Q: Your “Gods and Monsters” series consists of tableaux of Mexican and Guatemalan figures that are photographed in a way that blurs certain elements to abstraction while others are in clear focus. Can you please speak more about this work?

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

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

A:  When I depict the Mexican and, more recently, Guatemalan figures in my pastel-on-sandpaper paintings, they are hard-edged, vibrant, and in-your-face. That’s a result of the way I work in pastel. I slowly and meticulously build up layers of pigment, blend them with my fingers, continually refine and try to find the best, most eye-popping colors. It’s a very slow process that takes months of hard work.  An aside…  One frustration I have as an artist – I am hardly unique in this – is that my audience only sees the finished piece and they look at it for perhaps ten seconds.  They rarely think about how their ten-second experience took me months to create! 

In 2002 when I began photographing these figures, I wanted to take the same subject matter and give it an entirely different treatment.  So these images are deliberately soft focus, dreamy, and mysterious. I use a medium format camera and shoot film.  I choose a narrow depth of field.  I hold gels in front of the scene to blur it and to provide unexpected areas of color.  Even as a photographer I am a colorist.

I want this work to surprise me and it does, since I don’t usually know what images I will get.  Often I don’t even look through the viewfinder as I position the camera and the gels and click the shutter.  I only know what I’ve shot after I’ve seen a contact sheet, usually the next day. 

The “Gods and Monsters” series began entirely as a reaction to my pastel paintings.  The latter are extremely meticulous and labor intensive.  At a certain point in the process I know more or less what the finished painting will look like, but there are still weeks of slow, laborious detail work ahead.  So my photographic work is spontaneous, serendipitous, and provides me with much-needed instant gratification. I find it endlessly intriguing to have two diametrically opposed ways of working with the same subject.

Comments are welcome!

About barbararachkoscoloreddust

New York Artist Barbara Rachko www.barbararachko.com shares her perspective on pastel painting, photography, and the creative inspiration she finds in pre-Columbian civilizations, mythology, and travel to remote places, like her new favorite destinations, Peru and Bolivia.

Posted on March 16, 2013, in An Artist's Life, Creative Process, Gods and Monsters, Guatemala, Inspiration, Mexico, Pastel Painting, Photography, Travel, Working methods and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hello Barbara, I hope you are well.
    Your colors are just as vibrant from Albany, NY :). Your quote “Even as a photographer I am a colorist,” couldn’t be more accurate.

    If you come upstate, I would love for you to check out the gallery I just started directing. (@386Gallery on Twitter). I’m keeping my eye on you, and hoping we can grow enough to sometime show some of your beauties.

    I just saw this article, too. I love it… http://www.artsia.com/blog-detail/superadmin/art-and-social-media-my-experience-so-far-barbara-rachko … we need more realistic reports from artists and how Social Media is assisting/not assisting them in their careers.

    My unending adoration from Upstate,
    Vicki (The Gallery Goddess)
    http://www.theGalleryGoddess.com

  2. What a wonderful work you’ve done; it’s dark and mysterious .

%d bloggers like this: