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Oral history interview with Barkley L. Hendricks, 2009 June 18

Hendricks, Barkley L., 1945-



Collection Information

Size: 3 Items, Sound recording, master: 3 sound files (1 hr., 42 min.), digital, wav; 24 Pages, Transcript

Summary: An interview of Barkley L. Hendricks conducted 2009 June 18, by Kathy Goncharov, for the Archives of American Art, at Hendricks's home and studio, in New London, Conn.

Biographical/Historical Note

Barkley L. Hendricks (1945- ) is an artist in New London, Conn. Kathy Goncharov (1952- ) is Director of the Brodsky Center at Rutgers University, N.J.


This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.

Language Note

English .



The following oral history transcript is the result of a recorded interview with Barkley Hendricks on 2009 June 18. The interview was conducted at Hendricks's home and studio by Kathy Goncharov for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Hendricks has reviewed the transcript and has made corrections and emendations. The reader should bear in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose.


KATHY GONCHAROV:  We’re talking to Barkley Hendricks at his home and studio in New London, Connecticut.

So, Barkley, where were you born, and what was your early interest in art?

BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS:  Well, I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 16, 1945. And I’ve always involved myself with some form of mark making, drawing, scribbles, and graffiti. And I’ve been collecting stuff all along the way. And when I got to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts [Philadelphia, PA], is when I got involved with oil painting. But before that I was involved with watercolor and poster paint. And from the onset it’s been a kind of an adventure that deals with favoring basically what I like. And when I traveled to Europe for the first time, seeing the masters, that was a major influence. But Philadelphia was a hotbed of creative activity given the history of the city. As I mentioned earlier, I went to the Academy of Fine Arts. And they had a wonderful collection. So did the Philadelphia Museum [of Art]. So being in a situation such as that and the various galleries—[Sound of motorcycle revving up] I don’t know how long these guys are going to keep this up. We may have to put—


MS. GONCHAROV:  Okay. The motorcycles have vanished.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Only for now.

MS. GONCHAROV:  So tell me a little more in detail about your childhood. When did you start making art, and when did you start painting?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, making art and painting, I guess one would say, there’s a little difference. Because there’s a kind of an expression or question that a number of my childhood friends would always say, like, “Hey, man, you still drawing?” Because, you know, they hadn’t sort of graduated to that aspect of painting. So my involvement with drawing preceded an involvement with paint. And paint has a bit more of a higher plateau than drawing, so to speak. And my involvement with paint, which was oil paint, came from my entry into the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. But I’ve been drawing ever since I’ve been able to make a mark. And there wasn’t a time when I hadn’t been dealing with mark making that I can remember. But the “sophisticated” introduction to artwork—painting—happened at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Is anybody in your family an artist or an influence?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, again, artist you can put in quotes. You know what is an artist? My father, I have to tell you, was an artist because he was a master at dealing with home remodeling and tools and all that kind of stuff. And there was that influence. But he wasn’t in the sense of artist that— Well, there’s that area of artist that we associate with galleries and museums and like that. But, you know, he certainly was a major influence in terms of dealing with, as you can see—I just mentioned about certain areas of, I would put that in kind of home remodeling sort of situation because I had to—

MS. GONCHAROV:  Explain what you’re talking about. We’re looking up at the balcony where Barkley’s studio is.

MS. HENDRICKS:  Well, my studio is on the second floor, and there’s a narrow stairwell that if I get over I would say, four feet by four feet, I have problems coming down the stairwell. And in order to deal with a larger-scale painting, I would have to get it up over the railing to get it through the sliding door. So I had to sort of devise a system that I can get a larger-scale work from the lower level up to the second floor. So I’ve been spending my time trying to perfect a system that I can do it by myself rather than having two or more people help deal with getting the works up there. And that’s where the home remodeling and tools and the whole area of manual labor comes in that I did with my father. As I say, he was a contractor. I was just at the pawnshop yesterday, and I was talking with the proprietor about a lot of the tools that I got that I was working with, I got them from the pawnshop. And the area of working with power tools was a part of my upbringing. And so there’s that area of being tool savvy that there’s a love-hate element. As many as I have, it’s not a love of working with the tools, but an area of form and function. And the function of trying to make sure that I can get what I need and what is needed.

I just brought a painting up from the basement that I hadn’t seen in a while, and it’s supposed to go out for an exhibition. So I have to re-varnish it. And it’ll need a frame. I can either buy a frame or build one. And I was thinking of building a new frame, so it’ll be a frame from scratch, influenced by the Flemish and Dutch black, heavy routed design frames. So that’s what I have in mind. So that’s upstairs waiting to be framed up.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And lowered down on this fabulous contraption.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, actually that one’s small enough I can take it up the stairway, which I have already done. But the other ones that I’m thinking of have to be pushed over the rail or hiked up.

MS. GONCHAROV:  So that’s your early life: You visited the academy and the museum in Philadelphia. And what were you interested in there?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, the newness of oil paint caught my attention. And as I mentioned to you earlier, since you’re from Detroit, there was a good friend of mine who was from Detroit, and he introduced me to acrylic after I found that oil takes forever to dry. It depends on which colors you use. And he said, “Well, why don’t you use acrylic?” So that was my introduction to using oil and acrylic on the same canvas. And the combination of both gives me a vision very early that I can achieve what I want in terms of working with time. And the situation with oil being—you have a bit more time to work with it. And my involvement with oil has led me to be in the sort of situation where I can handle it from a very slow craft situation to one where— For example, I have a watercolor approach to oils that I use for my landscape works because they are done right on the spot in plein air, as one would say, or en plein air. And the use of the ground being the surface, I can approach the same way that I would use the ground that I find for my watercolor. So I have an impasto approach in one area, and then a watercolor approach in another. It depends on what the subject matter is. And there’s a history of painting that was a part of my introduction through the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts of using a ground color that could be translucent and have that kind of [Thomas] Eakins quality. And then if you need to be a little bit thicker, a bit more impasto, oil will do that for you also. So I kind of dealt with a situation that had both approaches.

