Barbara Rachko’s lens conjures dreams and nightmares– cropped figures on black grounds, bokeh red smears in the fluttering wings of a dragon hovering above yellow reaching monster arms.
Active scenes play out, made still again in a click of the camera shutter. Suggestions of ancient ritual performed around a fire, a green Frankensteinian figure raising its arms to invoke references to literature and horror genre film.
Barbara Rachko “relinquishes control” in her series of color photographs Gods and Monsters, which made its public debut a 2009 solo exhibition at the Chelsea Gallery HP Garcia. View the exhibition catalog here.
The series continues today– film in her cameras, lens views through color plastic gels render abstract aspects of the figures in her scenes. The artist does no digital post production work on these images.
Within these chromogenic prints, all of which the artist makes by hand in very limited editions, Barbara Rachko speaks of variations in her techniques that free the camera and what lies before it.
Her use of color gels layered between lens and the figures in her scenes, relates to multiple layers of emulsion in the chromogenic color process. In chromogenic materials, such as the films and papers, three layers of photographic emulsion are present, one layer sensitive to red, one to green, and one to blue colored light.
Multiple layers of meaning continue for Rachko in the figures that appear in her photographs, and that Rachko collects, much in the manner that Man Ray and the Modernists collected African art that influenced and appeared in their work.(Rachko remembers seeing Guernica as a child.)
Rather than African art, Barbara Rachko is drawn to Mexican and Guatemalan masks, carved wooden animals, papier mâché figures, and toys found on trips to southern Mexico and Guatemala in mask shops, markets, and bazaars.
“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,” says Rachko.
Although Barbara Rachko considers herself a painter first and foremost, her photographic play/work appears to be an important aspect in her overall process as an artist. Indeed, she often works from her photographs as reference material from which to build her pastel painting compositions.
Below is a corner of the artists studio with some of her framed pastel paintings on the walls and figures from her collections standing in the corner, soft pastels sticks on a table in the foreground.