press release

The first exhibition of Vida Bernice Ratzlaff Hackman in Austria. An artist in a variety of media who exhibited extensively in the Los Angeles area for nearly 20 years and was one of the founders of Triad Graphic Workshop. Born in Bakersfield, Hackman received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UC Santa Barbara and a second master’s at Cal State Northridge. She began an on-and-off teaching career at several institutions, including West Los Angeles College, in 1969. Her art making was a succession of meditations upon ideas. Etymological analysis coupled with humor and a profound sense of the ironic were among her tools. She had at least seven solo exhibitions at the Orlando Gallery in Sherman Oaks. Of her last show at the Orlando in 1998, a Times critic said, “The conceptual art spirit is alive and well in her.” But as with many artists, Hackman’s success in her field did not always yield financial rewards. “The better she got, the less money she made as an artist,” her friend and printmaking colleague Henry F. Klein said. Her final show, “The Bridge and the Boat,” was on display at the the Todd Madigan Art Gallery at Cal State Bakersfield through May 6. 1999. She died of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center 1999 on 15th of April.

VIDA HACKMAN by Bill Lasarow
(CSU Bakersfield, Todd Madigan Gallery, Bakersfield) It has always been a wonderful quality: Art’s capacity to emerge out of the most personal, yes, trivial sources, and to afford us fresh visual experience that also illuminates Big Questions. Vida Hackman translates an obsession with birds, childhood memories, and the ambience of California’s enormous San Joaquin Valley into exceptionally fascinating and moving art.
This survey of her work done since the early 1980’s features a central cast including ravens, doves, crows, jackdaws, ducks--and those are just the birds.

Two-dimensional studies--paintings, drawings, watercolors, photographs--express formal examination of favored subjects, but a deeply internal and symbolic connection to them as well. Some of this material ultimately found its way into the central constructions that crucially lift Hackman’s body of work out of the ordinary. Squire Raven’s Boat and Dinghy for Squire Raven’s Boat are at once odd contraptions and stately funerary vessels--they are both puzzling and illuminating. And, happily, they provide the kind of visual stimulation via their rich detail that is formally well balanced and organized.

Hackman has at least toyed with the idea of a performance in which she sails her art down the Kern River (a short distance from her studio), making it clear that ancient Egypt plays upon her imagination.