Monthly Archives: July 2012

Q: Are there any other memorable quotes from collectors that you’d like to share?

"He Urged Her to Abdicate," at John and Lynn's house

“He Urged Her to Abdicate,” at John and Lynn’s house; photo by John

A: Here’s one from my good friend John, who with his wife Lynn, owns four pastel paintings. I believe they discovered my paintings in 2000 at a gallery in Marin County (CA). John is talking about work from a previous series called, “Domestic Threats.”

The first time that I saw Barbara’s work in a gallery window I was instantly drawn to it… the intensity of color… examining the figures… my love of folk art… the furniture and other objects. Somewhere in the middle of all this the skewed perspective hit me. I was hooked.

What would visual artists do without appreciative collectors!

Q: What do your collectors say about your work?

"False Friends," one of Cheryll and John's pastel paintings

“False Friends,” one of Cheryll and John’s pastel paintings

A: Here’s a quote from Cheryll Chew and John Frye, who own four of my pastel paintings.

We walked into her studio in 1994 and saw “In Reality the Frogs Were Men.” That instant on that day, my consuming passion with Barbara Rachko’s work began. We had absolutely no resources to buy “In Reality . . .” I did, however, know without a doubt that one day we would have her work, no matter what it took to get it.
We, years later, have “Scene Eleven: Bedroom,” “Scene Nine: Living Room,” “Scene Five: Kitchen,” and “False Friends.”
We have unorthodox appreciations and every single day, those pieces of art quicken the pulse and bring us pure pleasure.
Her pieces make us want to dance wildly around the room and wave our arms in the air. We are deeply grateful that her work is in our home. Her art balances the everyday domestic with the unthinkably rare, lovely, and maniacal. That is an edgy state of being that we thrive in.

Not long ago, we read an article about Nan Goldin. In the article was a phrase that says precisely what Barbara Rachko’s work does for us . . .

all of the pleasure circuits are deeply fulfilled by looking. . .

Nan Goldin The Look of Love: Matchmaking at the Louvre
NY Times,10.27.2011

Q: What gives you the most personal pleasure as an artist?

"The Older One Pulled His Punches," at Beth and Larry's house

“The Older One Pulled His Punches,” at Beth and Larry’s house; photo by Larry Rubin

A: I’d have to say that it’s my relationships with my collectors. I love to see my pastel paintings and photographs hanging on collectors’ walls, especially when the work is first installed and they tell me how happy they are to own them. People’s relationship to work that they own evolves over time. It’s always gratifying to hear that they love my paintings and photographs more after living with them. Then I know that my work has found the right home. An artist’s works are her children, after all, so we hope they are “adopted” by the right people. Collectors invariably become good friends so now I have a network of art-loving friends around the country.

Q: What makes you just want to run back to the studio and start something new?

Untitled chromogenic print, 24" x24", edition of 5

Untitled chromogenic print, 24″ x24″, edition of 5

A: I work in series, which means that one pastel painting generally leads into the next. Considerable thought goes into it before I ever begin, so it would be rare for me to just start something new out of nowhere. Sometimes after a day in the studio I run home to my apartment to set up a new photograph. I arrange a group of my Mexican and Guatemalan figures on a black cloth, light the scene, and when everything is just right, photograph it. I love the fact that I can come home, shoot a roll of film, and then have 24 new images – more bad than good, but still – the next day! It’s such a departure from the slowness of my work in the studio, considering that in a good year I make 6 pastel paintings.

Q: How do you deal with rejection?

Letter from MoMA to Andy Warhol

Letter from MoMA to Andy Warhol

A: I take the long view and try to remember that rejection is an occupational hazard that has plagued every artist throughout history. Even one of the most famous – Andy Warhol – had to endure innumerable rejections before his work was finally appreciated. So why should it be any different for my peers and me? Tacked to my refrigerator is a copy of a now classic letter, dated October 18, 1956. It reads:

Dear Mr. Warhol,
Last week our Committee on the Museum Collections held its first meeting of the fall session and had a chance to study your drawing entitled “Shoe,” which you so generously offered as a gift to the Museum.
I regret that I must report to you that the Committee decided, after careful consideration, that they ought not to accept it for our Collections.
Let me explain that because of our severely limited gallery and storage space we must turn down many gifts offered, since we feel it is not fair to accept as a gift a work which may be shown only infrequently.
Nevertheless, the Committee has asked me to pass on to you their thanks for your generous expression in our Collection.

Sincerely,
Alfred H. Barr, Jr.
Director of the Museum Collections

P.S. The drawing may be picked up from the Museum at your convenience.

I especially chuckle at the P.S. as, surely, here we have one of the biggest blunders by a museum professional in history!

Q: What do you like most about being an artist?

Entrance to Barbara's studio

Entrance to Barbara’s studio

A: I love walking into my studio in the morning, knowing that I will spend the day doing what I love, using all my talents, skills, and experience to solve whatever problems lie ahead in the work. As artists we create our own tasks and then go about solving them. Yes, the day to day challenges are significant, but having the freedom to do meaningful work that we love is priceless. When I was a lieutenant in the Navy working at the Pentagon, I was very unhappy (and one doesn’t just give two weeks notice and leave the Navy behind)! I still remember what it was like having a soul-crushing job. How much better life is as a professional artist!

Q: What did you buy in Bali to use in your work?

Objects from Bali and Taiwan

Objects from Bali and Taiwan

A: I bought a few small things: a mask, a carved wooden “wedding pair,” and a ceramic monkey (from a Taiwan airport shop) that will most likely be subject matter for future photographs and pastel paintings.

Q: How do you think your time in Bali will affect your work?

Barbara in her favorite sarong; photo by Donna Tang

Barbara in her favorite sarong; photo by Donna Tang

A: There is always a long gestation period as I reflect on the new experiences, sights, sounds, etc. after a trip. Bali is a fascinating place – the only Hindu outpost in the world’s most populous Muslim country – so I’m reading everything I can find. I’ve finished an historical novel, Love and Death in Bali, about the 1906 mass suicide of the royal family during the Dutch invasion. I’m slowly making my way through Bali: Sekala and Niskala, a densely packed book about the intricacies of Hinduism, rituals, and art, written with the help of our guide, Budi. In the short term I’m using more green pastels in my paintings. Amidst all of the tropical lushness, I must have seen thousands of shades of green. The volcano shapes in “Absence,” a pastel painting completed last week (see post of JUL 20), resulted from this trip. Other, more pronounced effects will probably show up later.

Q: Would you share a few more photos from your trip to Bali?

Temple entrance in a private house compound

Temple entrance in a private house compound

Barong dancer in Batabulan Village

Barong dancer in Batabulan Village

Rice paddies

Rice paddies

Rinsing dye from double-ikat weavings in Tenganan

Rinsing dye from double-ikat weavings in Tenganan

Kitchen

Kitchen

Q: I understand that you recently traveled to Bali. What did you see and do there?

A: Bali is such a fascinating place and I have so many great memories! I shot lots of photographs on this trip. Here are a few of my favorites.

A floating Hindu temple

A floating Hindu temple

Kecak dance performance under the full moon in Uluwatu

Kecak dance performance under the full moon in Uluwatu

Hotel on the Indian Ocean in Tanah Lot

Hotel on the Indian Ocean in Tanah Lot

Boy in traditional Hindu dress at a fifty year festival in Blahbatuh

Boy in traditional Hindu dress at a fifty year festival in Blahbatuh

Ancient rice field terraces in Jatiiluwih

Ancient rice field terraces in Jatiiluwih