Pearls from artists* # 599

February 21, 2024
"Epiphany," soft pastel on sandpaper, 38" x 58"
“Epiphany,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 38″ x 58″

*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

Leonora [Carrington] certainly became knowledgeable about Mexican muralism and in the early 1960s she would paint her own mural, el mundo mágico de Los mayas, but she was clear that this didn’t involve associating herself with the Mexican school [of muralists]. ‘I was not interested in a social message in painting and my mural was totally foreign to that discourse,’ she explained. Explanations were not something she gave often; she was always very clear that for her, elucidation was neither necessary nor possible, because she believed that art spoke to people in the deepest part of their psyche. She warned me not to try to rationalize or intellectualize it. The way to understand paintings, she said, was to tune in to one’s own feelings about a work: ‘You’re trying to intellectualize something desperately, and you’re wasting your time. That’s not a way of understanding, to make into a kind of mini-logic – you’ll never understand by that road.’

Joanna Moorhead in Surreal Spaces: The Life and Art of Leonora Carrington

Comments are welcome!

Q: What do collectors say about your work?

February 17, 2024
"False Friends," one of Cheryll and John's pastel paintings
“False Friends,” one of Cheryll and John’s pastel paintings

A: Here’s a quote from Cheryll Chew and John Frye, who own four of my pastel paintings.

We walked into her studio in 1994 and saw “In Reality the Frogs Were Men.” That instant on that day, my consuming passion with Barbara Rachko’s work began. We had absolutely no resources to buy “In Reality . . .” I did, however, know without a doubt that one day we would have her work, no matter what it took to get it.
We, years later, have “Scene Eleven: Bedroom,” “Scene Nine: Living Room,” “Scene Five: Kitchen,” and “False Friends.”
We have unorthodox appreciations and every single day, those pieces of art quicken the pulse and bring us pure pleasure.
Her pieces make us want to dance wildly around the room and wave our arms in the air. We are deeply grateful that her work is in our home. Her art balances the everyday domestic with the unthinkably rare, lovely, and maniacal. That is an edgy state of being that we thrive in.

Not long ago, we read an article about Nan Goldin. In the article was a phrase that says precisely what Barbara Rachko’s work does for us . . .

all of the pleasure circuits are deeply fulfilled by looking. . .

Nan Goldin The Look of Love: Matchmaking at the Louvre
NY Times,10.27.2011

Comments are welcome!

Pearls from artists* # 598

February 14, 2024
“The Enigma,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 26” x 20”
“The Enigma,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 26” x 20”

*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

For art to appear, we have to disappear. This may sound strange, but in fact it is a common appearance. The elementary case, for most people, is when our eye or ear is “caught” by something: a tree, a rock, a cloud, a beautiful person, a baby’s gurgling, spatters of sunlight reflected off some wet mud in the forest, the sound of a guitar wafting unexpectedly out of a window. Mind and sense are arrested for a moment, fully in the experience. Nothing else exists. When we “disappear” in this way, everything around us becomes a surprise, new and fresh. Self and environment unite. Attention and intention fuse. We see things just as we and they are, yet we are able to guide and direct them to be one just the way we want them. This lively and vigorous state of mind is the most favorable to the germination of original work of any kind. It has its roots in child’s play, and its ultimate flowering in full-blown artistic creativity.

Stephen Nachmanovitch in Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

Comments are welcome!

Travel photo of the month*

February 10, 2024

Valle De La Luna, Atacama Desert, Chile


*favorite travel photos that have not yet appeared in this blog

Comments are welcome!

Pearls from artists* # 597

February 7, 2024

Barbara’s Studio

*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

From earliest childhood, the boys had been treated differently from their sister. They were allowed more freedom, encouraged to play outdoors and to engage in rough and tumble, and their lives were expanded early on when, at the age of seven, each was sent to St. Mary’s, the prep school of Stonyhurst College. It seemed as if the boys were being readied for adventure and excitement, but while their horizons were opening up, Leonora [Carrington] felt hers were being closed down – or more specifically, never explored. Her role, which was clear even when she was in the nursery, was to keep safe: not to rock any boats, not to take any chances. What they sought to teach her was that she should sit a certain way and behave a certain way: she should be supportive, helpful, polite. She should listen, especially to men, she should have traditional skills, such as playing music and speaking French. Drawing and painting, for which she showed altitude from an early age, were fine within reason. What harm could there be in Prim [Lenora] creating pictures? Especially if those pictures were of flowers and trees, family members and characters from fairy stories.

