"It's my hurrah," Auerbach said in
For Auerbach, who seems not to have aged since her early 40s, dresses better than most 20-year-olds and maintains a 10-year-old's giddy curiosity about the world, "retrospective" sounds too finite. And far from losing a grip on her faculties, the prolific and staunchly traditional painter seems more in control of her brush and her reputation than ever before.
Hence the mini-festival of Auerbach-approved exhibitions now playing in an art gallery near you: "
Taken together, the exhibits tell the story of an artist in love with the world around her and completely uninterested in the preoccupations of the international art world. While she admits having some abstract works and nude portraits stashed away in her studio -- "They're nuts," she said of those few pieces. "No one will ever see those" -- she has practiced a resolutely traditional form of painting since she was in high school.
Her long and productive art career, now spanning some five decades, began at age 10, when she started to draw on the bedroom walls of her
"We started to doodle in little corners on the bedroom wall with pencils. This went on and on and then one day after school, our mother said, 'Girls, I've been in your room and I see what you've been doing on your walls,'" Auerbach recalled. "She said, 'You don't have to sneak around. They're your walls. It's your bedroom. You can do whatever you want.' She gave us permission to make art, and that was as simply, as quickly, the inspiration to just push it. And we did."
After high school, Auerbach enrolled in SUNY Buffalo State and the
"I found that I needed to make art, and the easiest, simplest thing was to pull out a watercolor set on the kitchen table while the youngest was napping and the older ones were in kindergarten. And as soon as a child would wake up or come home, I had to put it away," she said. "I found that watercolor could be the medium that I could explore."
And explore she did, especially through the 1980s, when, as a founding member of the
"Rita was our citizen artist,"
Auerbach's style, though it hews to traditional notions of perspective and composition, tends to favor bright and sometimes even fluorescent colors as well as exaggerated shadows. Her obsession with simple shapes like triangles, trapezoids and cylinders is evident in her affinity for
"Auerbach responds acutely to nature, to landscapes within which she lives and those through which she travels," novelist and journalist
Asked whether she was ever upset that her work has not been roundly embraced by the contemporary art world, Auerbach, who volunteers for and supports organizations such as
"Somehow, I love to paint what people love to see. And I don't know when that happened, and I don't know which came first," Auerbach said, referring to her popular paintings of the
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