N the sitting room of Ann Barish's Park Avenue penthouse, pride of place goes to a portrait of Mrs. Barish
by a 26-year-old painter named Helen Garber
sat last week on a floral chintz sofa under the portrait, facing a LÈger on the opposite wall."I always wanted a portrait, but I didn't want to sit in a velvet dress with pearls," she
said."I definitely didn't want a John Singer Sargent."In the portrait, Mrs. Barish
, who gives her
age as early 50's, is on the telephone, her
hair an exaggerated blond.
Yet for the last four years, while building a modest reputation in the art world for her portraits of bikers, tattoo artists and heavy-metal groupies, Ms. Garber has supported herself largely through commissions from uptown patrons, including Mrs. Barish
and her friends.
Several of the subjects, like Mrs. Barish
, have become friends.
"I've met some very interesting people uptown," she
...Mrs. Barish grew up on Park Avenue, attended the Brearley School and is married to Keith Barish, a film producer and a founder of Planet Hollywood.
penthouse sitting room, Mrs. Barish
offered water in a monogrammed crystal glass, along with an opinion about Ms. Garber's tattoo.She
thought it a bit much.Specifically, she
worried about the health consequences of so much tattoo ink; already, Ms. Garber had postponed some of her
weekly tattoo sessions because she
thought they had contributed to swelling in her
When Mrs. Barish
met Ms. Garber four years ago, at a party at the Polish Embassy
was immediately taken by the younger woman's poise and vitality."I thought she
had so much pizazz," Mrs. Barish
said."We hit it off."The two women started going to museums together and talking about art.They became close, despite the differences in their ages and backgrounds.Mrs. Barish
brought Ms. Garber to uptown restaurants and parties.
, who hinted at a wild streak in her
past, was an art history major in college.She
found Ms. Garber surprisingly well versed in the classics."Her
technique is really old-fashioned," she
said.Titian, Giotto and van Eyck all worked in grisaille.
The two considered having the objects appear in a convex mirror, as in Jan van Eyck's "Arnolfini Marriage" (1434), but decided instead to place them around Mrs. Barish
, almost pushing her into the background.
brought some of her
friends to a March 2000 exhibition of Ms. Garber's biker portraits at the Bronwyn Keenan Gallery
in SoHo, and later to the same gallery for an exhibition of portraits of rock groupies."Those shows were rough ó which I like," Mrs. Barish
"I saw a few faces of Upper East Side matrons go like this," Mrs. Barish
added, dropping her
jaw in mock horror.
, for her
part, is ready for her
close-up."People always told me how women did portraits with all their diamonds," she