MS. GONCHAROV:  So you were trained classically. Who did you study with?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, the faculty at the academy at the time, there were several people that I really liked: Louis Sloan, who was a favorite, who was a landscape painter. He just died last year. And a man named Ben Kamahara, who was another fantastic painter. Walter Stumpfig, who was a man who helped to, as I say, thicken my skin, because it was brutal in terms of his criticisms. And Will Barnett was here for a little while. Julian Levi. And I think those were the major figures that influenced. And then they had a number of people that came through: Jack Levine came through once. And let’s see who else? Hobson Pittman, who was another painter that I learned a good deal in terms of teaching from because he had a way of using reproductions in class that I found very useful—or find very useful in terms of teaching. So there was a body of painters that I found—that spoke a representational language that I liked. And I would find were major influences before I got to Yale [University, New Haven, CT].

MS. GONCHAROV:  Did you ever try abstraction? Or you’ve always been figurative?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, I have pieces that are not necessarily representational because I’ve played around with certain areas of design and form. But the larger body of my works are recognizable content images.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And what was your subject matter in those years?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, my various first influences was landscape painting or neighborhood street painting. Because I would go out to the neighborhood and paint various streets. And then I had a disastrous time one day. I had just put in a sky, and the wind blew the easel over when I stepped back. And that just thoroughly pissed me off. And I didn’t go outside to paint for about ten years. And so I moved indoors and the figures. My still-lifes took over. And then I started to gradually go back because I got seduced by the Caribbean. And so I’ve been working with Caribbean images ever since I’d say ’82.

MS. GONCHAROV:  That was your first trip?

MR. HENDRICKS:  I went I think in ’80, ’81. I had gone to St. Kitts and Caracao. And we honeymooned there. We got married in ’83 in Jamaica. So we’ve been going back and forth every year since ’83 to Jamaica.

MS. GONCHAROV:  How long do you spend there?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, if I’m lucky I may get maybe four weeks.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And you paint when you’re there?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes, yes.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And play your horn, too.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes. That’s one of the things that I’ve been taking down. I sit by the beach. As I saw you setting up, I have a disc player—disc recorder—that I take. And try to record in various places. As I say, my keyboardist was on my case to make sure that I would record— Well, I was telling how I would take my horn to the beach, and he wanted some beach sounds and waves lapping the shore. There’s a couple of times when I have a series of paintings in quarries, and the quarries have a wonderful echo. So I’ve recorded myself in a quarry or two because of the echo sounds. And he likes mixing sounds. So he’s working on doing something now with those sounds, the beach to the quarry. But there’s just the enjoyment of being in a warm sort of situation. As I say, we’re sitting outside. So I was praying that the weather would be decent enough that we could sit outside rather than being sequestered the way we have for the last couple of days with the rain.

MS. GONCHAROV:  You said you work with a keyboardist. Do you have a group?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes. I’m associated with a couple of gentlemen, that I saw the vocalist that I like working with. He’s from Surinam. And I’ve recorded and played with him.

MS. GONCHAROV:  They live here or –

MR. HENDRICKS:  He’s from Surinam, but he’s in New London [CT] here. And the keyboardist and the drummer and a bass player are from this region or are here now. And they all are creatively involved in music as well as visuals. As I say, one kind of leans toward architecture, and he paints. And then the drummer is an excellent watercolorist. And the bass player is a graphic designer. And the singer is also a painter. So we’re all involved with the visual as well as the musical direction, one group that I spend more time with. We have an unofficial title—we haven’t been together to be really out in the big world—but our unofficial name is Other Issues. Because we’re trying to find the time to record next. And I said, Well, what about next week? He says, No, can’t do nothing next week. And the other’d say, Well, I can’t do nothing next week. And, well, next week I can’t do anything. I said, “Well, I guess we’ve all got other issues then. And we did. You know health issues, and we’ve got family issues and domestic sort of issues. So I said, “I guess we’ve all got, you know, other issues.” And the more I thought about that, it kind of stuck. So we’ve got other issues.

MS. GONCHAROV:  What kind of music do you play?

MR. HENDRICKS:  I lean more towards “jazz.” And impromptu, unscripted improvisational approach to music making. The singer has some cover pieces that he plays, but he likes doing original stuff.

MS. GONCHAROV:  So this gets later into your work. But when did you start doing photography? I’m thinking now of jazz musicians that you’ve photographed over the years.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, when I first started with a camera was that show that you saw at The Project [New York, NY]. It was dedicated to a man whose named was Mr. John; his name was John Floyd. And he was our next-door neighbor. And he had one of the state-of-the-art Polaroid cameras. And he would bring it out on Sundays.

MS. GONCHAROV:  This is when you were a kid?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes. After—I was actually at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in the summertime. He would bring it out and hand it to me, so I got accustomed to working with the Polaroid. And then when I was awarded the Crescent Scholarship to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, a friend of mine said, “Well, man, you’re going to have to get a camera.” So not knowing what kind of camera to get, I went out and bought a rangefinder, which I took to Europe with me. So I had three months with a rangefinder. And graduated to a single lens reflex camera. And from that point on I started to deal with a variety of different cameras. Then when I got to Yale, I studied with a man named Tom [Thomas] Brown, and then Walker Evans I had a year with. The camera was, in that sense, the first instrument to document my stuff. Because I get tired of, you know, bugging folks, saying, “Hey, would you photography my paintings so that I can—“ So, you know, you start to do your own. So I’ve been doing that ever since. And say graduating from the 35 mm to—I had a little what do you call it? The spy camera at one point, the Minox. And then twin-lens reflex Yashica. And then I got a Hasselblad two and a quarter by two and a quarter. And even got a large Speed [Graphic] Graflex camera, which was a four by five.

When I was at Yale, I spent most of my time with the photographers. There were only two representational or kind of upright-easel painters at Yale. And consequently the fellowship element was more with the photographers. So I spent most of my time in the basement with them and learning the tricks of the trade, because they were using the larger formatted cameras that you had separate negatives that you had to print and develop. So I kind of cut my eyeteeth in learning about that aspect of photography, but I still stuck more to the single-lens reflex camera because it was quicker. The larger formatted cameras with one negative, you had to sort of set it up and take the reading. It was slower than what I needed. And at [Yale], a friend that I photographed, I was able to get a number of very quick shots that way. But I still have a hankering to break out my Hasselblad from time to time.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And you’re still using film? Because that’s film.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes, yes. I’m shooting slides here now. But I have several digitals. In fact, I was just getting ready to look at some of the digital stuff that I did when I was in California, because I shot my show digitally. And I have a setup where I can shoot digitally and then transfer that to disc.

