Pastel paintings and photographs
He Was So in Need of Botany
58 x 38 inches
September 23 - October 30, 2005
Opening Reception for the Artists
Friday, September 23, 2005
Celebrate Fourth Fridays at Plant Zero
Artspace Opening Receptions Are Now on Fourth Fridays from 6:00-9:00 pm
Visit and see ArtWorks' Openings next door on the same night
The "DOMESTIC THREATS" series of pastel paintings (on sandpaper) and photographs uses cultural objects-- Mexican masks, carved wooden animals, papier mâché figures, and toys--in a lively blend of reality and fantasy. I use these objects not only as surrogates for human actors, but as potent symbols: an amalgam of childhood memories, hal-forgotten dreams, and images encountered in literature, pre-columbian art, trips to central Mexico, and cinema (especially German silent films and movies directed by Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles). The series has been evolving for more than a decade. The imagery is autobiographical; although very personal, it is rich in universal associations.
All of the pastel paintings and photographs use as a backdrop either a 1932 Sears house in Virginia or a West Village (Manhattan) apartment. These are places where I live so the realities of my everyday surroundings are an essential part of the work. Director-style, I select and arrange a group of objects, using tungsten lighting to create dramatic, mysterious and unexplainable shadows. The setup is left in place for several weeks. During that time, I work out placement, lighting, design, and a narrative about the interaction that is occurring between the "actors."
When everything is just so, I shoot two color negatives with a 4"x5" view camera. Using a 20" x 24" photograph for reference, I create a pastel painting of 58"x38" in size (normally a three to four month process). I also make smaller works, but prefer the greater challenge of working large. Blending with my fingers, I painstakingly apply dozens of layers of soft pastel onto acid-free sandpaper. This technique achieves rich textures and vibrant colors.
It is my intent to create a painting that is more exciting, colorful, animated, and real-seeming than the photograph. Extremely labor intensive, each pastel painting is a unique work of art with considerable interpretative development over the photograph.
"GODS AND MONSTERS" is a series of photographs that depict the papier mâché figures, carved wooden animals, masks, and dolls I have collected on trips to Mexico over a dozen years. The series proceeds directly from my work as a pastel painter, in which I create colorful narratives that explore the same Mexican folk art figures in domestic settings. These figures embody personality traits that suggest their use as human surrogates. I think of them as actors in a repertory company who assume a variety of roles, depending on how I paint of photograph them.
The images are made with an old Nikon F2 camera. I set up a group of figures in a corner of my apartment, generally at night, and photograph them through multiple colored plastic gels of different geometric shapes. I hold the gels at varying angles and various distances from the camera lens. Light is refracted in a way that is impossible to predict or repeat. Invariably, what I see through the viewfinder has only a slight resemblance to what I later see in the finished photographs, although no digital manipulation is used. Each photo has the quality of a dream, as a literal recording of the scene in front of the lens is circumvented.
"Gods and Monsters" is related to my work as a painter, but is an independent body of work. The title and inspiration for the photographic series came from a catalogue essay by the late art critic, Gerrit Henry, about my paintings. Henry referenced a 1998 film about James Whale, creator of the 1930'a movies Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein. Th The Bride of Frankenstein Doctor Pretorius makes a toast, "To a new world of Gods and Monsters!" With the photographs in this series I have created my own world of gods and monsters.
Truth Betrayed By Innocence
58 x 38 inches
Barbara Rachko was born in Paterson, New Jersey and grew up in a suburb of New York City. She graduated from the University of Vermont with a B.A. in psychology. After college, Barbara earned a commercial pilot's license and Boeing 727 flight engineer's certificate. She spent seven years as a Naval officer. In 1986, while working at the Pentagon, she began to study figure drawing and medical anatomy. Barbara subsequently resigned from active duty (she is retired from the Naval Reserve as a Commander) to devote herself- full-time to making art. Barbara enjoys a successful career as a professional artists. She divides her time between residences in New York and Virginia.