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Sketch Pad

Miriam Badyrka
Searching for the divine
by Kathy Anderson

hether 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.

Visual vocabulary
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," she said.

Creative impulse
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 at woodcarving."

Reality exposed
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."

Poverty major
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 from them."

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 feel ignorant.

"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.

"Life I"

"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."

E-mail Miriam at mbadyrka@comcast.net, and check out her Web site. You can reach Kathy at kanderson138@comcast.net, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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