also the recipient of three separate 2014 Monochrome Awards in Fine Art Photography, Photojournalism, and Photomanipulation.
Before moving back to Salem, Oregon, in 2015, Frank’s work was exhibited at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education accompanied by a 230-page monograph entitled FotoMacher – Examining Lives with Jewish Eyes. Once in Salem, with his current wife and creative collaborator, Martha Solomon, Frank opened a gallery at the Willamette Heritage Center. The couple’s recent projects include photography for the Oregon Department of Education’s Tribal Attendance Pilot Project which led to work on a forthcoming book, Dancing In Two Worlds – Strong Hearts, Determined Spirits, planned for publication in 2020. The couple produced another coffee table book documenting the seven-decade history of the All American Toy Company, and are curating an exhibit for the Oregon Historical Society Museum that will open in September, 2019, based on their book.
On the corporate side, Frank and Martha researched, procured and restored over 20 historical images of Salem, Oregon, and installed them in the corporate headquarters of Doneth & Sturdivant Wealth Advisors, in addition to writing and publishing a photo book of the installation.
Martha Solomon, before moving to Portland in 2006, was a former Big Four CPA and executive in the telecommunications industry. An accomplished stereo photographer for more than 25 years, she has sat on the board of several not-for-profit arts organizations including the National Stereoscopic Association and has written for the journal of the International Stereoscopic Union. She joined the board of Portland’s 3D Center of Art and Photography when she moved to the Pacific Northwest. Martha co-curated “1 Brain + 2 Eyes = 3D” at the Oregon Historical Society Museum, a successful exhibit that ran for six months in 2009. The 2,000 square foot exhibit included everything from a 19th century wooden stereo camera to a movie set from LAIKA’s Coraline, a stop-motion 3D film that had its release just a month prior to the exhibit opening.
For the Oregon Historical Society Museum’s forthcoming exhibit on the All American Toy Company, curated with her husband Frank who photographed the artifacts for the book and exhibit, Martha served as the primary researcher and author of All American Toy Co. – All American Toys for All American Boys, conducting interviews with former employees, collectors and model truck builders.
Early in Martha’s relationship with Frank, he developed a sixth cranial nerve palsy, which temporarily left him normal vision in just one eye. Prior to that episode, Frank had been photographing and writing articles on subjects ranging from Oregon’s wine industry, to rodeo and coffee. Martha offered to take over the writing duties until Frank’s normal vision returned, but Frank was delighted to concentrate on photography and other tasks, leaving the research and writing to his wife. Since Martha became the principal researcher and writer, she has provided the narrative for articles ranging in subject from craft-brewed beer, cigars and French pastries, to the historic Steamboat Inn on the South Umpqua River, and a profile of fly-fishing outfitter and chef, Jesse Sampson, a serious locavore. Many of the articles she wrote were under the byline of Mart McCann, the name by which she was known at the time.
While Frank was restoring the vintage photographs of Salem for Doneth & Sturdivant, Martha was researching and writing the historic descriptions that accompanied each framed photograph in the installation as well as in the book the couple produced.
Martha’s collaboration with Frank also resulted in a gradual transformation in his fine art and documentary photography. Using Frank’s photographs as a starting point, the couple experimented with a variety of digital techniques to produce a unique artistic interpretation. Virtually painting with pixels, they have developed several styles that transform Frank’s photographs into painterly renderings that are reminiscent of watercolor, pencil and other classic styles.
Initially, Martha was reluctant to take credit for her significant contribution to their new art form since it was based on Frank’s photography. Frank, however, insisted that their creations would never have evolved without Martha’s collaboration. Thus, today, these collaborative artistic works are signed Solomon Barnett.
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