By Joanne M. Anderson
Photos by Shanen Photography
Barry Keller is like an original Transformers Toy guy, taking something, disassembling it and putting it back together as something else. Around age 6, he found an old, abandoned crib on a military base, took it all apart and rendered it into a small sailboat. He cannot remember not working with his hands. “Growing up there was a never-ending stream of sculptures, drawings, carvings, moving things and every sort of creation in between coming from me. I took apart everything I could get my hands on. I had to know how it worked, and I had to turn it into something else.”
While his friends were getting G.I. Joes and fashionable footwear for Christmas presents, his parents bought him power tools. And while his friends were watching television, Keller was not. His parents decided not have a TV set in the house. “I have never had TV. I have no use for it. When other kids were acting like zombies in front of the TV, I was making something or being creative. It will be the same way for my kids.”
“I’m a military brat and have lived all over the world,” he states. “When my dad was not being a professional bandsman in the Army, he was building houses, and I grew up building with him.” Fourteen years ago, at the age of 19, Barry was living in New York and felt let by the Lord to relocate to the New River Valley. “I had a friend in Riner and moved into his basement for a year. The next year, I bought and renovated my first house, married my best friend, Molly, whom I met here and started a family.”
Keller got so much joy in making things that the thought of selling something seemed odd. As a teen, however, he made a dozen wire trees and took them to a craft show. Didn’t sell a thing. Then he took them to a high end art consignment shop. Again, nothing. “I gave up trying to sell anything for 20 years. Then last year a friend recommended I drop by The Green Heron in Radford. I gave Becky Lattuca (the founder and then-owner) a wire tree, and it sold. Everyone has always said they love my work, but that was the first time someone was willing to say it with money. It was an awesome feeling. Thank you, whoever you were.” He is grateful to Becky for carrying his art pieces, and the new owner Lauri Murphy, has several in stock and plans to continue selling Barry Keller’s unique sculptures. Visit greenheronarts.com’s virtual gallery or drop by the shop in downtown Radford.
If you ask for a favorite media, Keller hedges. “I enjoy working with anything ~ metal, wood, pen and ink, words, clay, film, even sewing.” And film making, which he began around age15. He’s been trying to get something going ever since, particularly a production company with films to tell people about Jesus. “The current Christian film industry is so watered down and lame,” he observes. It’s a difficult juxtaposition. A few years ago, he met Joe Caldwell, and they have done more together than Keller was able to accomplish alone across a decade and a half.
“Film is much better if the camera can move,” he discovered early. “The booms and rigs to make that happen are extremely pricy, so I build them. With the help of my brother-in-law, who owns a machine shop, we were able to create proper pro-grade rigs. I think it adds a lot to the films.”
Keller’s brain works in two ways: One creative process is given to him. He calls it creative spirit, and he doesn’t feel like he’s the one creating. “There is a part of my brain that has a never-ending flow of things going through – maybe an art piece, a film, a poem, a building. The flow is ALWAYS on. All I have to do is look at it, and I will have many things to choose from.” He carries a thick book with him so he can scribble notes when he sees something neat in his brain. “Sometimes I catch it in time, sometimes I don’t.”
The second creative process is stranger still. “There are times when I have a fully realized, complete blueprint for something, forcefully injected into my brain. I don’t feel like I ‘think’ of it. In fact, it usually catches me off guard when I’m in the middle of something important. In a flash I see every side, every joint, every moving part all working perfectly together. All I have to do is write it down or make it from what I see. I don’t design it. I don’t try to figure out how it will work. When this happens the design is engraved into my mind’s eye. It doesn’t go anywhere. I can take it apart piece by piece look at the parts and put it together again just like everything was in my hands. I have made small working models of some of the ideas and been floored when I saw with my eyes that it does indeed work. I praise God for the way He made me.”
One of Barry Keller’s music videos:
E-mail Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org