What I am about

By Dr. Margaret Rappaport

Gallery   |   Biography   |   What I Am About   |   From Yale to Graphic Design and Back

Gorbaty in his studio, Great Neck, NY, 2006

Le but n’est rien; le chemin, c’est tout.
—Jules Massanet

When I think of my work two words come to mind: Movement and Drawing. These concepts are recurring themes that I try to comprehend, study and explore. Yes, drawing is a concept. When I refer to “drawing” I don’t just mean the physical works on paper or the finished piece. I am also referring to the process I use in the actual “doing” of the art. Joseph Albers, Louis Kahn and Bernard Chaet greatly influenced this approach while I was at Yale. Joseph Albers, director of the Yale Art School, a former student and teacher a the Bauhaus, passed on those principles to students just beginning a journey into the world of art. We learned to see what we could not have seen before. To see the magic of color and form and how they effect each other, through our own eyes. He was the most mesmerizing lecturer I have ever experienced. He was tough. A no nonsense kind of guy. He could make grown men cry. He could command the focus of an entire lecture hall with one finger. From him I learned that in art, one plus one can equal four. The wonder of it all! Louis Kahn, lectured in the school of architecture. During breaks he would come down to the basement of the building to schmooze with the design and art students. He said we were dreamers and more receptive to what he was about than most of the architecture students. The love, the humanization of the doing and the making. I learned more about the doing from looking at a brick and asking of it what it wants to be. About a life being born in the doing. About giving integrity to that which is being born, to hear what it wants to be, to honor it—to have dialogue with that which is being created—simply to be able to talk with it. I used to typeset Kahn’s poetry for him. I still can see the love in his eyes in looking at the type I had shaped into his poetry. The words were is bricks! Bernard Chaet taught drawing and painting at Yale. From him I learned a love for drawing, what simple line could create. Bernie of the magic pencil. He would correct our drawings with one mark here, a scratch there, they would come alive. We were so naïve as to believe it was not him but his special pencil. Quickly we would run to the nearest art store to get that exact pencil. Alas, in the hands of beginners the pencil would not perform. The magic was not in the instrument but in Bernie. Till this day, when doing an image, I hear Bernie in the background sounding his point of view. Sometimes I accept it, oftentimes I question it, reject it, no matter, after all these years, I still hear him, feel his love for doing lines. I make a mark. That mark tells me where the next mark should go and so on until the piece begins to have a life of its own. It begins to tell me what it wants to be. It is for me to recognize what it wants to be and help it to become that. Sometimes I don’t give in and instead force a different direction, it is all part of the conversation between me and the piece. It is this “doing” of the work that I am about. I am fascinated by the motion around us and often try to capture this in my work. There is movement in life as we “do” it. Everything moves. Images are constantly in motion. Whether we are physically moving or our surroundings are moving, or just our eye is moving we sense motion constantly. This movement combines with our differing perspectives of an image to create unique experiences that I artistically explore. Jules Michelet’s quote sums up both my journey and my passion for art: The end is nothing, the road is all. When a piece is finished it no longer belongs to me. You can hang it, show it, look at it, turn its face to the wall, say about it what you want, and do with it what you will. But the doing of the work is mine. Only I own the doing. I am most concerned with the doing, but can’t hide from that which is done, the “finished” work. Why the need to explore a specific subject—a grape, an egg, music, myth, a biblical thought, a waterfall, a mountain, a tree, death, growth, movement? I confess I don’t know. Something strikes my fancy and that’s it! The finished images are unfulfilled, no more than beginnings, notations for continued search, then or at some later time. Once noted, I am free to go elsewhere knowing they will be future reminders of where to go, to resume the “what ifs” of the unknown uncovered by the yes—for the yesses open doors to the unknown. Yesses are hard, they say “let’s try it,” let’s take a chance, let’s go where we have never been before. There are no answers. We can only make reply depending on the context in which we find ourselves in the doing. The context is constantly changing as we are changing as the surround is changing. Everything is moving in this circling merry-go-round.