Barbara Klein

M.F.A. Painting, 1983

I will never forget Phoebe Helman, my painting advisor. A tiny, chain-smoking woman. When she liked something, she’d say “That painting is dynamite” but her face would be without expression. Our class adored her, some copied her way of walking, talking, smoking, without realizing that we were doing it.  A male student once placed a rose at her feet during class. She was a serious artist whose own work felt like “visual food”.  I needed to see it and absorb it. She demanded a high level of commitment from us.  Didn’t tolerate fools. George McNeill was my thesis advisor.  He’s memorable for his humor, his impishness, his agelessness, his wonderful paintings and his irreverence.  He not only taught art history but had a firsthand knowledge of much of what he taught about late modern art. Late in life his career took an upswing and I thought his paintings were better than ever, freer than ever.  It made me understand that for some artists, like George, a sense of freedom happens late in life.  That’s absolute freedom and it makes for incredible art. I felt that Pratt wasn’t just a school, but a sort of art monastery where students learned how to be unrelentingly critical of their own work, how to think, and how to be practicing professionals from a group of wonderful, committed artists/teachers, who taught us by example, that artmaking wasn’t just about monetary success. That it was a belief system which required hard work, honesty and integrity.  By today’s standards, that may seem naive and romantic, but it’s a life line for those of us still making art.

(Submitted via 125.pratt.edu/memory_project)

52 Responses to “Barbara Klein”

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    I’ve been cchatng up on your blog–what a wonderful experience this is–from meeting other artists and just being in this little piece of paradise (I hope to see a pomegranat tree someday :)

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