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 last spring, I visited a mask exhibition at the National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore in La Paz. The masks were presented against black walls, were 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 three pastel paintings in the Bolivianos series. Two more are in progress now.
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. Each painting is a Trojan horse. There is plenty of backstory to my images, although I usually prefer not to over-explain them. Much is to be said for mystery in art.
The world I depict is that of the imagination and this realm owes little debt to the natural world. Recently, at an art talk 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!
Q: One can’t help but make connections between the devastating effects of 9/11 and your series, “Domestic Threats.” Would they be right?
A: Well, not exactly, since I began this work in 1991.
All of the paintings in this series are set in places where I reside or used to live, either a Virginia house or two New York apartments, i.e., my personal domestic environments. Each painting typically contains a conflict of some sort, at least one figure that is being menaced or threatened by a group of figures. For example, in “No Cure for Insomnia (above) the threatened figure is me. So it was an easy decision to name the series “Domestic Threats.” My idea was that these paintings were psychological dramas: surrealistic, metaphoric depictions of human fears, anxieties, inner conflicts, demons, etc.
But depending on what is/was going on in the country at a particular moment, people make other associations. Since my husband was killed on 9/11, people think the title, “Domestic Threats,” was prescient and ascribed all kinds of domestic terrorism associations to the work. For a time viewers thought I was hinting at scenes of domestic violence, but that also is not what I intended. The title “Domestic Threats” has proven to be fraught with associations that I never considered.
However, I am fine with any interpretations that are elicited because it means my paintings are getting a response. That’s important. I have been working, studying, and thinking about art for thirty years and hopefully, that’s reflected in the work I create. It’s natural that it takes time for people to ponder all the complexities in a work of art.
Maybe this comment by the late Gerrit Henry, a New York critic, is more true now than when he wrote it sixteen years ago: “What we bring to a Rachko, in other words, we get back, bountifully.”
Comments are welcome!