Featured Artist Barbara Rachko

Artist Barbara Rachko showcases her “Bolivianos” series of dynamic colorful pastel paintings of Bolivian Carnival masks. Enjoy this selection of her work and view more by visiting her website.

 

Soft pastel painting of a Carnival mask by Barbara Rachko

“The Champ” Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 26” x 20”

 

In 2017, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel from New York City to Bolivia to continue my studies of Inca and pre-Inca civilizations. (In 2016 I had visited Peru.) With travel I was hoping to find inspiration and new subject matter to paint.

 

Soft pastel painting of two Carnival masks by Barbara Rachko

“Acolytes” Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 38” x 58”

 

I began regular trips to central and southern Mexico in the early 1990s and had become enthralled with ancient pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Olmec, Aztec, Mixtec and Zapotec. For many years I collected Mexican folk art—masks, papier mache figures, carved wooden animals and toys—to bring back to New York, photograph, and depict in original pastel-on-sandpaper works.

 

Soft pastel painting of a Carnival mask by Barbara Rachko

“Oracle” Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 26” x 20”

 

Now my collection numbers in the hundreds and is scattered between a West Village (New York City) apartment, my Chelsea studio and a small house in Alexandria, Virginia.

 

Soft pastel painting of a Carnival mask by Barbara Rachko

“Danzante” Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 38” x 58”

 

“Domestic Threats,” my first pastel painting series, began in 1992 and ended in 2007. I followed this with a photography series, “Gods and Monsters” and then the “Black Paintings” series.

 

Soft pastel painting of a Carnival mask by Barbara Rachko

“Poseur” Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 58” x 38”

 

The latter continued with Mexican (and additional Guatemalan) imagery, but in a more pared-down form. I eliminated all background details such as furniture, rugs, etc. and replaced them with rich black pastel. One critic dubbed this my “blackground”. In the “Black Paintings” the figures seem to emerge from or float in a dark black space.

 

Soft pastel painting of a Carnival mask by Barbara Rachko

“Prophecy” Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 58” x 38”

 

In May 2017 I was traveling in La Paz, Bolivia. At el Museo Nacional de Etnographia y Folklore, I could hardly believe my good fortune to discover on exhibit a room full of traditional Carnival masks. The masks, and their impeccable installation, were stunning! They were spot-lit, presented dramatically against dark black walls, and practically looked alive. The whole effect was uncanny!

 

Soft pastel painting of a Carnival mask by Barbara Rachko

“Viceroy” Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 26” x 20”

 

I pinched myself with the realization that I was looking at 3D versions of my “Black Paintings”. I immediately knew I had stumbled upon a precious gift. Surely, this exhibition had been waiting for me to come to La Paz to photograph it! Saying goodbye to my companions for the next hour or so, I stayed behind and slowly composed a few dozen photographs. These photos have become the source material for my current “Bolivianos” series.

 

Soft pastel painting of a Carnival mask by Barbara Rachko

“Shamanic” Soft Pastel on Sandpaper, 26” x 20”

 

Since then I have completed ten “Bolivianos” pastel paintings with two more in progress now. My process of layering and blending soft pastel onto sandpaper is slow and labor-intensive. It results in exciting paintings with velvety textures and vibrant colors.

 

Artist Barbara Rachko with her recent 18-page interview in “Art Market.” Photo Credit: Izzy Nova

Artist Barbara Rachko with her recent 18-page interview in “Art Market.” Photo Credit: Izzy Nova

 

I spend months on each one, creating four or five pastel paintings in a year.The series has been garnering significant critical attention and was even proclaimed, “Rachko’s strongest work to date!” In July 2019 I was thrilled to be interviewed by Paula Soito for a beautiful 18-page spread in “Art Market” Magazine.

 

Artist Barbara Rachko working on “The Orator.” Photo Credit: Maria Cox

Artist Barbara Rachko working on “The Orator.” Photo Credit: Maria Cox

 

I continue studying the symbolism of the masks depicted in “Bolivianos.” One of my assistants alerted me about the existence of a catalogue from el Museo Nacional de Etnographia y Folklore with detailed descriptions of each mask. This beautifully-illustrated book, “Mascaras:  Los Diversos Rostros del Alma,” is a personal treasure!

 

Artist Barbara Rachko invites you to follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and her blog, and to learn more about her book From Pilot to Painter.

 

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