for the divine
riding horses to the beach or simply spending the day roaming the
neighborhood, the standing rule for young Miriam Badyrka was to
be home by the time the Disneyland fireworks were over. Miriam left
California behind 15 years ago and now lives in North Portland with
her husband, daughter, two dogs and two cats.
Miriam Badyrka's artistic quest is not to make something
never before seen. What she strives to do is create variations on
a pre-existing theme and make her own contribution to a never-ending
cycle. She considers all her artwork to be parts of one huge piece
of art that will not be completed until she dies.
"People all over the world use the same shapes and patterns
in art, architecture, textiles and decorative work," she said.
"Symbolic meanings may vary according to place, culture and
time, but this does not detract from their power. These shapes and
patterns remain consistent, regardless of the symbolic content,
because they are beautiful."
Miriam's colorful, mixed-media paintings reference stars, seeds
and spores, interior mysteries, the beginnings of life and the search
for the divine.
"I am most inspired by the millions of nameless and faceless
decorative artists who have worked in obscurity, unconcerned with
the pressure to be original, and who have perpetuated the designs
and patterns that form a visual vocabulary common to all people,"
For Miriam, painting is as necessary as air; an added bonus is that
she thinks of it as good, messy fun.
"I use acrylic paints because I work in my basement, which
is not well ventilated," she said. "I hated it when I
made the switch from oils. Now I love them."
Most of Miriam's work is a combination of acrylic paint, stitch
work and her own super-goop a mixture of acrylic paint, acrylic
medium and Elmer's glue, which she pours to add dimensional qualities
to the flat surface.
"I've worked in a number of media," she said. "I
enjoy printmaking and will probably return to it at some point.
I also quilt and have a large garden, which I consider to be part
of the same creative impulse. Someday I would like to try my hand
Miriam has so many favorite artists it would take days for her to
list them all.
"I was really inspired to be an artist by a guy named Bob
Miller," she said.
"When I was a little kid in Sacramento, I used to play with
his kids. He had his studio right in the living room and would work
with all of us running in and out all day. I don't know how he managed
to get anything done!
"On rainy days he'd give us paper and we would lie on the
floor and draw. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.
"He exposed me to the reality of what it takes, day to day,
to be an artist, as opposed to the less realistic and romantic view
that is presented in books and movies."
In elementary school, Miriam left her mark by coloring on the walls
and often got into trouble for drawing horses or doodling instead
of paying attention in class.
"Either I got better at hiding it as I got older, or teachers
mistook it for serious note taking," she said.
Miriam's parents supported her artistic interest and started sending
her to oil-painting classes when she was eight.
"I have the first 'real' painting I ever did," she said.
"It's a calico cat. I remember feeling like such an artist,
squeezing paint from the tubes and holding a real palette."
After taking every art class offered in high school, Miriam went
on to earn a bachelor of fine arts in drawing and painting.
"I majored in poverty, as my dad used to say," she said.
"I've toyed with the idea of going back for a masters, but
I know I won't ever do it. I have little patience for talking a
good painting. The best schooling ever won't replace hours and hours
spent in one's own studio, making your own mistakes and learning
Fear of art
Miriam believes in education and thinks rigorous criticism and scholarships
are vital components of the visual arts. But she also thinks that
the art establishment has scared away many people who might enjoy
having a piece of art or sculpture in their homes by making them
"So everyone goes out and buys the same Monet print to hang
in their foyer because they are afraid of making their own 'uneducated'
choice," she said.
"I recently read a shocking statistic in an art publication
that only five percent of the population has ever set foot inside
a gallery. I don't believe that the current status quo adequately
serves either artists or the public.
"They're building thousands and thousands of new walls out
there. Don't they deserve to have a piece of art on them? In bookstores,
literary classics sit cheek by jowl with the latest potboiler, and
everybody realizes that one helps support the other. The idea is
to get people reading."
A penny earned
Miriam is involved with several art organizations: Art on Alberta,
the umbrella organization for the art and art-related businesses
in the Alberta Arts District; Penninsula Arts, a group of artists
who live and work in North Portland; and Talisman Gallery, a co-op
on Northeast Alberta Street.
Helping to found the Talisman
Gallery, a place where artists can show and learn about art
as a business, was an especially rewarding endeavor.
"We opened in December 1999 and it has been a wonderful experience,"
she said. "I've learned from everyone in the gallery. It's
a supportive community as well as a forum for criticism and feedback."
Working together, the members of the co-op put on a full year of
shows, maintain and staff the gallery, do publicity and marketing,
give art talks and jury new members while consistently creating
their own new work.
"I've also made wonderful friends through my time with the
gallery, which is an extra bonus," she said. "I think
that all artists should, at some point in their careers, belong
to a co-op. It makes you appreciate the work that gallery owners
and staff, art consultants and other art dealers do for you.
"Once you have done it for yourself, you really feel as though
they are out there earning every penny of their commissions."
Last is first
Miriam's goals and dreams are very basic; she wants to grow and
develop as an artist while earning a decent living from her art.
"My yearning to make art is so strong that I would do it regardless
of any material goals," she said. "I also need to make
a living, which is something that we all talk about amongst ourselves,
but are sort of embarrassed to admit in public. Commerce was never
mentioned as part of my arts education."
Miriam's art is in the Expressions West 2004 exhibition at the
Coos Art Museum, Coos Bay, Ore., through July 17. She'll then take
part in Talisman Gallery's anniversary show that opens on the Last
Thursday in July.
"I would like to invite everyone to come to a Last Thursday
on Alberta Street this summer," she said. "It's an amazing
experience and fun for everyone."