Varya and Roy Witlin's Paintings
Color in Motion and in Stillness
Dream of Falling
Our First Conversation
When we met, Roy was a locally well known artist, and I was looking for a gallery to exhibit my work. I visited his townhouse which was full of his wonderful art. Luminous paintings, some very large, hung on every wall. They were airbrushed on the reverse side of Plexiglas and their smooth surfaces had the radiance of church windows.
“The paintings with spherical designs,” I remarked, “are in fact Mandalas -- archetypal spiritual symbols.”
They looked spiritual to me and I saw them as cosmic images but he denied that his work had any deep meaning.
“Painting in reverse on Plexiglas is a technical challenge," he replied. " I'm a businessman Varya, and I sell my work the way Coco Chanel sold dresses made of unusual fabrics.”
After looking at my slides he said, “I've had lots of shows, but your pictures are more personal and far more expressive than mine. They make me think of the music of Sibelius.The movement is like dancing or floating...and the most effective ones are not overcomplicated. Do you sketch ideas before starting a painting?”
"Sometimes it helps to sketch ideas. You know a lot of creative work is about selection, choosing the ideas that will succeed.. It’s only the things I get right that matter to me as an artist,” was my response.
And so began our friendship, and the discussions about our artwork continued even after I was diagnosed with chemical sensitivities and could no longer paint. For all his insight, it was not until much later that he recognized the emotional and spiritual nature of his art -that it was not "just an interesting technique."
But I had become sensitized to art materials and it would be many years before I was strong enough to do artwork again, gradually using pencil, watercolors and oil pastels, until I could once again paint with oil paints, ground in walnut oil.
From Varya's memoir of her marriage to Roy, A Comedy of Transcendence.