MS. GONCHAROV:  You keep referring to Yale. So you graduated from Pennsylvania Academy with a painting degree. And then you went right on to Yale for an MFA [Masters of Fine Arts]?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes, yes. After leaving the academy in ’67, there was a three-year span between getting out of there and then going to Yale because I had to get a body of work together. And so I started at Yale in ’70.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And why Yale? Was there someone there you want to study with?

MR. HENDRICKS:  No, I wanted to keep my ass from going to Vietnam. And there was a situation where, as I tell folks, the academy was—I won’t say the academy—I had a teacher who went to Temple University. And she was trying to steer me in that direction. But at that time, after I finished the course of study at the academy, I was prime fodder for the Vietnam War, and I had to come up with a strategy that would keep me from getting shipped over there. So I joined the New Jersey National Guard. They, at the time, as you know, the National Guard was national. Now they are sending troops over outside. So anyway, I joined the National Guard, and that kept me at home, so to speak. So my plan to go to graduate school was designed to keep me from being caught up in the war. So I had three schools that I had my eye on: One was the San Francisco Art Institute, Maryland Institute [College of Art, Baltimore, MD], and Yale. Well, after I went through the entry process and I’d gotten into all three, and Yale was the only one that had the two-tier entry policy.

MS. GONCHAROV:  What does that mean?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, after you got into the first tier, you didn’t have to go through the second one before you were admitted into the program at the time. Whereas the others, once you got into the first, you were already—you were admitted. You didn’t hear about the Yale final one until the others had already accepted you. So my design was to—at the time I was in the New Jersey National Guard. I was commuting back and forth between Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Yale— Or what happens, I wanted to not get caught up in the situation that was happening with— For example, had I chosen Maryland Institute [College of Art], the National Guard was called up because [H.] Rap Brown was accused of being a riot starter in Maryland—Baltimore. The National Guard was called up there. The National Guard was also called up in California for Oakland because of the situation there. The National Guard was also called up for the [Black] Panther Trials in New Haven.

So what I decided to do— had I transferred to California, I would’ve had to leave my unit and gone out there and joined a unit out there, and there was a risk of being called up and being in uniform out there. I opted to—after sort of seeing the situation in terms of Maryland, I didn’t want to risk being in the military there either. So I opted to— so I waited to hear from Yale in terms of getting in. And once I heard from Yale, I notified those other places that I wasn’t coming, that I was going to go to Yale. And what I did was I kept my New Jersey unit, and I commuted back and forth between New Haven and New Jersey. That way I didn’t have to change my Guard unit—and the risk of me being called up was lessened by staying in New Jersey even though there was some stuff going on in Newark because Newark had rioted. So it was a maneuver to keep me from being caught up in the military here.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Did you get a scholarship to Yale?

MR. HENDRICKS:  There was a situation where half the tuition was paid. Once you made a kind of deal that you would teach after you got done—and I did—half the tuition was taken care of. So when I got a teaching position or moved in that direction, it got paid that way.

MS. GONCHAROV:  How’d you pay for it? Did you have jobs, too?



MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, I had a job. And well in that sense—

MS. GONCHAROV:  And the guard paid you, too.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, the guard didn’t really pay that much. [Laughs.] But what happens I was fortunate enough to have—I lived off the money that I made with the Philadelphia Department of Recreation. And I also had a gallery that I was with in Philadelphia, the Kenmore Gallery, and they were selling works. And so I lived off that money until I got an assistantship at Yale, and then I got the job here at Connecticut College [New London, CT].

MS. GONCHAROV:  You said you worked for Parks and Recreation. What did you do there?

MR. HENDRICKS:  I was the arts and crafts specialist for the Philadelphia Department of Recreation for District 10. And after they found out that I was heavily endowed in the arts, turned me into a roving art teacher that I would go around to various playgrounds. There were some places where I still did like the marble tournaments or plaster of Paris molds and stuff like that. But the situation was such where the district chairman recognized that he had a goldmine in me. And I worked well with the kids. I’d get along with some of the adults. But the kids, I worked out great with, and we had a number of award-winning kids in our programs. So if the adults didn’t get in the way, the kids, we made good stuff.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And you were selling your own work at that time.


MS. GONCHAROV:  What kind of work were you making?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, I was doing figures and my—and you asked earlier about my abstractions. I wouldn’t say they were abstractions. They were geometric-inspired basketball images. In fact, when I got accepted at Yale, someone had made a reference to my works looking very like much like they had a Josef Albers’s influence. But there was that area of geometry—as I look over your shoulder, I can see my basketball backboard. So I was doing works that dealt with the geometry: squares within squares within squares. Circles, squares. And oil on acrylic combination. Oil metallics with acrylics. So the rigid geometry of the game from the backboards to the keys were the influences there. The gallery I was with, the director was Harry Kulkowitz; we had a serious dialog once where he was questioning my doing both. And once he got hip to the fact that it made sense, he started to market rather aggressively, and he sold a number of those pieces. In fact, just about six months ago, I got a— Well, California has a resale, I think 2 percent situation—little small pieces—but a couple of small pieces were in an auction in California, and I got, I think, 300 bucks [laughs] from a resale situation of a couple of little basketball images. So working between the figures and the basketballs, those were the, how can I say, the direction that helped to finance my paying the rent and buying supplies.

MS. GONCHAROV:  So you went to Yale. You were already a professional artist but you went for an MFA, to get out of the draft [laughs] and studying there, I mean you were continuing to do the abstract and figurative, and your photography?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, going there— well, there was that— A friend of mine once said, and I’ve quoted him, he said, “Getting the MFA is like getting the union card.” So the MFA was the union card so that I could be able to teach. I knew that at the time I wasn’t going to be able to live off my work continually—or continuously. There was that aspect of teaching that attracted my attention in terms of being a noble profession. Because the people that I was associated with, when I got to the academy, there were artists—There’s an expression where, you know, you hear them say, “Those who can’t do, teach.” Well, that was not the case there. These folks were major artists involved with a variety of different historic sort of situations, works in major collections. And they could teach. They reached me.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Who were some of them?

MR. HENDRICKS:  I mentioned the people, I said, Louis Sloan.

MS. GONCHAROV:  These were people at the academy?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes, these were folks at the academy.

