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    Robert Bharda (Ward) - Photo Provided

    Robert Bharda (Ward) – Photo Provided


    bill berry, jr.:


    Hey Robert, thanks for taking the time to chat with me.


    So, here’s the deal to get us started.  Your work is diverse, electrifying, vividly colorful, and moves across several landscapes of creative thought and expression.  You are no stranger to having your work before varied audiences, and you also have fluency with the written word.  Where does all this creativity and nurturing come from, and as a younger person did you see your life evolving towards the creative realm?



    Robert Bharda (Ward):  


    Thanks again for the invite and the very kind words.


    Some 40 years ago, I began to stop thinking of myself as an “artist,” but rather as a ‘conduit’ for artistic expression which was being generated by some ‘other’ that lived inside of me.  I prefer to link it directly to the subconscious (which I’ve named ‘that which loves you most.’?)  I’m describing a ‘living’ core of energy which encompasses a vast spectrum of enablement via roles as tour guide, librarian, guardian, mentor, genie, intuitor, translator, architect, et al.  A phrase I like to use is “ Entanglement is the ‘whole motion.’”  Finding our way through the million balls of string that ‘being’ is, is the journey.  We (by which I mean that thin, fragile, ever malleable surface waters of our consciousness) could never do it alone.  No matter how narcissistic one’s attitude toward their ‘gifts, ‘talents,’ ‘inspiration,’ etc, something is standing behind the curtain…organizing it all.


    I began a life in the arts attracted to voice and theatre art studies.  Even [in] preschool I remember summers watching the Marcel Marceau intermission shorts at a funky tiny country movie theatre in Millbrook, NY.  I could memorize them on the spot, and reenact them as I also did with mime segments of Red Shelton later for my grade school classes.  Where, how does such ‘innateness’ come from?  Forensics came next in HS (oratorical interpretation, debate, original oratory, extemporaneous speech, and dramatic monologue) which led to HS theatre and then to college theatre arts and Shakespeare.  Some would comment that it was my accumulation of experience that was forming a blueprint for my abilities.  I always knew that was wrong.


    With Vietnam in full swing, the stage progressively seemed frivolous, extraneous, shallow, I switched to the creative writing department and studied three years with Philip Booth, the most significant mentor of my life.  At the same time I became immersed in photography and guitar composition/lyrics.  But again, where does an intuitive, balanced ‘eye’ or a penchant for alternative tunings come from?  When I began an M.F.A. at the U. of O. and experienced a profound breakthrough in both poetry/fiction writing, I became convinced that some other ‘entity’ was expressing itself through me.  Consciously/emotionally, humor.  hunger, outrage, love are prime movers.  But to where?


    And why/how does one get….there?





    You touch on so many themes and philosophical ideas that I want to pursue and share my opinion.  However, I do understand that this chat is to uncover who you are as a creative person and not me, so bear with me if I should get caught up in my response to your responses.


    A very precious and adult life-long friend (and member of the aaduna Board) years ago stopped defining herself as a photographer, quilt maker, writer, and simply said she was an artist.  I was struck by her assessment as I am with your sense of self.  The idea that there is some immeasurable force, intuitive spirit, guiding force, a creative organizer that defines (or helps to define) creative expression defies so many pre-conceived thoughts regarding creativity, genius, prodigy.  In your life, you opened yourself to these “influences” and embraced them.  Your decisions beg the question, how did your parents/guardians react to your penchant for things creative?  Were they supportive after high school graduation when for so many parents, college means preparing for a paying career, job, doing better than what your parents had achieved etc.


    And to push this “preparation for life” nuance even farther, were there elements of unnecessary competitiveness at the college or MFA levels from other students?  At this moment in time, have you chronicled how many entities may be guiding you or expressing “gifts’ through your keen ability to bring such ideas to a manifested, physical level so that others (i.e. audience, readers, reviewers, fans) can react to?


    Describe the type of environment that you grew up in, in terms of the where, the feel of it, and your favorite childhood places besides the movie theatre.  And when you say the U of O, specifically what institution, Oregon, Ohio, etc.?





