Barbara Rachko


Barbara Rachko

Barbara Rachko was born in Paterson, New Jersey and grew up in a New York City suburb.

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 before spending seven years on active duty as a Naval officer.

In 1986 while working at the Pentagon, she began to study figure drawing and medical anatomy and began many long years of developing her craft.

Barbara subsequently resigned from active duty (she remained in the Navy Reserve and retired as a Commander) to devote herself to making art.

On 9/11 Barbara’s life was changed forever when her husband, Dr. Bryan C. Jack, was killed on the plane that hit the Pentagon.

In 2002 she began studying photography at the International Center of Photography in New York.

Dividing her time between residences in New York and Alexandria, Virginia, Barbara enjoys a busy career as a professional artist.

She is represented by six galleries throughout the United States, exhibits nationally and internationally, and continues to win accolades, including a 2008 – 2009 Joyce Dutka Arts Foundation award and grants from the Templar Trust, for her unique work.- See more at:


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

  • 1975University of Vermont, BA