MS. GONCHAROV:  You’re not talking about Yale now.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, at Yale there was Bernard Chaet; I know you’d know Chaet. Lester Johnson. Who else? Gabor Peterdi, Bob [Robert] Reed. Let’s see who else that I had directly. Oh, of course, Walker Evans.

MS. GONCHAROV:  How was that, to work with Walker Evans?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, Walker was very laid-back and quiet and essentially was an advanced photography class. Once you submitted a portfolio and got in, you could do whatever you wanted to do. And I selected to do a photo essay on the Port Authority because I was going back and forth dealing with my National Guard meetings in New Jersey and coming through New York. I haven’t been to the Port Authority in ages. There’s always an interesting body of humanity in the Port Authority. So I’d bring my camera along. That aspect of imagery, and it kind of reminded me a bit of Walker Evans’s work from dealing with the subways and mass transit. And just the city folk, so to speak. And that was my focus as far as the class with Walker.

MS. GONCHAROV:  That must have been exciting to study with him.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, as I say, Walker was just a—Walker was just a really cool, laid-back person. And it was really nice to bring your stuff in and, well, in my particular situation, it was a continuum in terms of my focus on the figures. And actually, see, I’m holding a print that, a test print, that Randy [Hemminghaus] has pulled off in terms of the negatives. As I said between the figures and the fashion—and this is an image of fashion of the time, which I would, you know, see on folk or see in windows—and, as I say, I think this is a New York window.

MS. GONCHAROV:  A shoe store window.


MS. GONCHAROV:  Probably on Eighth Street [New York, NY].


MS. GONCHAROV:  That’s photogravure.


MS. GONCHAROV:  And when did you start doing jazz musicians? I assume you were hanging out in clubs from an early age.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Oh, yes, that was—I was just in Philadelphia about a month ago, and I was interviewed by a TV station called WHYY—you may be familiar with WHYY-TV. But anyway, on Saturdays they would have jazz musicians come to town, and my brother and I would go to see them. My brother who was murdered, shot to death, in October of ’99. He’s two years younger. And so we would go out to WHYY and catch the various groups. One of the groups that was one of our perennial favorites was [Julian Edwin] “Cannonball” Adderley. And at the time he had Charles Lloyd with him, I think [Victor Feldman], Yusef Lateef, his brother Nat Adderley, Louis [Hayes], Sam Jones. There were times when I would catch them at the various clubs like the Showboat or Peps. One time I wanted a photograph of Cannonball, and there was a roving photographer, and I asked him to take a shot of Cannonball. This photographer was roving around the club, and was basically photographing couples with Polaroids. And when I asked would he take a shot of Cannonball, he kind of looked at me kind of strange. And he took a shot of Cannonball that wasn’t really good at all because of the distance where he shot him from. All he got was Cannonball—Cannonball’s a large man; he just got a bit of Cannonball’s back.

So I recognized, well, you’ve got to do it yourself. So I started to take my camera to various venues. And from that point on, each concert or club date, I would go photograph. And I didn’t like using the flash, so it would be ambient light because, you know, using flash now it could sort of interrupt people. So I would use ambient light and use the club lights. And there’s a body of work that I had amassed at that time that kind of covered the spectrum of those musicians that came through the city, and Philadelphia, being one of the, I would say, the musical hubs, and not that far from New York. So some of the major names I was able to photograph in Philadelphia. And then, as I say, Philly not being that far from New York, I could hop a train or a bus and get up to the city and go to the Village Gate or Village Vanguard or Slug’s and catch [Charles] Mingus or who else? Oh, a whole variety of musicians that caught my ear at the time. Roland Kirk, Cannonball again. That was always a good act. And there were special occasions: Like when I was in England, I went to Ronnie Scott’s in London. I didn’t   photograph there. But I met Jon Hendricks.

Then when I came through Connecticut, one of my former students was the road manager for George Wien who was the impresario, master showman, and pianist and the originator of the Newport Jazz Festival [Newport, RI]. So I got a backstage pass from him. So I was able to follow a number of people backstage and photograph them, from Lionel Hampton, George Shearing, Herbie Hancock, Modern Jazz Quartet, the Count Basie Band, Carmen McRae, Dizzy Gillespie. And then summer music, Sunny Rollins would come. Wynton Marsalis. And again back to Philly: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. They were some of my favorites.

MS. GONCHAROV:  When did you shoot Dexter Gordon, the one you’re going the print of?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Dexter was at the Jazz Workshop in Boston. And the image that we worked with was a—I have a piece which I call the Iconic Dexter [2009] because it was a situation where Dexter was facing me directly. Unlike the other stuff that I just photographed people playing. Anyway, I went to hear Dexter. I went downstairs, and he was in the back and he was getting ready to play. And I had a shot that I could’ve taken, but it was really quiet, and I didn’t want to disturb him. So I just let it go. And then after he got done, I asked could I couple of shots of him. And he said yes. And so allowed me to come into his dressing room. He stood up and held his horn, and I think I squeezed off about five shots, black and white. And that’s how that image of Dexter was taken.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Do you have other ones of jazz musicians that are frontal?

MR. HENDRICKS:  The only one would be probably Miles Davis. It was a quick, funny situation, which I tell folks: Miles was playing at Canandaigua in Upstate New York. And I had a backstage pass. I was in the back of the stage, and Miles would play with his back towards the audience, which would piss a lot of people off, but with his back towards the audience, I was facing him. So I was getting shots of him from the front. So I had, I guess I squeezed off about three or four rolls of Miles in the front, and felt someone touched me on the shoulder, and it was one of Miles’s roadies. And the roadie said to me, “Miles said get off the stage.” [Laughs.] So I got off the stage. By that time, as I say, I had several rolls of him. And later I went backstage, and I got into a quick dialog with him in the dressing room and asked about taking a couple of shots of him. So I kind of got a shot of him putting his coat on, getting ready to leave. So that was the frontal sort of situation that I had of Miles other than just catching him actually onstage from my vantage point of being backstage.

MS. GONCHAROV:  So back to Yale. After you finished Yale, then you got the job teaching up here—what’s the school?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Connecticut College.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Connecticut College, yes. And you’ve taught there since then?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Since 1972.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Long time. Any students you remember? Anybody you—

MR. HENDRICKS:  There are a number of folks, every now and then I— When I had the show at The Studio Museum [in Harlem, New York, NY], I had three of my photography students who showed up, and actually I have two that are plying their trade in New York today, David Katzenstein and Miles Ladin. So they’re actively working in the city now. And so I hear from them periodically.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And you’ve continued to show over the years. You were with ACA Gallery [New York, NY] for—since when?