    I was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, NYC where we lived in a classic attached row house on 78th St. just block north of Northern Blvd.  My father had the great wisdom to buy, on a N.Y.F.D. firemans salary, a 28 acre lot in the upstate country, 10 miles east  of Poughkeepsie, NY.  The lot also included a very large cow barn, 1920s vintage, very well built and which Pop transformed to home by 1959.  We always spent our summers there, but moved permanently to it when I was 8.  The incredible fractal input in my childhood years of both city and rural landscape/cornucopia has always permeated my spectrum of world view.


    I was born the youngest son of a youngest son/daughter couple.  Mom was 42 and Pop 44 when I.popped.  Nearly everyone of family/love/daily experience seemed.old.  My two brothers were respectively 8 and 14 at my Roman Catholic baptism.  As the now legendary cartoonist, Gary Larson has so well immortalized, my two brothers fully embraced their sibling Darwinian duty.to kill me.  Pop was a rock.  WW2 artillery Captain vet, he commanded an all African American battery from Normandy to Passau where he remained in Military Govt till 1946.  One of the most utterly horrific concentration camps, Mausthausen, where Mengele performed most of his experiments was within his jurisdiction.  He rarely talked about either experience.  Finally home, he joined the N.Y.F.D. and had a meteoric rise to Battalion Chief by 1961.  Education: grade

    school only.  Like his favorite film, he was The Quiet Man, He had learned to be a father/husband from his Irish immigrant tyrant father.  I was deathly afraid of him until I was 22.


    Though born in Jersey City, NJ in 1907, and growing up a beautiful tomboy, playing street stick ball with the boys on E. 84th., Manhattan, she was heir to a Napoleonic Code disenfranchisement of her mother from an upper class New Orleans family.  Fierce?  Can anyone understand what that word embodies outside of mother love for her children?  I cant remember one instance in my or my brothers lives when if we asked her for help/advice that she didnt immediately switch her attention from whatever she was doing.  She was an impassioned lover of the arts.  Her mother was a concert pianist, and Mom had a latent grand opera voice.  One of my fondest memories is her in the kitchen singing along with the weekly radio presentation from the Met.  She supported me  1000% in any interest I had, and [was] hugely excited when it involved the arts.  There were never any questions from my parents about the life path I was choosing.  #1 They were somewhat overwhelmed by the range of intuition I was exhibiting throughout my  childhood.  At my HS senior year theatre performance, I was told he laughed and was in stitches in the realm of 56x.  Wow!  How many better moments of satisfaction could I wish for in life?


    My M.F.A. was done at the U. of Oregon, Eugene, 1976-79.  Id need at least a novella length MS to describe the utter prestidigitation/maturation/phoenix that evolved there for me.  From mentors John Haislip, Ralph Salisbury, and Bill Handy I got just the support/space I needed.  In short, Youre doing good work.Keep writing.


    Ive never experienced a bad workshop.  Believe me.I know what they are and how destructive they can be.  At Syracuse, the Creative Writing Dept. was separate from the English Dept.  With such a knockout faculty of Philip Booth, Bill Snodgrass, Donald Justice, et al, the English Dept. was literally in awe.  At the U. of O., tables were turned. The English Dept. continually mucked with funding; # of TAs to be appointed; requirements to earn an M.F.A., etc, I was outraged.  But to get back on topic, in every workshop Ive been involved with Ive been graced with mature fellow writers who have welcomed the opportunity to improve their own craft vis a vis improving their critical abilities and ears in a comfortable repartee.


    The Egyptians described an individual being as having 7 souls.  Works for me.  In fact, Im a devout pantheist.  You have to thank something for the one in a billion godzillion chances that were both here and enjoying this conversation.  The work Im doing now with Quanta Smears demands sense evolution, including the 6th and any other level/ability we can grow into.  Our senses are surrounded by peripherals.  And yet the brain grasps them and choreographs their synaptic map.





    I now better understand your creative aura based not only on your childhood but your educational and university experiences, intellectual growth, and am reminded of the saying that all experiences (including negative ones) are worthwhile as long as you learn something from them.  While the Egyptian view of the soul may be that it had multiple parts versus multiple, distinct souls, I am struck that your Ba and Akh have a pervading presence in who you are.  And not to get into another topic i.e. philosophical Egyptology, I am interested in your pantheist worldview.  From that perspective, how do you deal with the negativity that is intrinsic in most individuals?  And are you creating art because it is what you do regardless of other opinions but are you actually guided/influenced by what patrons, supporters, or benefactors want from you artistically, and when offered commissions are there some that you will not accept because it is diametrically opposed to your sense of self and world view?  With your background, what compelled you to settle in Seattle, which I think is where you now call home?   


