The ghosts of Tom Joad, George and Lennie and Adam Trask are up and down the Salinas Valley. They lived hard lives with moments of grace.
I read Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden and traveled 2400 miles crisscrossing the Salinas Valley.
In the wind and sun and dust I became acutely aware of a particular power in his writing-It's about the proximity of opposites: Love/Hate, Scarcity/Abundance, Strong/Weak, Bold/Meek.
The more closely played off one another, the more impactful the result.
As a visual artist this makes sense.
He used the shadow (ego & human frailty) extensively to reveal the light and always, however dim, the possibility of redemption.
There is great beauty in the shadow.
It was something I needed to be reminded of.
There is truth in that edge too.
Passing Storm 28" x 40" $24,000
Factory Shadow 40" x 30" $29,000
Aggregate Yard in White Light 28" x 40" $24,000
The above work was painted cheifly from life in an area along the Mississippi, not far from my studio known as "Pig's Eye", named for a colorful 19th century Character who lived along the river.
The bleached white light and harmonious color with a shock of blue sky punctuated by small bits of red and yellow totally sent me. The challenges of dust, dirt and the rumbling of massive dump trucks passing within a few feet away was thoroughly unnerving.
It's the price we pay in trying to capture the DNA of a place.
Chapel of St. Francis 1830 18" x 24" $8,900 — SOLD
January, Mt. San Jacinto 14" x 22" $6,900 — SOLD
After the Storm 8” x 12” $3,400 — SOLD
East Facing 28" x 40" $24,000
Tuscan Sfumato 8" x 12" $3,400 — SOLD
The Greeks defined Ecstasy (Ekstasis) as "to be or stand outside or beside oneself."
When I am painting most fluidly and naturally it is the confluence of control and abandon; it is the place where I am truly beside myself.
It is a hard place to get to, and a hard place to stay in.
Why does it feel so good?
Being "beside ones self" allows us momentarily to view ourselves objectively in relation to the whole - which allows for humility and opening.
As individuals, we are limited.
True connection means giving up some control and trusting in connecting to the universal.
When I can open, I receive.
When reception combines with personal vision, unlimited growth is possible.
Despite what contemporary wisdom says; it's not just about us.
Creation is collaboration.
A special thanks to my dear friend Ryan Johnson who turned me on to the book "Divine Madness" by Joseph Pieper and helped me look deeper.
Splintered Hemlock 28" x 40" $24,000
Madeline Island Relics 8" x 12" $3,300 — SOLD
Seasons release their grip reluctantly here in Minnesota, but then, I'm not great with change either. With age, the passing of summer has taken on greater significance for me; there is a wistfulness attached which I can only attribute to time of life and with that, an increasing amount of goodbyes and the accompanying changes that follow. At the same time, I find a profound and delicate beauty in such transitions. Splintered Hemlock and Madeline Island Relics are my nod to the poignance of change.
Gold, Grain & Graffiti 28" x 40" $24,000
Healing Place 28" x 40" $24,000
A while back, my friend Bob, a Native American shared with me this phrase, "Mitakuye' Oyasin" which he translated to "All things connected, all things one."
During successive days spent in silence along the Mississippi and in the forest on Lake Superior the phrase stayed with me.
I thought I was going after fleeting light effects on a large scale, but underneath it all I was really trying to make some order in a chaotic world and find a measure of balance and peace for myself.
Painting was my excuse.
All things connected - every shape, every color, every mark, every thought.
Nothing is separate.
Light and love connect everything.
Spring in Vermillion 24" x 30" $14,000
Old Bordello, Superior Wisconsin 8" x 12" $3,300 - SOLD
Evening Light, Hemet 18 x 24" $9,000 — SOLD
It was a pleasure to get out of the Minnesota winter to teach and paint.
A successful and enjoyable workshop was followed by eight days painting with my good friend John Cosby both on Catalina as well as the mainland. The following paintings were created with a great deal of laughing and intense work. A special thanks to John for the daily driving on brutally winding roads.
Since I will be taking a year off from the Catalina Island Conservancy show, all paintings are immediately available for purchase.
Ancient Sycamore 18" x 24" $9,000 - SOLD
Chapel of St. Francis (1830) 8" x 12" $3,300 - SOLD
Island Soapstone 8" x 12" $3,300
Velvet Wind 8" x 12" $3,300 - SOLD
Sun and Rain 8" x 12" $3,300
Eucalyptus Above Shark Harbor
8" x 12" $3,300 - SOLD
Fog Above the Channel 8" x 12" $3,300
Wisconsin Primaries 28" x 40" $24,000
This January marks my seventeenth year painting this valley.
The locals know my red '87 Chrysler Fifth Avenue and wave as they go by. Within these three or four square miles I always find something to connect with. The folks are kind but not familiar which allows me to be present yet almost invisible at the same time.
Not a visitor but not a guest — a curious anonymity.
I feel like a ghost watching and recording, yet removed from the reality unfolding in front of me.
This magic space I believe allows me a private window — a privileged glimpse if I'm lucky, to a more internal, unguarded view.
Vuillard and Morandi found a universe in the most intimate spaces: humble, quiet subjects which became vehicles to access the soul.
20 years ago if someone had told me I'd find that on the corners of county roads N and Q in Wisconsin, I would have said they were crazy.
Grit and Reflection 28" x 40" $22,000
I had a wonderful visit both teaching and painting this past July through the Farigh Ghaderi Studio. The students were wonderful. Plans are in the works for another workshop next June.
Thank you Farigh, Linda & Noah & family for the wonderful hospitality.