MR. HENDRICKS:  After I left Philadelphia, I think in ’74, the gallery that I was with went out of business, the Kenmore Gallery. And then I joined ACA. And then I was with them for a good spell. Then we had a different creative vision. So I left them and went with The Project, and it was a couple-of-year involvement with them. And there was again a creative directional change shift there, and I’m with Jack Shainman [Gallery, New York, NY] now. And a friend of mine, Rick [Richard] Powell, had said to me a while ago that whether or not it was attributed to Sam Gilliam, but he said, “Well, artists sort of change galleries like they change underwear.” [Laughs.] So I ended up changing galleries in the last couple of years a couple of times. But Jack seems like a very nice fit. And I had some working with Jack for a show, and he’s a fantastic person. 

MS. GONCHAROV:  Yes, good guy. And how did the show [“Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool”] at the Nasher [Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, NC] come about? How did you meet Trevor [Schoonmaker]? Because that was your first retrospective, yes?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, there again, that word retrospective has been thrown about, and it’s not necessarily an apt description. Because, as I’ve said, what I know or what I have been educated about, a retrospective means that it’s a larger body of work, a more encompassing body of work. The show, which you saw at the Studio Museum only had oils and acrylic and magna paintings. Whereas as we’ve been talking about photography and watercolor and works on paper, this show didn’t have any of that. So it’s not a true retrospective in the sense of the word. It does go back to some of the early pieces that I did, but it’s not a true retrospective. The first meeting with the curator, Trevor Schoonmaker, which you know, fantastic person. Both he and Rick Powell, as I introduced them, I said, “It’s like a situation where you’re familiar with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, or it’s either Bugs or Daffy Duck where he’s insulting Porky Pig.” He says, ‘Ah, your mother wears combat boots.’ And he comes back, ‘Oh, your sister has a moustache.’ And then, ‘Your brother wears a dress.’ And then Porky Pig turns his face to the camera and says, ‘I wonder how he knows so much about my family.’ [They laugh.] Well, I say that about Rick and Trevor. When I first met them, they started to spout a lot of stuff about my works. Which damn! These guys know a lot about my work.

So when I first talked to Trevor, we immediately hit it off because he said he had studied some of my stuff in graduate school. And when he got a position at the Sikkema Gallery in New York, he put together a show, “The Magic City” [2000], which I was a part of. And then he did the exhibition at the New Museum [New York, NY] that traveled, “Black President [: the Art and Legacy of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti,” 1999], the music of—the images—of artists’ influence by Fela Kuti. And then when he got the curatorial position at the National Gallery [of Art, Washington, DC], he contacted me and said that he wanted to do a show, a traveling show, with my work. And proceeded to put together the works from various collections. So you saw the second venue at the Studio Museum. The first was at the Nasher, and it was a larger body of images that didn’t make it to the Studio Museum show, which kind of pissed off a number of people.

There was a collector who came to the show opening in North Carolina; and then when she came to the show in New York and didn’t see her piece, she got bombed and pissed. Her husband was a little bit cool, but she was kind of hot. [Laughs.] And I had to tell her that wasn’t my choice; that was Thelma Golden’s fault. And she knew Thelma. So Thelma had edited that one out and several other works. I think there was more space that could’ve, you know, other works could’ve been put in. But Thelma was the grand dame there. So it was her space. And the show as it moved to Santa Monica [Museum of Art], where it is now, expanded back up to a size—not the full size, not the full-scale that it was in North Carolina. In fact there were two pieces that were in that show that the National Gallery wouldn’t allow to travel to California because I understand they didn’t view the Santa Monica museum as up to snuff, so to speak. Or didn’t have a, well, atmospheric control, climate control situation. So they didn’t allow those pieces to travel.


MS. GONCHAROV:   What pieces do the National Gallery own?

MR. HENDRICKS:  [Family] Jules [1974] and Sir Charles, Alias Willie Harris [1972]

MS. GONCHAROV:  And after Santa Monica it’s traveling—

MR. HENDRICKS:  It comes to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Will that be the whole show?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Hopefully. I think maybe the academy has the weight to get the pieces from the National Gallery. There’s a couple of pieces that were owned by private folk—it’s kind of a messy sort of situation recently, where one of the pieces was pulled. Bid ‘Em In/Slave was at the opening, but it wasn’t in either of the shows, the Studio Museum or Santa Monica. And it’s unlikely that it’ll probably be in Philadelphia or [Contemporary Arts Museum] Houston [TX]. And there’s another one, I think Vendetta [1977]; I’m not quite sure whether or not Vendetta will be—well, we’ll see what happens with Vendetta. Because I do know that the owners of Vendetta had just gotten it. And for them to have the show travel for almost three years, they want to have some time with it.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And any other shows coming up after that?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Actually the reason why I said I just pulled a piece from the basement that’s supposed to be part of a traveling show that it’s being put together through—I forget the woman’s name from, I think, Minneapolis. Susan just— We just had a dialog about what works will be available because it’s supposed to open January or February of 2011. So we’re starting to work on that. And it’s unlikely that any of the works that’s in the “Birth of the Cool” will be in that show.

MS. GONCHAROV:  So this will be more recent works.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, it’ll probably only be—I think I still have some older pieces that are available. So there’ll only be about three pieces that will be for that show because it’s a group show.

MS. GONCHAROV:  You were talking before about your travel. Can you talk about influence on your work, talk about Greece, Turkey, Italy. Italy I would think would be a big influence.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Right you are.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Was that your first trip?

MR. HENDRICKS:  It was my first trip outside of the United States was with the [William E.] Cresson [Memorial] Scholarship.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And this is right after the Pennsylvania Academy of Art?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes, they have that travel grant that they give to—if you compete—third-year students. And so I was awarded that in ’66. And the following year I was awarded the J. Henry Scheidt [Memorial] Scholarship, which was a world travel scholarship—grant. I wasn’t able—

MS. GONCHAROV:  The first scholar was domestic?

MR. HENDRICKS:  The first was European.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Oh, okay.