    {I found it interesting that you were able to experience the urban/rural arenas as a young, maturing person.  For me, as a born and bred Bronxite, I did not readily embrace the rural/agricultural aspect of New York or that type of lifestyle until I was well into adulthood at 48 years of life, and my life travels outside of the US always centered around (and may still do) urban environments.  I have now lived in Auburn, NY for longer than I lived in Co-op City in the Bronx where I was nestled for 17 years!}   





    Among the great affections/addictions of my life have been “peripherals” and “punning.”


    Perhaps my Mother started me on the ‘peripheral’ road.  She was a ‘Marian,’ a fringe cult of ‘Mary” within Catholicism, toward which a shallow, though munificent toleration has been feted by Rome/the Vatican for 1500 years.  After Sunday mass, she always lit prayer candles.  First/only stop would be the alcove devoted to ‘The Mother Of God.’  On rare occasions, ‘St. Joseph’ on the far right would also be included.  Though easy to define (devotion to the Mother Of God), its difficult to characterize.  Marians share a ‘vibration’ rather than a 3-D, organized ‘presence’ (“The Rosary Society,” traditionally all women, reflects this though few Catholics participate nor understand it).  Marians focus on the feminine aspect of the ‘Godhead/Trinity’ that should be, but isn’t.  So it is ‘made’ so through their intense spiritual absorption in a living, fully fleshed feminine icon who not only promises: solace, intercession, forgiveness, surcease of sorrow, numinosity, but delivers it.  Via Mom’s ‘example,’ I became empowered to discover…’another’…’others.’  That awakening, inside the Church, can come from the fringes…the peripherals: Dead Sea Scrolls, Thomas Aquinas, Theilhard de Chardin, Thomas Merton, et al.


    As to ‘punning,’ it’s probably just my Irish blood.  I seek humor, paradox, edginess in almost every aspect of life.  I can’t help referencing “Finnegan’s Wake,” one unceasing neologistic pun.  Whether in written, spoken word, TV commercials on mute, signs/bumper stickers/vanity license plates, song lyrics, et al, my brain automatically chooses to misread to extract…humor.  A favorite example of how peripherals and humor combined effortlessly in me comes from an 8th grade competition among local parochial schools to write and deliver an address themed “The Saint I Most Admire.”  Already  tagged for both composition and forensics, I got the nod from my nun/teacher.  I chose…St. Dismas, ‘the thief/saint who stole heaven.’  Though no one opposed the choice, there certainly was little enthusiasm.  Talk about a ‘tough audience,’ I have never seen so many rolling/downcast eyes and heavy sighs again.  I lost.


    First week at Syracuse U., I quit attending ‘mass.’  I already had a sense of the ‘pantheistic’ other.  I pursued courses in Comparative Religions, and Fine Arts (I can honestly say I’ve learned more from great painting than from other writers).  Jung’s ‘Man And His Symbols” was a defining enlightenment.  By 25, I had read his whole opus and began following his students’ and compadres’ works as well, James Hillman, Joseph Campbell, Marie Louise Von Franz (whose “On Divination And Syncronicity; The Phenomenon Of Meaningful Chance” has had the most profound effect on my world/cosmic/existence view of the last 5 years).


    I’m a pantheist.  I don’t care who/what you kneel down in front of and thank.  But gratitude, thanksgiving, recognition of the gods/angels/kachinas/spirits/ancestors/the wee people/green men who surround us is the portal of…..enlightenment.  To believe that we are riding a rock through the boundless unpopulated/unobserved universe is absurdity.  Fact is – we don’t know dick about ‘reality.’  We’ve all bought into the comfortable illusion/sham/jail of what human civilization tells us is order, time, space, the  inexorable limits of our senses.  We’re on the edge of vast intellectual/spiritual evolution, and it will come from our ‘peripherals.’ what we see, what we can’t see but can intuit; what is there but morphs, what we overlook or ignore.


