Pictured: Seated Nude, by Barbara Cushing, oil on canvas, 1976.
Owned by John Cunningham, Professor of Art (Sculpture)
Barbara Cushing was my first student assistant. She graduated in 1970. One of the things about this that I think is so significant is that unlike today’s academic world, we really were friends with our students. We socialized together, and were literally like a family... And we shared this commitment to art, and it was like a religion. We all believed, like the classic perspective drawing, that if we followed these railroad tracks far enough, we’d come to the point where they met, you know what I mean? And at that point there would be a miraculous enlightenment, an understanding. We just truly accepted that.
Barbara graduated and was teaching at the University of Maine at Orono, and invited me up there one winter to give a talk. And she brought me to her studio, and I walked in and saw a sight that absolutely blew me away. There was Barbara, working at the University of Maine in this horrible, horrible Maine winter. No friends. No boyfriend. Just blinding Maine darkness. It was depressing. She was in that room, and she was taking all this energy and driving it out with these self-portraits. I looked around and there must have been twelve or fourteen portraits like this. Ringing the walls, all the way around the wall. Against one wall, a giant mirror, and that chair that she sat in while she painted. It just blew me away…. So we traded pieces, and for years this painting has lived above my desk here at school, near the sculpture studio. I think it’s in the right place. It’s right that Barbara should be a part of the teaching environment, and part of my studio.
John Cunningham, 2012