MR. HENDRICKS:  But the second I could travel anywhere in the world. But the first you had to travel throughout Europe. That’s how it was funded. And so I traveled from, well, Great Britain, Holland, France, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Luxembourg. And I traveled through Belgium. Oh, Italy, of course. So those were the countries and the various institutions such as the National Gallery in London, the Uffizi in Florence, the Vatican in Rome, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Prado in [Madrid] Spain. And where else? The National Gallery in Greece. I love Greek and Russian icons. So Greek icons were also there. So those were some of the influences because I like shiny stuff, you know. I like working with leafs, gold, silver, aluminum, copper, variegation leaf, stuff like that.

MS. GONCHAROV:  So you were influenced by the icons, but I would imagine early Renaissance, Italian painting, too.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Oh, yes.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Piero della Francesca. Fra Angelico.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, there’s the altar pieces that you saw, the piece that I did of Fela: Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen… [2002]. That had a direct correlation to the icon and altar pieces. And the painting Lawdy Mama [1969], with the gold leaf. Well, let’s see what else in that show. I’m trying to think if there are any other leaf pieces. But anyway, a body of working with metallic materials either through oil, acrylic, or leafs, that there’s an automatic connection or a logical connection to just liking shiny stuff and seeing how it was done in terms of antiquity.

MS. GONCHAROV:  What is it about the shiny stuff that appeals?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, we like shiny stuff. You know as I’m looking you have jewelry on, and I have jewelry— As a kid, you know, kids are attracted to shiny stuff. And that’s just a human quality. It’s eye-catching, and there’s that other aspect of symbolism and connection to cultural associations. But it’s natural for human beings to sort of gravitate to the shiny stuff. Some of us carry it all the way from cradle to grave, you know. Some places people were beat out of it because of cultural mindsets that got nothing to do with the natural way that human beings use their eyes to see. And there’s also that quality which, if I put something together, I want you to see it. And as I say, if you— If I’m a part of a group show, if you leave the show, you’re not going to remember everything. But I want you to remember mine. And there’s a variety of ways of doing that. You may not necessarily like it, I hope you do, you might love it. But I do for the most part want you to remember mine. And that’s why I say I even took it to that—

It wasn’t the first time I used photographs and shiny material or leaf—that’s why I wanted Dexter to have that aspect of shine quality, luminescence or reflective quality. So I wanted that aspect of the image to have some potency besides the scale element that, again— I appreciate miniatures, and I appreciate billboards. But if you get too small, you start to dwarf it. If you get too large, you get into a billboard sort of situation. But if you keep it pretty close to human scale, you have a better chance of having the human that’s looking at it interact with that. So it’s a compositional as well as a psychological approach about not getting too large or too small. And adding the ingredient that would hopefully catch your eye, that I hope will make it linger.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And a strong sense of color.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Oh, yes. Color was, again, another important, I wouldn’t say byproduct, but an important component in terms of getting and keeping the attention span that we humans, for the most part— For example, I think you know, sometimes you have—it’s said you have maybe three to five seconds to get people’s attention. Otherwise, they’re off to something else. So I want to make sure that, you know, that three to five seconds at least I get your attention, then, as they say, you can’t do anything with people if you don’t get their attention.

MS. GONCHAROV:  So this is also the reason for the frontal, confrontational view.

MR. HENDRICKS:  That’s a part of it.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And the single image.

MR. HENDRICKS:  That’s a part of it, yes. It’s a design plan. It’s not accidental, you know.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And other traveling, I mean other artwork you saw along the way in those early travels. What else did you like?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Of course I can sort of mention a list of names from the [Diego] Velazquez, [Michelangelo Merisi da] Caravaggio, Rembrandt [van Rijn], [Johannes] Vermeer, and [Anthony] Van Dyck, [Jan] Van Eyck

MS. GONCHAROV:  Oh, Van Dyck, that makes sense.


MS. GONCHAROV:  Van Eyck or Van Dyck?




MS. GONCHAROV:  There are those strong central figure in Van Dyck.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes. [Giovanni Moroni].. Oh, [Tiziano Vecelli] Titian. There’s a— Well,  say the Flemish and Dutch school of painting and certainly the landscape—[Jacob] van Ruisdael. And some of the British painters, you know, [Thomas] Gainsborough; the landscapes and seascapes of [J.M.W.] Turner are magnificent works. So there was a wide variety of imagery that— And of course, as I say, the religious altar pieces of a variety of artists that aren’t necessarily major names, but, you know, they were damned good painters.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Like who?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, as I say, the names aren’t necessarily something that you remember. You go into all kinds of different churches, and there are magnificent works. But they aren’t the major names that are part of the art historical frame of reference that we conceive. But I can think of a number of different places where I’ve gone, and they were very, very strong paintings. But the names weren’t necessarily a part of the groups that I had mentioned earlier. But they were damned good paintings.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And the subject matter, your subjects that you paint. Sometimes they’re famous people.. Otherwise where do you find them?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, see, I’ve only done I would say one famous person, and that was Fela Kuti.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Right. [Inaudible.]

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes, the other folks are friends and family that have a particular style or look that they were gracious enough to allow me to look at them from time to time and work with their images. There are several people that I’ve done maybe two or three paintings of. For example, a friend that I had at Yale named Jules [Taylor]. I think I did four pieces of him. There’s a man who was—when I first met him he was part of the Black Panther Party. And I did three paintings of him. One when he was in the party, and then he was getting out of it. So there was one, rather straightforward view, simple, black, red, kind of green coloration. And then when he was getting out, it was an orange, very colorful piece. And, a friend named Angie [Johnson], I did three paintings of her. And a couple that I worked on the three grace theme.

MS. GONCHAROV:  On what?

MR. HENDRICKS:  The three graces theme where a similar person but three different viewpoints. Saw the two at the Studio Museum. And a couple of composite pieces of ideas that sprang into my head that I wanted to do in terms of compositional images that weren’t, say, “real” people so to speak that posed for me directly, but had some influences from people that were alive. Like a friend who was a dancer. She was the—that particular painting wasn’t in the Studio Museum show. She was on the couch. If you get the catalog, you’ll see it. What’s Goin On [1974]. She posed for that piece. She had a beautiful body, so I did that. So many of the images are friends and associates that struck my fancy or were— And I sort of reflect back over a number of them that— A couple asked me, “Do my painting.” And I liked them enough to do it.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Well, you seem to be attracted to style. I mean each one has this individual style. Like we were in the restaurant and you photographed the Polish waitress with her outfit, her stockings and t-shirt. I can see why you’re attracted to that look.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Oh, yes. She’s become a perennial—as I tell her, when you look around New London, you know, This is a little boondocky place. And every now and then I see women that are not in flip-flops or Uggs. And so I have to compliment them, see. Bring your  style maven here. And they are gracious enough to let me— She’s gotten used to me by now, as you can see, you know. And I’ve photographed her I don’t know how many times.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Are you going to paint her?