    I trust in the essential goodness in humans.  Spoken like an Irish man whose ancestors endured 600 years of English genocide!  ….. Laughter is the best medicine.  Oh….I’ve been beat up pretty well (not more than my share….I’m still alive!).  I’ve a disarming smile, a Santa Klaus face, and an Orwellian voice.  What’s more  essential to human spirit: love or laughter?  Can they be separated?


    Why Seattle (30 years – more than I’ve lived anywhere or in the same structure elsewhere!?)  The Pacific Northwest is close to the top of the most beautiful, mostly uncrowded, racially and sexually tolerant diverse and “lovin’ it”  part of the lower 48.  I met my wife ( Kathleen Pheifer, a firecracker fiction writer, (see “The Birds Were Molting,”: 1989, Word Beat Press) ), while doing an MFA at the U. of O./Eugene, an environment which was/is a last welcome bastion of the ‘Counter Culture.’  If you’ve never experienced the Oregon Coast (100% open to the public) you’re missing an 8th wonder.  For three years, post M.F.A., I ran a small antique/retro store, “Eccentricities,” a block off campus.  I remained active in the arts/writing scene as an asst. fiction editor for the Northwest Review.  Following Kathy’s job hunting success, we moved to Bend, OR.  a 2 ½ hour drive east over the Cascades.  Gorgeous, haunting, unforgettable country; but no ‘culture.’  I had already begun a vocation in vintage photographica, I experienced a pure joy traveling throughout Eastern Oregon, seeking collections of historical images for sale, researching, meeting with historical societies, appraising, unearthing.  


    Four years later, still following Kathy’s job hunting skills, and the physically ‘virtual’ nature of my biz.  we moved to Seattle.  The Arts scene here was wonderfully muscular till 1990 when the pro-sports teams began a major siphon of public funds.  ‘Location!  “Location!”  Through the profound benign guidance of closest spirit/kachina, the first house Kathy looked at to rent in our transition, we bought the next year.  Just south of I-90 in a 1950’s hood, we’re….15 minutes from… everything: Pioneer Square, Sea-Tac, the foothills of the Cascades.  The ground transportation issues here have been headline since we arrived, and characterized as only worsening.  Other places to live: Santa Fe?  We love it.


    Now…the ‘Smears/’





    Whew.  Let me catch my breath.  You have taken us on a journey that illuminates who you are, your journey, and your arrival at your current stage of development.  So, what is your next pathway?  And do you ever think about forecasting the end of your journey both literally and figuratively?  What lessons do you want to leave as your legacy?  And understand, in no way do these questions suggest that you are nearing a transition from this life plane to another more spiritual one.    





    “The expression of a mystery by way of a mystery,”  Kandinsky.


    Always an intractable note taker/revisionist, my file drawers are jammed with notebooks, endless file folders of old drafts, snippets of sound/voice/conversations overheard, doodling, jokes, quotations, dreams, some journal like remarks from specific days.  I love the asymmetry of an early draft with revisions penned/scrawled around them like sperm around an egg.  I go through this recyclable assemblage every 5 years and always marvel at what shakes out for me to work with again.  Did I miss something originally, or had I yet to live what that poem/short fiction needed to be?


    I’ve created a list of ‘intuitive’ rules for my own writing.  They have universal application for all writers (especially nascent authors), and cross-genre artists.  Among copious note-taking and  ensuring there’s always pencil/paper nearby, others include: never talk your inspirations away until you’ve completed a first draft; work the language; cut half the words and the composition will improve 100%; welcome all criticism, but ‘protect’ your creativity; when ‘blocked’ reread your ‘finished’ work because the fractal power of your cadence/intuition/inflection are captured there, OR ask yourself ‘What’s The Poem About?’ and answer in 3 words or less, OR, have another art genre(s) you enjoy working with and lay the pen down for awhile, et al. The dynamics of each genre are not all the same, but can feed and refine issues in your whole artistic circumspection.  For the last 25 years I’ve been developing a long work, “Living In The House Of The Poem” containing the above and constellations between and outside.  It will never be completed and I hope to add to it until it becomes “legacy.”


    After four decades of viewing/analyzing some millions of vintage photographica from its inception, and a lifelong voraciousness for fine art, my whole being is saturated by fractals of recognition.  I am an over the top lucid dreamer.  The first question an image historian asks in quest of provenance is “What am I looking at?”  The peripheral/ephemeral knowledge necessary to answer that question is a profound matrix/internet in itself.


