A: My title is borrowed directly from a 2001 catalogue essay by the late art critic, Gerritt Henry. The essay was about my first pastel painting series (“Domestic Threats”) and it’s called, “Barbara Rachko: Gods and Monsters.”
Among other shared interests, Gerritt and I both loved old Frankenstein movies from the 1940s. Around 1998 interest in James Whale, who had directed the original films, was riding high thanks to an Oscar-winning biopic about his last days in Hollywood. The film was called, “Gods and Monsters.” The title was taken from a line in “Bride of Frankenstein,” in which Dr. Pretorius toasts Dr. Frankenstein saying, “To a new world of gods and monsters.”
My photographic series came after “Domestic Threats” and some years after Gerritt’s essay was published. When I was searching for a title for the photos, “Gods and Monsters” seemed a perfect fit!
Comments are welcome!
A: When my husband, Bryan, was alive I barely picked up a camera, except to photograph sights encountered during our travels.
Throughout the 1990s and ending in 2007, I worked on my series of pastel-on-sandpaper paintings called, “Domestic Threats.” These were realistic depictions of elaborate scenes that I staged first in our 1932 Sears house in Alexandria, Virginia, next in a New York sixth floor walk-up apartment, and finally in my current New York apartment.
I use Mexican masks, carved wooden animals, and other folk art figures that I discovered on trips to Mexico. I staged and lit these setups, while Bryan photographed them using his Toyo-Omega 4 x 5 view camera. We had been collaborating this way almost from the beginning (circa 1991). Having been introduced to photography by his father at the age of 6, Bryan was a terrific amateur photographer.
Bryan would shoot two pieces of 4 x 5 film at different exposures and I would select one, generally the one that showed the most detail in the shadows, to make into a 20 x 24 photograph. The photograph would be my starting point for making the pastel painting. Although I work from life, too, I could not make a painting without mostly looking at a reference photo.
After Bryan was killed on 9/11, I had no choice but to study photography. I completed a series of photography classes at the International Center of Photography in New York, turned myself into a skilled photographer, and presented my first solo photography exhibition at HP Garcia in New York in 2009.
Comments are welcome!