MR. HENDRICKS:  I thought about that. I have so many, I haven’t decided which ones yet, you know. There’s a couple of other people that I’ve photographed that I’m compiling a dossier, so to speak. [Laughs.] A body of images. It’s just a matter of deciding which ones.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And you paint from the photographs.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Now. In the very beginning I was fortunate enough that people could pose for me. Now the schedule sort of situation is such where I don’t have the time or they don’t have the time to sort of come together. But many of the images that you saw at the show, the majority of them, people were in front of me initially.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Really. For how long?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Like for example Jules, he posed. Ed Yeliot [ph?] had come up and sat for me. My cousin Kathy [Edwards] with be the Afro, she posed for me a couple of times. Angie posed several times for me. So but now the time scenario is such where it’s a major luxury, which I don’t have. And I’ve learned to sort of trust the camera now in terms of my vision. That I can work from the two-dimensional situation.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And Susan [Hendricks], your wife. 

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes, I did one of her. She was in the show.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Have you done more of her?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Just one.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Because I think you have a live-in model.

MR. HENDRICKS:  [Laughs.] Well, she’s said that, you know. In fact what makes this kind of interesting, yesterday the painting that I brought upstairs was an old girlfriend that was a rocky road sort of situation with her. But she was saying it was a very good painting, although she didn’t like the woman. So anyway. I’ve had a couple of those. They were models, but it wasn’t a situation where it was going to—I mean it would’ve been a disastrous sort of situation in terms of any other interactions. But they were good for the time period. Sort of like the [Pablo] Picasso element, you know, with women. But I wasn’t quite that brutal in terms of dealing with women as he was.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And maybe not as prolific either. [Laughs.]

MR. HENDRICKS:  Probably not. But then again, if you sort of carved them up the way he did, you know. So he was a good painter, but, you know. I did a lecture down at Yale a couple of months ago. And one of the curators was saying that Picasso felt she was the love of his life. I said, “Love of his life! I wouldn’t have painted her life that, you know.” I’ve seen photographs of her, and the way he chopped up, you know. I wouldn’t have handled the love of my love that way.

MS. GONCHAROV: [Laughs.] You know something that came up, you said that you were painting your friend who was part of the Panthers. Were you involved with politics in those years, in the sixties at all?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, I had my own viewpoint in terms of what was going on.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Were you active?

MR. HENDRICKS:  No, not in terms of the politics of it. Then the opportunity to vote, which everybody I ever voted for never won. Except for the most recent election. But as I was saying at lunch how the time period, even now, which I call the “Ronaissance,” the influence of Ronald Reagan, I mean it’s still very much a part of the Republican mantra, you know, that he was the ideal Republican. I think they just recently erected a statue. They want to put something on a—if they could put his face up on Mount Rushmore, they would do it, you know. But as I say, it doesn’t make any amount of sense. It was a disaster and led us to where we are now unfortunately. I mean I’m sure that a number of people would debate that, but there have been quite a few minds who are a little bit stronger involved in the political dynamics and financial directions that would certainly agree with me. And I agree with them that they were the problems that have caused this mess.

MS. GONCHAROV:  But you weren’t protesting against the Vietnam War?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, yes, I was protesting. But I wasn’t, you know—

MS. GONCHAROV:  You were not out in the streets.

MR. HENDRICKS:  No, I’m not out in the streets, no.

MS. GONCHAROV:  But you had friends that were.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes, yes. Well, actually coming from Philadelphia, I had friends who—

MS. GONCHAROV:  I would think.

MR. HENDRICKS:  I mean they were—I say at the time, you know, one of the major Gestapo figures was [Mayor] Frank Rizzo. Coming out of Philadelphia, you couldn’t—

MS. GONCHAROV:  Oh, he was famous.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes. So, see, the city was locked up tight with the constabulary there. And periodically I would get, you know, frisked by the cops on the way to school, and that was just the way Philadelphia was. I remember once coming— I had, my pallet was a large 35 mm film tin. And I’m on my way to school when a cop stops me and puts me up against the wall and asks, “What’s that?” I said, “It’s a pallet?” What’s that? You know. [Laughs.] So that was the mindset of the constabulary there, you know.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And you talked before about going to the Caribbean every year. How has that influenced your work?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, as we sit out here we’re getting sun. The other day, we were—Susan and I were talking about California. And I said to her, I want to be able to travel. So I said, We’re following the sun. Say, when the weather gets crummy here, until we get a chance where we can sort of completely X-out winter, you know, say we’re following the sun to the Caribbean. And that sort of heats us up enough to sort of help us get through to the spring and summer. Well, this spring has been rather dismal.

MS. GONCHAROV:  It’s not been that much of a spring.

MR. HENDRICKS:  No. In fact a friend of mine who’s a sculptor used to call this time period “the long green winter.” But, you know, the Caribbean, us going there was just wonderful, gorgeous. The greens and palm trees and just the whole ambience of the Caribbean is wonderful. And Jamaica is a very historic island from a variety of different directions: the food and the music. I mean for a little place, it has a tremendous ripple effect around the planet, you know. Everywhere you go on the planet you, I mean not unless you’re in the Arctic somewhere, even there, you know, they know who Bob Marley is. And that ripple effect from such a small place. And then again, the foods. I think everybody now knows what jerk is, you know. So I mean it has a magnetism besides the culture that— As I say, I’m following the sun. [Laughs.]

MS. GONCHAROV:  Sounds like a plan.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes, that’s basically the plan, if it works.

MS. GONCHAROV:  So what do you paint when you’re down there? Do you have some models, some people you like to paint?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, you saw the landscapes you know. It’s basically a landscape endeavor. There’s a view of the Caribbean that—I don’t want to sort of get into a whole cliché element of palm trees. Although I say I love palm trees, but I don’t paint very many of them. So they’re not a part of the major focus. There’s a whole area of landscape imagery that has a particular character that attracts me. I’ve been doing a series that I call my Quarry Series. Or as the locals call them, “marl holes.”

