Rafi Chehirian is my father, an artist born in Sofia in 1956. In Bulgaria he painted in abstractions. In a span of five years during their immigration through a refugee camp in Austria and their setting foot in the United States, my father’s expression transformed entirely. I don’t know what happened.
In his notes, we found this: “i was in the postmodern maze for years. I found my way out. For now i am looking for beauty and poesy in the unassuming reality of man’s life. I wish i could do it the way knut hamsun wrote or skip james sung. I like these two.”
My father made a very new sort of painting in Brooklyn between 1994 and 1998. People in New York were either indifferent to or distressed by them. At one point dad just stopped showing them to anybody. I think that it was better that way for him. I think my dad was living some of the most exciting years of his life because of them. When we moved to New Jersey they were put up in an crawl space. They stayed there for 10 years for most of the time—with the exception of several times when dad dragged them all out into an upstairs bedroom to take photos of them or just look at them. When i got old enough to have feelings about them i liked to stand with him when he looked at them—at his stuff. It was really something different to experience them with through him.
He would say, from time to time, when looking at his stuff: you won’t sell them at a garage day someday, will you?