Artist Dawn Barnett


Deaf Artist Dawn Barnett at work in Dabar Studio

Deaf Artist Dawn Barnett at work in Dabar Studio

Since I was not exposed to visual arts at an early age, my desire for artistic self-expression in ceramics and oil began a quest of self discovery which required years of personal growth to blossom. I grew up in Beverly Hills with celebrity parents. My father, Jackie Barnett, was Jimmy Durante’s music producer and comedy writer. My mother, Jo Morrow, was an actress who made several movies and also appeared on television. My parents’ professional lives allowed me to experience the musical and media aspects of Hollywood’s mainstream. I experienced chaos in my life as I struggled to free my spirituality as a deaf individual in an environment with others who could hear and enjoy my parents’ music and arts.

Exposure to the philosophical concept of spoken language, in which deaf people are trained to speak without using American Sign Language (ASL), hindered me from pursuing my yearning for the visual expression of language itself. Due to harsh approaches from my teachers, speech therapy sessions did not leave me confident with my own speaking skills. Speaking with my own voice was very uncomfortable…but at age twenty I was exposed to the beauty of ASL as a visual form of art, and that changed everything.

As I searched for my own individuality as a deaf person, several crises occurred. The first was the onset of Myasthenia Gravis. This physical ailment had a profound impact on my muscles, which became paralyzed and deteriorated over time. This was an ongoing struggle from 1990-1993, while I was a bicoastal resident in both New York City and Marina Del Rey.

During episodes of my illness, I also experienced rude awakenings in my life. The death of my father left me unclear about my own personal choices and growth. It also left me with false hope without goals based on my own individualism as a deaf person. This experience released the internal pressure I had experienced as a minority among the majority. Seeking the cultural values of being deaf opened my eyes and spirit. I was able to develop a clear “mission” to continue on my journey, exploring the world by living in different areas and different cultures. My travels enabled a great deal of personal development, and I gained a sense of empathy surrounding human nature. After my studies in Florence, Italy at the Arte Sotto Un Tetto and Studio Giambo, I decided to return back to the states with my spirit filled with Far East, Egyptian, Aztec, Zuni, African and Indian influences. To me, the artistic influence of these ancient cultures parallels the visualized beauty of ASL as an expressive art of language.

Communication Overcomes Challenges, Sculptural Artwork by Dawn Barnett of Dabar Studio, created in 2003.

Communication Overcomes Challenges

As I dealt with the constant physical turmoil from Myasthenia Gravis, I began to draw. I learned to express my passion to understand the psychological aspect of human relationships. I started by using black and white markers to draw connections between myself and Frida Kahlo; I related with her, and art became my escape from my physical turmoil just as Frida’s art was her escape from pain. Searching for the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual levels of relationships allowed a connection of my soul in its search for the real meaning of love. I experienced several true love relationships—sweetly and sourly—as I matured to a new level of being human. This developed my ability to differentiate the human nature of relationships based on my own personal experiences.

At the present time, I reside in southern Florida. I appreciate the education that all aspects of life offer me through the beauty of the environment and the arts. My ceramics, paintings, and wood working reflect my inner spirit, and they have progressed to a new level of acceptance and confidence. I am working on a new concept which will incorporate stained glass. I look forward to sharing this new style and technique of art with you when it’s ready.

– Dawn Barnett

Artistic Vision ~ Discovering the Metaphor within My Work & Life

Early clay tablets by Dawn Barnett, Dabar Studio

Early clay wall sculptures by Dawn Barnett

In the beginning, creating art was simple as I worked with carved clay and wood wall sculptures. A three dimensional concept resulted in free standing sculptures as the work motivated me to explore the world among ourselves. I have traveled this globe and found it to be culturally anxious, yet delightfully playful. The discovery within is a metaphor expressed in my work; I shave and carve deeply into my medium, reminding myself of the chaos in the work-a-day world. I am able to remove the negativity, which allows the positive to come forth. Difficulties in the work reflect the difficulty we all have to communicate exactly what we mean, and a realization appears: it is not just the deaf who experience this challenge! Art is the universal communicator. My work has now moved me towards Nature’s magnificent beauty and our earth’s glorious environment. This is the theme behind my art.

Deaf Artist Dawn Barnett paints in Dabar Studio

Dawn Painting in Dabar Studio

The deaf communication sign for “I love you” is incorporated into most of my creations, as well as the use of “holes,” which are apparent when you examine my work more closely. The holes represent the inherent need we all have to fill our hearts, minds and spirits within the surroundings of life. When we do, communication is expressed on all levels. Whimsical movement, vibrant colors and mystic overtones combine to create the themes behind my art. The influence of the Far East, Asian, Egyptian, Zuni, Greek and Aztec cultures flow within my designs.

My artworks speak to hidden, painful, emotional themes, even as they are rendered in cheerful and vibrant colors. The paradox evokes emotions which accentuate the recycling harmonic flow of life. This of course, is always depicted from my profoundly deaf perspective.

-Dawn Barnett

I credit my path in art to my travels over the years.

Historical aspects from my travels and my spiritual connection with Far East, Egyptian, Aztec, Zuni, African, Indian and Bali cultures have established a connection between the primitive and my association with American Sign Language as a beautiful visual form of communication.

Joan Miro and Frida Kahlo have always connected with me spiritually through their expressive use of color and shapes. At the present time, I yearn for my learning and am open to spiritual influences to enable me to be the artist that I am.

Below are a few pictures from my travels that illustrate how the places I have seen affected my art.


2009 Paintings: Petite, 11" x 60" Wood panel and Oil Painting by deaf artist Dawn Barnett of Dabar Studio, 2009.



Giambo Studio – Florence, Italy
Arte Sotto Un Tetto – Florence, Italy

San Rafael Community Center – San Rafael, California

1995- 1996
College of Marin – Kentfield, California

California State University of Northridge – Northridge, California

Rochester Institute of Technology – Rochester, New York


Marin Arts Open Studio – San Rafael, California

San Francisco Library – San Francisco, California

2002 Deaf Visual Performer Arts – San Francisco, California
2002 Deaf Way II – Washington DC

San Francisco Open Studio – San Francisco, California

Festival of the Arts – Lake Oswego, Oregon
Marin Arts Festival – San Rafael, California
World Federation of the Deaf – Montreal, Canada
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf – Chicago, Illinois
Santa Barbara Arts and Jazz Festival – Santa Barbara, California
Craftswomen Festival – San Francisco, California
Deaf Fiesta – Seattle, Washington
Mill Valley Arts Festival – Mill Valley, California


Kollective – Phoenix, Arizona

GoodBean Café – Jacksonville, OR


American Art Collector Volume1, Book 1: Love in Bloody Flow (Ceramic)
Calendar for California State University of Northridge
Deaf Jewish Magazine



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