A: The Black Paintings series of pastel-on-sandpaper paintings grew directly from an earlier series, Domestic Threats. While both use cultural objects as surrogates for human beings acting in mysterious, highly-charged narratives, in the Black Paintings I replaced all background details of my actual setup (furniture, rugs, etc.) with lush black pastel. In this work the ‘actors’ are front and center.
While traveling in Bolivia two years ago, I visited a mask exhibition at the National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore in La Paz. The masks were presented against black walls, spot-lit, and looked eerily like 3D versions of my Black Paintings. I immediately knew I had stumbled upon a gift. So far I have completed nine pastel paintings in the Bolivianos series. One is awaiting finishing touches, one is in progress now, and I am planning the next one.
All of my pastel paintings are an example of a style called “contemporary conceptual realism” in which things are not quite as innocent as they seem. In this sense each painting is a kind of Trojan horse. There is plenty of backstory to my images, although I usually prefer not to over-explain them. Some mystery must always remain in art.
The world I depict is that of the imagination and this realm owes little debt to the natural world. I recently gave an art talk where I was reminded how fascinating it is to learn how others respond to my work. As New York art critic Gerrit Henry once remarked, “What we bring to a Rachko… we get back, bountifully.”
Comments are welcome!
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
I am astonished by the accuracy with which Matisse remembers the most trifling facts; he describes a room that he went into forty years ago and gives you the measurements, where every piece of furniture stood, how the light fell. He is a man of astounding precision and has little time for anything that he has not confirmed for himself. In art matters, he is not the sort to go looking for a profile fortuitously created by cracks in the wall. Elie Faure writes that Matisse is perhaps the only one of his contemporaries (in particular Marquet and Bonnard) to know exactly where he comes from and the only one who never allows it to show “because his inveterate, invincible, vigilant willpower is always focused on being himself and nothing but.”
Matisse neglects nothing. He seems to know as much about the art market as about painting.
So many stratagems to sell a painting, from intimidating the purchaser to seeming to avoid him: Vollard used them all and used them successfully. Not least the lies that he told to reassure the client. “It works like this,” says Matisse: “To make a sale, you invent lies that have somehow disappeared into thin air by the time the deal is done.”
We talk of the difficulties faced by dealers hoping to gain access to Renoir in his Cagnes residence. Renoir didn’t like having people talk to him about selling his work,” says Matisse: “It bored him. About the only one who got a foot in the door was Paul Guillaume; he dressed up as a young worker with a floppy necktie: “You see, I’m a local. I’ve always loved your painting. I’ve just inherited a little money; I’d like to buy something.”
Chatting with Henri Matisse: The Lost 1941 Interview, Henri Matisse with Pierre Courthion, edited by Serge Guilbaut, translated by Chris Miller
Comments are welcome!
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!