Don Bachardy: Depth Perception



DON BACHARDY2 MAIN X390 | ADVOCATE.COMWhat is a typical day like for you now?
A typical day for me, and a successful one from my point of view, is a day that includes several hours of work in my studio. I’ve always been a prolific artist. I’m quite used to working seven days a week. When I’m doing sittings with people, all of my pictures of people are done from life, so I usually have a sitter at 12:30 in the afternoon and I’m liable to be working through the afternoon and sometimes into the evening — as long as my sitter lasts. I’m used to doing that, often seven days a week.

So you have a different sitter every day of the week?

How many paintings do you generate from a sitting?
Three is pretty much my minimum. Lately I’ve been doing two just because I think I’m older now, I don’t have the energy I used to have. I have a lot for my age, but also I’ve been doing it for more than 50 years, so it doesn’t take me as long to warm up as it used to.

What do you do with the paintings? Do you sell them? Do you store them?
Both. I have a studio full of them. I’ve had many, many exhibitions, and I always choose from what I think are the best of the most current works that I’ve been doing. I have a lot of work to choose from. Now I have more than 50 years of archives, so if I never did another day’s work, I’d have enough work for dozens of shows.

Christopher’s papers and manuscripts are stored at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. Do you ever go up there to visit his things?
Indeed I do. I know the people there very well. It’s a great group of people and I’m so delighted they want my work and papers, too. It’s going to be a double collection, and I’m very pleased about that.

Have you read all of Christopher’s novels?
Oh, of course. Many times.

Do you have a favorite?
Yes. I agree with him. His favorite was A Single Man, and it’s my favorite too. Prater Violet is very close behind, and I think Christopher and His Kind is one of his very best. The last book he published, My Guru and His Disciple, is like no other book. It really is unique.

Do you have a most cherished memory of him or of the two of you together?
Well, very, very vivid are the last six months of his life because I gave up all my other sitters. Instead of working every day in my studio with a sitter, I was working with Chris. I worked with him almost every day those last six months. We were alone together in my studio and then, as he got sicker, I moved into the house to work. Finally, I was in the bedroom with him lying in the bed, and it was my way of spending as much time with him as I could. When I’m working, I’m looking intensely at my sitter, and by looking at him as intensely as I do when I work, I was able to share the experience of dying. I began to see that it was something that we were doing together. That is certainly just about as vivid a memory of him I have. It is really indelibly impressed in my mind.

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