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Patricia Patterson — a painter poised between two worlds

April 16, 2011 |  8:00 am

PatriciaLike a planet subject to the gravitational pull of two suns, Patricia Patterson was long torn between mutually exclusive sources of nourishment and attachment: the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland, where she lived as a young student and returned a dozen times over the course of 30 years; and her life in the U.S., fully engaged as an artist, teacher, writer and partner to film critic and painter Manny Farber.

Ultimately, Patterson chose both, thus the title of her first retrospective exhibition, “Here and There, Back and Forth,” at the California Center for the Arts museum in Escondido (through June 30).

“It was a conundrum, something to solve,” she said, taking a break from the installation of the show last month. “It was always a kind of emotional turmoil, because I loved [Ireland] so much, and yet all my life I had so much here. I really did love the world there as much as anything I’ve ever experienced.”

The show’s more than 60 paintings give a good indication why the ancient, rocky island of Inishmore appealed to Patterson as well as how she managed to keep that world present in New York and, later, Southern California by making it the primary subject of her art. Sea, sky and field stretch across broad canvases, stark panoramic vistas of raw, natural beauty. Men raise glasses around the kitchen table, embrace their wives, skin a rabbit, smoke a pipe, read the newspaper. Women enter and exit the domestic stage, prepare spreads of bread and tea, tidy up, emit looks of concern or alarm, share convivial smiles.

Patterson renders the simple, whitewashed exteriors of the island homes and the boldly colored walls and furnishings of the rooms inside. She infuses the sketchy immediacy of snapshots with chromatic energy: warm terra cotta and tangerine buzz against cool ultramarine and gray. Glossy enamel frames in radiant combinations of sunflower, olive, mint, teal and aqua enclose scenes painted in matte, fresco-like casein.

For the full Arts & Books profile of her, click here.


Photo: Painter and installation artist Patricia Patterson with her retrospective exhibit at the California Center for the Arts;  Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times