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On a Mission

Oldham County ‘barn artist’ Carter is painting a barn from every state

So far, she has painted barns from 20 states,
she estimates

CRESTWOOD, Ky. (February 2019) – For years Ann Carter has had the reputation of being “the Barn Painter of Oldham County.” She is currently working on a project to paint a barn from each of the 50 states, broadening her reputation as a barn painter.
In November 2017, on her 84th birthday, Carter decided she needed a goal. “Something to focus on,” said the Oldham County, Ky., resident. She had just finished a painting for her neighbor. Since she was not showing her artwork anymore, she knew she needed “to do something different. The idea just came to me.”

Photo provided

Crestwood, Ky., artist Ann Carter poses with some of her recent paintings from various states around the country.

Friends, family members and even strangers pitched in to help her achieve her goal. Since she cannot physically travel to all 50 states to take pictures of the barns she will paint, people have sent pictures to her.
“I have a niece in Missouri who sent pictures of barns she liked,” said Carter. These pictures provided the images Carter needed to work with to produce a barn painting from the state of Missouri. “She also knows someone in Oregon,” so Carter was able to cross that state off of her list.
This same niece connected with people in other states and had a friend in Colorado who supplied barn pictures from that state. Carter said neighbors helped out as well.
A former neighbor, with whom she was good friends with, has a daughter who lives in Connecticut. When the daughter learned about the project she sent pictures of a barn in Vermont. The daughter skies in Vermont and always passes the barn when there. “I have a friend who lives in Michigan who sent pictures. It’s ongoing.”
Facebook has event helped Carter out. She commented on some pictures she saw of round barns, and someone responded with pictures of a barn in New Mexico, a state Carter has never visited. Another person sent her pictures of round stone barns in Wisconsin.
Carter said she hopes to paint these barns “until I can’t do it anymore. It keeps me occupied.” Although the completion date for painting all 50 barns cannot be determined, Carter said she feels she has to record on canvas these barns because “you don’t know what will happen to these barns.”
She doesn’t look for anything specific in a barn when searching for one to paint to represent a certain state. “There is a variety in what I have,” said the Corydon, Iowa, native.
The resulting paintings closely resemble the pictures but are not always exactly like the original barn. She takes creative license in slightly altering some details, but they are all “very realistic.”
So far, Carter estimates she has painted barns from 20 states. The oil paintings are different sizes and the collection contains some she has painted in the past. The more current ones are 16x20 inches.
She has painted many barns that no longer stand. The painting she chose to represent Kentucky depicts a tobacco barn that once stood in Oldham County.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Oldham County was one of the leading dairy counties in the state. Farms had a variety of barns used for a variety of reasons: milking parlors, horse stables, tobacco curing, grain storage and shelter for cattle. Many unique barns built by German and Swiss immigrants that once dotted the landscape are slowly vanishing.
Carter moved to Oldham County in 1975 and immediately noticed that barns were falling down in disrepair or being torn down. She wanted to do something about this because “barns have a story to tell. They have a history.”
Carter’s father was a carpenter who built barns, and her mother was a painter who encouraged her daughter to purse her talent. Carter attended Art Instruction Inc., Louisville School of Art and Jefferson Community College.
Carter works from a studio in her home. She has a room dedicated to the current project and also a gallery room in which two walls are hung with Oldham County barns, one wall with Iowa barns and the fourth wall is a mixture of barns and other scenes such as Duncan Memorial Chapel in Crestwood, Ky.
This project has been “quite a journey,” said Carter. “I’ve had a good time with it. I’ve been able to connect with people I have not seen or heard from in a long time
Along the way, Carter has kept a record of who gave her the barn pictures or ideas she has used for this project. The paintings “will probably go to those people some day or my family will send the paintings to them when I am not able to.” She also tries to record as much history of the barns as she can.

“When I tell people about it, they understand why I’m doing it.”

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