    My adventure with “Quanta Smearing” began in 2009 – “play” between antique images (mostly 1900-1955 real photo postcards) and my scanner creating often comic images which orchestrated motion and heightened revelation to an otherwise static portrait/landscape.  In November, 2012, it struck me while walking in a very special nearby park, that the phenomena could be elevated further by using completely natural/organic elements/specimens: leaves, mushrooms, flowers, grasses, stones, seashells, et al.


    The integral dynamic between art and stages of human consciousness, sleep and subconscious are a given.


    Each work of art first strikes the reader/listener’s ear with ‘welcome,’ the eye as ‘invitation.’  Does it matter if the work is offensive or pleasurable?  Once viewed/heard, ‘art’ remains indefinitely encrypted within our synapse/neuron loops.


    The magnetism that draws us into the 2nd stage: “suggestion” – is a Calypso like beckoning in which the charm of the ‘work,’ if the viewer allows, portals to a 3rd stage: intuitive hypnogogia/seduction – a psychic subconscious surrender webbing our own experience with what the art/artist suggests…..is true.  This ‘entanglement’ is ‘quanta.’


    Hand in hand with each view, is a ‘title’ which if anything offers the viewer a ‘key’ to what….I see in the image.  But what does the viewer see?  My suggestion or they’re own ‘recognition?’  Or both?


    When Queequeg tosses his bones in “Moby Dick,” and perceives approaching mortality, what does he see/hear?  Are the bones a vernacular language, or are they simply a portal?  Has he seen this dynamic of forms before, or do they illicit/radiate a ‘personal’ gravity wave from a synchronicity/event horizon already shaped and rushing toward him?


    Marie Louise von Franz, a noted student of Carl Jung, reflects in her classic “On Divination And Synchronicity: The Psychology Of Meaningful Chance,” her encounter with a well-established European palm reader.  After an initial meeting, she queries the spiritual savant as to how he intuits his vision/predilection.  Does it come directly from the hand’s patterning?  She had suspected not.  No, the reader responded.  When von Franz first entered the room, he ‘knew’ all he needed to know.  The palm lines were simply road/window to fine tune his intuition.


    In ‘smearing’ this process seems to reach a pinnacle of emotional/psychic tangibility by diminishing the obvious to a barely recognizable fractal wave/circuit, not unlike cubism or Picasso’s Minotaurs and bulls.


    Break the fractal pattern, and pure ‘quanta’ leaps out like synapse from the neuron box.


    I don’t think of ‘legacy’ as in traditional usage.  When finally we peek under the curtain of illusion via death/evolution, I believe we’ll find there is no ‘time’ but the present, the all encompassing phenom of ‘now.’  A creative life is not a path.  It’s more a vortex turning around and upward on its axis, an inside out onion, a bulb that thrives on flowering over and over.  If I don’t create, a horrible pit of emptiness grows in me.  And it’s excruciating.




    Our conversation has been a wonderful journey for me…what I have learned from you as a person and a creative person.  Thank you. 


    ♦ ♦ ♦


    View Robert Bharda’s photography exhibit featured in aaduna’s Penalver Gallery in the summer/fall 2015 issue :




    Click below to read additional conversations:


    summer/fall 2015


    Click to read conversations from previous issues:


    fall/winter 2014

    summer 2014



    Message from Bill Berry, Jr


    When aaduna started, I did an interview process titled “E-Viewpoints” with contributors. The purpose was to construct a wider audience for aaduna writers and artists while providing our readership with a better understanding and glimpse of the individuals who penned the poetry, fiction, and non-fiction and created the diverse array of visual arts. For a variety of unplanned reasons, I took a hiatus from that initiative. But now, I am back with “Conversations.” The plan is to chat with current and previous contributors and delve into aspects of their background that you may find intriguing and uplifting. I hope you become a regular follower of this series of “Conversations” and continue to enjoy the work of the individual that I have a chat with. The intent is not to be “in your face” but enable you to savor the nuances, expectations, and challenges that aaduna contributors face as people, just like you and me. I think you will find “Conversations” interesting, maybe provocative, and enlightening. I hope so.


    Stay Creative,