Barbara Rachko is an American contemporary artist and author who divides her time between residences in New York City and Alexandria, VA. She is best known for her pastel-on-sandpaper paintings, her eBook, “From Pilot to Painter,” and her blog, “Barbara Rachko’s Colored Dust.”
Barbara has led an extraordinary, inspiring life. She learned to fly at the age of 25 and became a commercial pilot and Boeing-727 flight engineer before joining the Navy. As a Naval officer she spent many years working at the Pentagon and retired as a Commander.
On 9/11 her husband, Dr. Bryan C. Jack, was tragically killed on the plane that hit the Pentagon.
Barbara uses her large collection of Mexican and Guatemalan folk art – masks, carved wooden animals, papier mâché figures, and toys – to create one-of-a-kind pastel-on-sandpaper paintings that combine reality and fantasy and depict personal narratives. Her paintings are bold, vibrant, and extremely unusual.
New York critic Peter Dellolio remarks, “It is undeniable that, like de Chirico, Barbara Rachko has created a unique, original, and very private landscape.”
Arts writer Ann Landi writes, “Barbara Rachko’s antecedents are not in the folk art traditions of the cultures she studies and embraces, but rather in the sophisticated strategies of Henry Matisse (who
was a master at mixing patterns) and Edgar Degas (who exploited the power of oblique angles and cropped figures).”
Barbara exhibits nationally and internationally and has won many awards during her 30+ years as a professional artist.
I am drawn to Mexican and Guatemalan cultural objects—masks, carved wooden animals, papier mâché figures, and toys—for reasons similar to those of Man Ray and the modernists, who in their case were drawn to African art.
On trips to southern Mexico and Guatemala I frequent local mask shops, markets, and bazaars searching for the figures that will later populate my pastel paintings and photographs.
How, why, when, and where these objects come into my life is an important part of the process. I take very old objects with a unique Mexican or Guatemalan past—most have been used in religious festivals—and give them a second life, so to speak, in New York in the present.
When I return home I read prodigiously and find out as much about them as I can.
The BLACK PAINTINGS series of pastel-on-sandpaper paintings grew directly from the earlier DOMESTIC THREATS. Both series use cultural objects as surrogates for human beings acting in mysterious, highly-charged narratives.
In the BLACK PAINTINGS the figures (actors) take central stage. All background details, furniture, rugs, etc. are eliminated and are replaced by intense dark black pastel.
Each painting takes months to complete as I slowly build up as many as 30 layers of soft pastel.
b. 1953, Paterson, NJ
Lives and works in New York, NY