It will come as little surprise to those who know his work to find that the painter Charles Garabedian is an opera fan. He paints on an operatic scale, of life and death and love and war. His subjects are larger-than-life mythological figures like Adam and Eve, Odysseus, Prometheus and Apollo. Hanging in the studio on the day of my visit is an ongoing series of paintings on paper based on Strauss’ opera "Salome."
Never one to take himself too seriously, however, the 87-year-old artist describes his passion in bemusedly self-effacing terms. “I like the music,” he says. “I love the singing. The singing is beautiful. The drama, the tragedies. Do you like Wagner? We’ve been to several Rings, my wife and I. I listen to that and I say this is the dumbest music I’ve ever heard, I feel foolish for liking it, and yet I’m drawn to it.”
Garabedian speaks humbly of painting as “nothing more than a journey of self-discovery” — he leaves it to others to label it art — and sounds as surprised as anyone by what he’s turned up along the way.
“Recently I said to myself, 'You’re a narrative painter, live with it.' I hate the idea of being a narrative painter. But even my abstract work is narrative. It’s all narrative! Then I look at myself and I say, 'Well, I like opera. What can be more narrative than those stupid operas?' The things that inspire me are tragedy and mythology and comedy. These are the things I deal with.”
To read my profile of the artist, who currently has a retrospective at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, click here.
Photo: The painter in his studio.
Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times