MS. GONCHAROV:  Marl holes?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Marl is the stone that they take out of the various quarries and use for road building. So they call them marl holes rather than quarries. So my Marl Holes Series are—the kind of focuses that to me have an [M. C.] Escher-esque perspective. Because once you’re down in the hole, it’s hard to say where there’s a horizon line or a kind of fixed situation as when you’re on sea level. The sky and the various configurations of the digs change each year. So what I did in January, December and January; when I go back, there’s been an entirely different sculptural reconfiguration by virtue of, you know, the bulldozers and what they’ve taken out. And it’s usually quite interesting compositionally. And I have a kind of like a cathedral attitude because I can only paint there on holidays and Sundays because during the rest of the time, it’s being actively worked. So like New Year’s Day, Sundays. The Jamaicans celebrate Boxing Day, which is the day after Christmas. So those are the only time periods that I can work there. And I’m usually there—

MS. GONCHAROV:  And you go down there and paint?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes. So I’m there by myself because Susan usually sort of drops me off and takes the car and goes elsewhere and comes back and picks me up. And that’s, as I say, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Sundays, and Boxing Day.

MS. GONCHAROV:  I’d like to see these. Are they large paintings?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, you saw a couple of those, several, at the Studio Museum.

MS. GONCHAROV:  There were some quarry pictures? I didn’t recognize those as quarries.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes, there were a couple. Yes. You have the catalog, right? So when you check the catalog up, you’re—Thelma only used seven in that show. And they were the upper level. But there were, I think, at least 20 in the original show.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Yes, I think I didn’t recognize them as quarries.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes. There are about, I think, maybe two or three. She only showed them. But there are a number of quarry pieces in the catalog.

MS. GONCHAROV:  What are your plans? What are you working on next?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, as I said, I’m trying to study how to get my contraption to be able to hoist up the scale works. And I have to order up some new frames because the works that I did earlier in the year will be ready to be framed up. And I’ve got to totally revamp my studio so that I can get back to work there. So those are the immediate plans in terms of— There are a couple frames I’ve got to build because—

MS. GONCHAROV:  So the frames are important.

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, yes. Well, when you saw the—there were one, two, three, four handmade frames. Fela was one of them. Brilliantly Endowed (Self-Portrait) [1977] was another. So there were four made-from-scratch frames that—

MS. GONCHAROV:  Make them like alter pieces [inaudible] –

MR. HENDRICKS:  Yes. Well, or, as I say, simple—well, some of them were ornate. Depends on how much router work I wanted to do. And I do have a number of different routers that I can give a variety of different designs. So those are some of the plans that I have. And as I say, I have the tools ready for that production. So that’s a part of the design, part of the—I say the plan, so to speak.

MS. GONCHAROV:  And what subjects do you have coming up that you’d like to paint?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Well, I have a number of ideas and concepts that I’m working on. I haven’t quite selected the ones yet. I was telling Susan I saw a couple of colors the other day that I want to use. So we’ll have to sort of take a trip up to Jerry’s Artorama [Norwalk, CT] or either down to Pearl Paint on Canal Street [New York, NY] to do some paint shopping. So that’s what I have in mind for the immediate future. And as I say, the piece I took out of the basement is ready to be re-varnished so that it can be ready to travel. So there’s that technical end, the materials and technique area of maintenance and presentation that has to be dealt with, in conjunction with new stuff completely. And a couple of pieces that are on the easel that are slowly being chipped away at.

MS. GONCHAROV:  How long does it take you to make a painting?

MR. HENDRICKS:  That depends. You know that really depends. There’s a number of scheduling sort of situations and drying-rate. So I at one point had up to eight different paintings working at the same time, given whether or not the models could sit or the paint was drying or my inspiration. So all those things sort of figure into how long a piece will take.

MS. GONCHAROV:  But do you work over and work over and work over it?

MR. HENDRICKS:  I wouldn’t say work over. I work until I’m done. I mean there’s a story I think that I heard that Degas, for example, would work on a piece, you know, for a long time. He’d go and paint—it was never finished. I get to a point where it’s done, and I’ve made my statement there. And that’s one of the things that happens with the landscape pieces that satisfies the immediate gratification element, where I can go out and make that statement. And I don’t work on it when I get back. In fact I just bought a book about Impressionism, and it made reference to the works were started on the spot, but most of them were finished in the studio. Well, I don’t finish stuff in the studio in that nature. Especially the stuff in nature. There are times—I think there were three pieces that out of the hundred or so that I did that I had to finish in the studio because a rainstorm or nature stopped me. And the piece was so far gone that I had to finish it in another time period. But normally for landscapes I want to finish them there and bring them back. And the next phase is the let them dry and then varnish them and then frame them. Whereas the figures, you have to—at least I work in a kind of time incremental sort of situation to let them dry so that I can start the next approach.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Anything you want to talk about?


MS. GONCHAROV:  That would be interesting to tell to scholars in the future—

MR. HENDRICKS:  I just wanted to respond, for the most, what questions you have. I mean after you’ve gone, there are some things that I think, oh, I could have said that, I could have said this. But I think we’ve covered a territory that you know, that would give, as you say, scholars if this is indeed a dialog that would merit some scholar following through with what I’ve said. I think it gives a direction that can be useful in picking my brain to a certain extent because I’ve kind of flap-jawed for a while. [They laugh.]

MS. GONCHAROV:  So anything?

MR. HENDRICKS:  No. As I said, things are ongoing, and I say, stay tuned. [Ms. Goncharov laughs.] One has to sort of deal with inspiration from a variety of different sources. And I certainly have that. And there’s that area of editing and trying to decide how to handle those areas of inspiration that are a part of waiting in the wings, so to speak. And I just wrote something to that effect, that I have ideas that are waiting in the wings that aren’t ready to be brought onto stage. But they have to be refined.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Okay, so I think that is it. Is there one last thing you’d like to say?

MR. HENDRICKS:  Can’t think of anything.

MS. GONCHAROV:  Okay. Very good.



How to Use This Collection

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Barkley L. Hendricks, 2009 June 18. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.