I Been Looking for You
I Been Looking for You by Charles Schick and Regina Bartkoff. On display August 13-October 4, 2015. The oil paintings in this show by Charles Schick were done between 1995 and 2015. Bartkoff’s pieces are from a series of pastel chalk drawings done between May 2014 and January 2015.
The work of Charles Schick and Regina Bartkoff grows out of a Lower East Side story, about a search for tenderness and understanding, for love and art, for a life lived fully without fear or apology. Here are two artists who found each other and together committed to a life of unceasing creativity and authenticity. As painters and theater artists, Schick and Bartkoff mine the shadows to bring forward what we hide or miss, eliciting emotions that feel uncomfortably true.
292 Theatre/Gallery, the exhibition and performance space they helped found from a former squat at 292 East Third Street, has served as a laboratory for expression and experimentation, most recently featuring exhibitions of each artist’s paintings and drawings, as well as their brilliant revival of Tennessee Williams’ “Two Character Play.” Visual art and theater are intertwined for Schick and Bartkoff, who cite Williams as a major source of inspiration; the title of this show is taken from opening lines in Williams’ “Summer and Smoke,” where protagonists John and Alma tortuously find and lose themselves in each other throughout the play. In their work, we can also see traces of Francis Bacon and Van Gogh, Bosch and Munch, Carson McCullers and Kerouac, and the streets of the Lower East Side themselves, once teeming with unique characters and raw, beautiful energy.
We need to look carefully at Schick’s paintings, stand quietly and dreamily before them, to contemplate the beauty and longing veiled in their darkness. Bartkoff hits us between the eyes with punches of color and stark imagery, rousing us to consider the juxtaposition of graphic and ghoulish elements in her compositions. Neither artist shies from the monsters under the bed, but as with their theater work, there are warmth and black humor here, too. They’re in for the whole picture, depicting the full range of messy, inconvenient emotions we’re not looking for, but that find us eventually one way or another.
Curator: Micaela Porta
Regina Bartkoff I was drawn to the worlds of art and theatre very young because I was very shy and alienated as a kid, unable to fit in or express myself in normal everyday life. Discovering and learning about great artists gave me hope that there were other ways to live besides what I felt to be the sterile, conventional world I was brought up in. I started with acting soon after I came of age. The theatre allowed me to reveal all the hidden emotions and passions buried deep inside of me. It was okay to be angry or hateful or loud or unashamedly in love, or even silly or foolish on a stage, and it was the great playwrights—Tennessee Williams, Chekhov, Eugene O’Neil—who fired my imagination and were my true heroes. They were brave enough to say things out loud that I felt deeply but didn’t dare say. But as an actress, I could speak their words and make them my own.
As an artist I’m entirely self-taught. I have to be very much in the moment when I draw or paint. I improvise a lot; nothing is pre-planned or sketched beforehand. I work fast. Everything I draw is subconscious, and I never try to explain what it means.
Acting and painting help me live and make life so much better, deeper, and fuller. It’s just the way I like to use the short time I have here while on this beautiful, mysterious planet.
Charles Schick Like Regina, I am an actor and a painter. I started working with oil paint in the early 1980’s by myself in my tenement apartment on the Lower East Side. Before I had money for canvas I taught myself by painting on the walls. Recognizable and unrecognizable images would appear and disappear and reappear in the paint before my eyes, and my gut-instinct would tell me which ones resonated, which ones I should keep. The challenge was to somehow make everything work as a whole, to find some kind of grace in the face of chaos and insignificance.
Some time ago walking by the marquee of an old cinema revival house I saw two Bette Davis features displayed; Now, Voyager and Dark Victory, and the juxtaposition of those two titles said everything to me. Mysterious and simple, the open-ended story of the human being and the human soul. Looking back over all my years of painting and theatre, a lot of it done with Regina, I think perhaps the journey itself is a dark victory, and every day for every person is a heroic voyage. The time to begin is now, and the now is always.