Zakanitch: You know, I don’t have a connection to any of that. It’s a philosophy that I’ve got about the societies we’re all living in. All societies are basically dealing with the whole patriarchal attitude, which is all about kind of a machismo and power. Anything else, somehow, isn’t taken seriously. Gentility and sweetness are always considered inferior; in men, those qualities are considered weaknesses. I just got so sick of that way of thinking, and I felt that these are really powerful things in us and you don’t walk away from gentility, you don’t walk away from compassion or sentimentality—they tell us who we are.
Something happened to me after 9/11 that was really interesting. After feeling terrible for days, I just had this incredible burst of creativity and I knew it was right. I just thought … I have to start mending this firmament that’s been absolutely torn to shreds and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them do that. So I started writing to friends and saying, now’s the time to really start being creative because this is really important. This is vital and essential—a real confrontation and one way of dealing with it.
Bark: I’m struck by the noble mission you entrust to art.
Zakanitch: My task as an artist is to plant seeds by my paintings (and children’s books) to create balance in this world by attempting to mend this constantly shredded firmament. I cannot think of anything of greater importance. For me, it is about evolution through the awareness of art, our humaneness and compassion.