But art was Leonora’s secret weapon – and she hid it in plain sight, because her parents did not have the faintest idea where her talents might lead. Art, for them, was unthreatening and pretty. They had no idea that this skill their daughter was developing would be one the key to another life entirely; still less that art could never be a validation of the status quo, but meant a radical reappraisal of everything in the artists sight.

So what Leonora practiced in the nursery at Crookhey was the subversive silence of smoldering rebellion. Spared by the inherent unfairness that gave Pat, Gerard, and Arthur so much freedom; stoked by the growing realization that she had a talent that would lead, eventually, to Liberty. “I always painted, and I always knew it was what I would do,” she said many years later. As the Jesuits who educated her brothers at Stonyhurst might have said (but didn’t): show me a girl aged seven, and I will show you the woman.

Joanna Moorhead in Surreal Spaces: The Life and Art of Leonora Carrington

Comments are welcome!

Q: What’s on the easel today?

February 3, 2024

Work in progress

A: I continue working on “Maestro,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 26” x 20.”

Comments are welcome!

Pearls from artists* # 596

January 31, 2024

Film still from “Barbara Rachko: True Grit,” Directed by Jennifer Cox, Moto Films LLC

*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

Being an artist is very hard work. Not only do you have to constantly develop your discipline, but if you have a desire to make a living, you have to be a good businessperson.

Agents, business managers, etc., etc., are not the authors of your career. They make suggestions. They are a part of your research team. You are the author. You are the center of your career. You have to run the show. I hope your show is about more than gold digging. I hope your show is about becoming the most engaging, enchanting, magical person that you can be – through your art. Art is ultimately transcendent. That’s a fact.

Anna Deavere Smith in Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-Up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts – For Actors, Performers, Writers, and Artists of Every Kind

Comments are welcome!

Q: What makes you just want to run back to the studio and start something new?

January 27, 2024

View of Lower Manhattan

A: I always work in series, which means that one pastel painting generally leads into the next. Considerable thought and planning go into each one before I begin, so it would be rare for me to just start something new out of the blue.

Sometimes on days off from the studio when we have beautiful weather, I can can hardly wait to go outside for a walk. I grab my iPad Pro and search for new sights to photograph. After a couple of hours, I usually return home with a handful of interesting images. Photography is such a departure from the slowness of my work in the studio, considering that in a good year I make 3 or 4 pastel paintings.

Comments are welcome!

Pearls from artists* # 595

January 24, 2024

Film still from “Barbara Rachko: True Grit,” directed by Jennifer Cox, Moto Films LLC

*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

One of the great paradoxes of the writing life is that our words – chosen carefully, so thoughtfully, with deep focus and concentration – those words once on the page go dead on us. Language is ours only when we are forming sentences, moving elements around, grappling with punctuation, speaking words aloud, feeling them on our lips. While we are shaping a scene into something we can hear and touch and see, that scene lives and breathes. We are inside language like painters, we are working in our medium: the tempera, the thin line, the wet oil on canvas, still in process, still alive.

But once we commit – once those words dry like paint, are affixed to the page – it becomes nearly impossible to see them. This? We think to ourselves. Our most loathsome critic emerges with a swirl of her cape. Really? What the hell is this? The sentences appear to have been written in another language – a dark dream language, tucked into some musty, inaccessible corner of our psyche. Attempting to discern its meaning is a bit like looking at our own face in the mirror. It is at once so familiar as to be invisible, and so intimate that we turn away, baffled, ashamed.

Can we ever see ourselves, really? Can we read ourselves?

It is a powerful conundrum because without the ability to see our writing afresh we cannot do the necessary work. How do we know whether a problem lies with the work, or with our inability to enter it? We need clarity, but not coldness. Openness, but not attachment. We want optimism, but that optimism must not go hand in hand with discernment. We’re not looking for a cheerleader, nor a fault-finding judge. We want to read ourselves with equanimity.

Dani Shapiro in Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life

Comments are welcome!

Travel photo of the month*

January 20, 2024

Iquique, Chile

*favorite travel photos that have not yet appeared in this blog

Comments are welcome!

Posted in: 2024, Chile, Travel, Iquiqui

Pearls from artists* # 594

January 17, 2024
New York City
New York City

*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

The creative artist and poet and saint must fight the actual (as opposed to ideal) gods of our society – the god of conformism as well as the gods of apathy, material success, and exploitive power. These are the “idols” of our society that are worshipped by multitudes of people.

Stephen Nachmanovitch in Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art

Comments are welcome!

    Please wait...