Linda Durham on Paul Sarkisian

Recently I found a remarkable work of art languishing in the nether regions of the Gallery storage area. It had been there for a few months. In the mad and demanding rush of our 2010 exhibition schedule, I almost forgot it was there—all wrapped in plastic and cardboard and tucked into the stacks, safe from forklifts and fingerprints. I carefully extracted it from its secure place, removed the wrappings and hung it on a wall in our private Glass Block Gallery. And then I looked at it…and looked at it. 
Knowing that it is a trompe-l’oeil (“fool the eye”) painting by a master of the genre did not make it any less amazing to behold. How did he do that?! Is it a collage? A photograph? No. It is essentially a painting with just a small patch of glitter and some sort of “secret” process that the artist developed decades ago.  It is, in my opinion, a mid-career masterpiece by an inspiring artist of great talent: Paul Sarkisian.  

Paul Sarkisian
#9 with O’Keeffe, 1981
acrylic & mixed media on canvas
40 x 58 inches
Before my so-called career in the world of Art was even an idea, I was learning something about the difference between “looking” and “seeing” from spending  time with Paul and our two families and our mutual artist friends.

It’s the late 60’s!


…Paul and I are hiking through the high desert landscape near Cerrillos, south of Santa Fe…Every now and then, we stop and Paul shows me something beautiful and natural that I would never have noticed on my own: circles drawn in the sand by the erratic wind on sturdy stalks of gramma grass; intricate patterns of dried, cracked mud on the edges of the arroyo…Paul’s hungry eye saw beauty and mystery and curiosity everywhere. He saw purples and yellows in the rocks where I had only seen browns. 
But, I digress…

This painting belongs in a museum or in the home of special lovers of art who would (eventually) gift it to a worthy public institution. It deserves to be seen. There is so much to see in it: the image of Georgia O’Keeffe (who was a close friend of the Sarkisians), the art review by Carol Mothner, the colors, the composition…
Perhaps you saw Paul’s exhibition at SITE Santa Fe a few years ago. Perhaps you read the introduction by guest curator, Louis Grachos, the Director of the Albright-Knox Gallery, who wrote, in part, “Since the 1950s, PAUL SARKISIAN’S DEEP COMMITMENT to the art and language of painting has been reflected in his extraordinarily innovative and stylistically diverse oeuvre…”


Come see this painting!  Let’s have tea! Let’s talk about seeing…


Linda Durham Contemporary Art

1807 Second Street #107

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505


1 thought on “Linda Durham on Paul Sarkisian

  1. I became aware of Sarkisian’s incredible paintings when I was a beginning art student in the early 80’s…His painting “Altoon” and another canvas that show Bob Dylan in a hot air balloon, remain my favorites. Can you tell me if prints of these two works are available? Thanks, James

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