Local artist balances creativity, family, faith and lifestyle


Salem Barker and his family stand in front of the 25 ft. metal sculptor he is currently working on. (L-R) Ezra, Christina, Isaiah and Salem. Daughter Promise with Bucky, her favorite chicken, is in front.

Sculptor Salem Barker has come a long way from his early years working in the heavy industrial, manufacturing and technology field. Since 2007, he has become a renowned sculptor nationally and internationally known.

In 2003, his life changed. He went through the death of a close family member and survived a serious motorcycle accident that required a complete knee reconstruction. The long recovery period and time on his hands resulted in waking up his artistic side and experimenting with sculpting.

Salem started out with wood sculpting. What began as a hobby slowly grew into a passion. Since 2007, he has evolved into a full-time sculptor.

Since that time, he met and married his wife Christina, and became a father to sons Isaiah, 10, and Ezra, 8, and daughter Promise, 4.

The family lives as much of a self-sustaining life as possible. Christine grows and cans vegetables and fruit. Chickens have the run of the property. The Barkers share a deep faith, contentment and commitment to family.

All of the children are homeschooled, the boys drive tractors, motorbikes, mow the yard. There is plenty of room to roam and explore the nearby woods. Salem said all three show signs of artistic and mechanical talent.

Christina has a home business, “Candles and Suds.” She makes candles and soap the old- fashioned way using all natural products. Her products can be found at Rockton Garden Works and Hidden Treasures in Machesney Park, and on her webpage, Rurallymade.com.

The Barker family’s home and studio are in rural South Beloit. The studio is chock full of tools, wood and welding equipment. “We had a small home in Rockford, but we longed for a country life,” Salem said.

“It’s messy and noisy, but we love the fact that we are able to combine work, family and a healthy life style. We love it here.”

Salem has examples of his art in nearly every state in this country, as well as in several other countries.

He is completely self-taught, having no background, education or mentoring in art. He works in wood, stone, bronze and metal. “My favorite medium is wood. I love taking something that has died and giving it a new life.” He often adds decorative accents, dyes and resin infusions.

“Most of my work exists in wood form. It feels as though I am bringing something back to life every time a sculpture is finished.

Most of his collection is purchased by private companies and individuals who are drawn to his work. He has showings in some of the finest juried art shows throughout the country, including the Greenwich Village Art Fair in Rockford.

Salem has created some large installations, including “Dance to Eternity” a stone sculpture at Wesley Willows Senior Living Communities in Rockford, “Oak Leaf” at the Oakcrest Retirement Community in DeKalb, IL, “From Seed to the Senses,” a very large wood sculpture at Bells Brewery in Comstock, MI, and “The Outpouring,” a 25’ metal sculpture placed on the grounds of Valley Hotel in Homewood, Alabama.

He continues to create smaller pieces, and is also working on a mammoth metal sculpture sitting outside of his studio.

The “Outpouring” sculpture, as well as the new work-in-progress, were commissioned by Birmingham, AL business owner Michael Mouron.

Salem can be found welding and working on the structure nine to ten hours per day, with occasional interruptions from his children.

He said the new sculpture is completely different than anything he has done before. The piece is designed to signify two major industries in Birmingham: medical technology and high-tech electronics.

Salem said no date for delivery has been determined, but it will definitely be finished and installed by year’s end.

A drawing of the huge metal sculpture Salem Barker is currently working on. Two flames signifying the two main industries in Birmingham: medical technology and industrial technology.
"Variable Helix" and many more examples of Salem's smaller pieces can be found at www.salembarker.com.
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