This week’s cover by Rita Sklar is especially striking, not only because of its beauty but due to its mixture of literal representation and abstract representation. The image “Fishing” features an osprey—an endangered species, one of the many animals at risk that Sklar has used as a subject in her art. A particular element of the image is its mythic quality, a trait that appears in some of Sklar’s various works, subtle as it is. Her previous images, including an elephant and her offspring, convey an enduring aspect that approaches mysticism.
The cover also signifies flight—another motif of her work, seen in such pieces as her figures running in the street (notably the San Francisco Bay area) and a waving flag that is juxtaposed on a map.
What is the main point you’re trying to convey in your work about species at risk?
I want to send an urgent warning about the health of our environment and animals that are a loss to us.
What’s the story about the Osprey?
The Osprey was almost extinct a few years ago due to the use of [the pesticide] DDT, which caused its egg shells to be so thin it could not reproduce successfully. After DDT was banned, the Osprey returned. Like the canary in the coal mine, the osprey continued to be monitored to let us know how well we are doing protecting the environment.
Discuss the aesthetic values in your paintings.
I am inspired by flight, the beauty of feathers and wings in motion. The use of texture weaves a distinctive tapestry that adds complexity.
Your realistic and abstract forms also add complexity.
They reflect a balance between the two styles.
While you now live in Oakland, California, where else have you lived?
Originally from Millburn, New Jersey, I served in the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa, for two years before moving to California with my new husband, also a former volunteer.
What about your family?
We have two sons and four grandchildren. My mother was an artist who started me working on oil painting when I was 10 years old.
How about your training after that?
I returned to painting 15 years ago taking classes in watercolor in Spain and in the United States from master water media artists.
What are some awards you’ve received?
The National Museum of Women in the Arts presented me with an ¨Award of Distinction¨ in 2013. I was a finalist for BBC Wildlife Artist of 2011 and 2012, and I am a signature member of the California Watercolor Association.
I know you are still working on projects that help people, like your time in the Peace Corps. What are you currently doing?
I am currently working on a commission from a children´s hospital.