Barbara Cushing Artworks

Realist Painting and Drawings


"One of the claims made for New Expressionist painting is that it stops criticism cold. Its visual pyrotechnics (not to mention its abstruseness) should leave a commenter speechless. Coming from a completely other direction, the clean, clear landscapes of Barbara Cushing don't engender verbiage either; at least they don't spark a didactic or romantic line. They must be absorbed one by one."
"Cushing's abiding subject matter is Great American Nature; not backyard acreage but the classic landscape that got this country on the road, endowing it with an ethos. Pristine, un-besmirched, the landscape was elevated to the status of a New Eden by trancendentalist writers and Hudson River School painters in the middle of the last century. Cushing doesn't paint the river per se, but the Hudson River cast of mind reverberates over a large geographical area and through time."
"In paintings from the 19th century, clouds sometimes fortuitously form themselves into crosses to drive home the cosmic point. Even a happenstance pool of sunlight in a clearing could remind one of the evanescent effects occurring in a cathedrat, especially when pairs of trees bowing to each other could be read as forming Gothic arches."
"But with Cushing it isn't possible to practice even a rude kind of iconography or Symbology. She presents her world to us like a good martini, dry and neat. However, the sheer ingredients do pack a wallop. There may be drama in the cloud forms she renders, but it is for its own sake. The scene may be before a deluge or just after, but there is no portent. These paintings, as distillates of an imperial Nature, can't be tampered with."
"Cushing's art is more to be imbibed then chewed over. Yet it is gourmet fare for sensibilities concerned with how the adjustments in color tone on one side of a painting now bring it in balance with the other side. It is painting for those to whom issues like tone and value and recession in depth are meat and potatoes."
"Cushing's art is high in popular appeal. It's easy to say, 'Oh, landscapes,' because that is what every Sunday painter cuts his teeth on. But the affinity ends there. Cushing's talent is an amalgam of skill and Cinemascopic vision. Who else has her sweep, her assiduousness, not to mention a hardihood that endures sunburn, insects, and the threat of frostbite to archive seamless paintings? Her work is a good to all under-archivers."
"For all its heroic qualities, it is an anomaly that painting like this should be occurring in the 1980s. This anomalous quality is much of its power. Cushing has thought through her position. 'I'm a farmer's daughter. I was born on, and grew up on, a dairy farm in upstate New York. This,' refering to the wide landscape, 'is what I grew up with.' Cushing claims to admire the existential reach of an artist like David Salle but is quick to protest, 'that's not me!' Her true idol Jan van Eyck; her aspiration to emulate his luminosity and ability to render minute detail is much in evidence."
"The specific locals of Cushing's recent paintings are Ulster County, New York and Mt. Desert Island, Maine. She is about to terminate a career of several years of teaching painting at the University of Maine at Orono, and was herself educated at Skidmore College and Penn State (both schools located in Class A landscapes)."
"The particulars of a painter's biography encounter nature. In sum, nature is unchanging, yet it does change. A cloud floating over here until a minute ago is now over there; the sun has adjusted its brightness. Cushing is an objective observer who is putting a number of empirical oil sketches to work for an ideal, rather emblematic painting. This is a traditional practice and has an analogue in Ansel Adams' recent statement that he kept printing the sky darker in his memorable Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico 'until I had it, the image I had seen in my minds eye.'"
"For all this mutability nature is timeless, oblivious to foreign conflict, the vagaries of the economy, and the succession of 'isms' in art. In fusing the record of a succession of days, Cushing is again seamless, as she is in her painting technique."
"Everyone can use a little dialectic. Cushing's clear, luminous, and timeless painting stands in opposition to the New Expressionism, which is nothing  if no restless. If Barbara Cushing didn't exist, she'd have to be invented. Fortunately, she does exist as a true sight for sore eyes. (Robert Schoelkopf, May 21-June 15)" 
By William Zimmer, 1983

"Barbara Cushing's oil landscapes at the Schoelkopf Gallery through June 15, are the work of a Tonalist rather than Colorist, though pleasing, muted color is used. An artist of integrity and commitment, Cushing's response to nature is most spontaneous in oil sketches on paper with a touch of Lovis Corinth, a satisfying impressionist-expressionist tangle of foliage and sweepingly-brushed skies."

"The landscapes on canvas, impressive as they are in their love of detail, have the tight effect of a photograph (Cushing's crutch) which erodes an initial suggestion of the Barbizon and Hudson River School's direct freshness of execution and feel for the physical and spiritual realities of nature."

"The glory of these pictures is in the skies -- there is something of van Ruisdael, Constable and Turner -- fair, stormy, spaciously empty or cloud-clotted, swathed in rain or sunset. Like Mangold, Cushing seems to wish to move beyond the earthly."


By Don Gray, 1983