Old Town Stockholm 8" x 12" $3,300 - SOLD
Windy Day, Stockholm 8" x 12" $3,300
Birka, Viking Island 8" x 12" $3,300
Northern Expanse 28" x 40" — $24,000
Any growth in my art has always been linked to personal growth.
It's a hard thing to speak of without sounding trite.
None of us goes through life unscathed and it's that way by design.
Evolution stems from new growth, and new growth from friction, wearing away what does not serve us. Every time I pass though a great period of challenge comes change, and with it small glimpses into the bigness of existence.
I feel expansive for a short while and in tune to the universal in the particular: its a magic fleeting glimpse into the grand connection.
Looking into infinite space was just what I needed.
Mohawk Valley Spring 24" x 30" — $15,000
O.K., I know - I've been avoiding obvious beauty for a long time. At times even finding it trite and predictable, but this time it dumped my books and took my lunch money - I've been schooled.
The Mohawk Valley took my breath away: expansive, exquisite and boldly delicate all at once.
The vibe was distinctive and ancient.
The wind that moved through the valley carried with it the fragrances of spring and the whispered voices of it's rich past.
While painting this, a rainstorm caused me to retreat to the porch of a old farmhouse where I sat and watched the weather move through the valley. I closed my eyes and breathed it in deeply.
The smell of fresh wind, wet earth and buds unfolding simply finished me.
I highly recommend it.
Blue-Collar 28" x 40" — $24,000
My dad worked for the railroad all of his adult life: iron worker, dock builder, mason, carpenter and eventually up the brutal food-chain to support a family of seven. When I was eighteen, due to over-enrollment at the School of Visual Arts, I could not start until Spring Semester and Dad said he would make a call.
He arranged a meeting with the man who ran the massive Harborside Terminal in Jersey City on the Hudson. Many years before he had done side work for him laying cinder-block walls.
In short, I got a job beyond my capabilities as a maintenance man for seven long months, under the raspy hand of a brilliant engineer.
Enthusiastic but with little mechanical skill I struggled to keep-up and worked on toilets, freight elevators, thawed frozen pipes with an ancient acetylene torch and cleaned-out and demoed an old cold-storage building.
I was the only white serviceman working in the mammoth facility.
Many good people I worked with felt that this was as far as they were going to go, and surviving was as good as it might get.
In a short period of time I was headed off to art school... with possibilities.
I was given a great gift and a great gift of perspective.
When I drove down Watson street it all came flooding back.
Life's patina has a way of clarifying reality for me.
A wonderful quote from the Velveteen Rabbit sums it up beautifully:
"How do you become Real?" asked the rabbit.
"It doesn't happen all at once" said the skin horse, "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real most of your hair has been loved off and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to those who don't understand."
February's Edge 28" x 40" — $20,000 - SOLD
What is it about a particular place that calls us back again and again?
For the last 20 years I've painted this valley; a little section of crossroads and rolling hills that I feel at home in. It has become a pleasant foil to all of the Industrial subjects I have painted.
It's like you are no longer just a visitor -- the place gets used to having you around and says, "You know where the key is, let yourself in."
Eventually you get to see behind the curtain. Becoming familiar has allowed me the privilege of going more deeply and pure subject has become increasingly less significant.
Someone once said, "If you stay in one place long enough and go deep, you have the chance to find the universal in the particular."
I believe that to be true.
December Mist 28" x 40" — $20,000 - SOLD
A friend/collector once said to me "Your work feels alone but not lonely" -- when I thought about that, it made sense.
Having grown up with four siblings in a small house and sharing a room most of my life, being alone was rare and only accomplished by disappearing on long weekend walks.
Out the door, through a small patch of woods, across the county golf course would land me in an industrial park and if I kept going, into a great stretch of woods before hitting I-80.
Alone on those walks, a pleasant sensation would overtake me: I began to feel invisible -- a watcher who wasn't being watched.
I could breathe.
The days spent on the river in a rare December Mist brought it all back.
A Gentle Indifference 24" x 30" — $14,000 — SOLD
After a wonderful but intense workshop on Madeline Island two days working alone in the forest was exactly what I needed. As a silent visitor I found the woods slowly envelop me. At the same time a wonderful line by Albert Camus from his book The Fall kept repeating in my head, he wrote,
"I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world."
That's exactly what I felt; Nature has no ego, tolerates us and is gently indifferent to our existence.
Crossroads at Bubbling Springs 24" x 30" - $14,000
My wife Natalie once said to me, "People make art for many different reasons" and when I was younger, the simple desire to study form or make a cloud float was enough to send me on my merry way. I miss the simplicity of being so easily engaged and entertained.
It may sound strange or possibly even precious to some of you, but at this point in my life the idea of simply "making pictures" does little for me. The pull of my life now guides me (whether I like it or not) to the conclusion that painting without some deep connection is simply a waste of my time.
Though I am drawn to that "something more" I can't often identify what it is unless I wander and listen & feel.
It was Corot who said "Be guided by feeling alone." In my case, thought always follows feeling and explains why so much idea or concept-driven work has always left me cold.
The recent tragic passing of a friend and my own life challenges have given me much to think about: what's real? what is truly of value?
Though I am not often given to visual metaphor, I was pulled to paint this crossroads. I suppose I was drawn to the complexity and connected beauty of it's path.
For me, creation rarely occurs without friction.
Brooklyn Diptych: Domino Sugar 18" x 24"
& Williamsburg Bridge 18" x 24" - $17,000
I have spent a good deal of time working in New York this Spring: A Mamaroneck workshop, Salmagundi Club show & time painting with my good friends Andrew & Donna Lattimore.
Though I generally don't believe in happy accidents regarding art, this turned out to be the exception; these two works were not originally intended to be together - an unintentional diptych.
When I saw the old Domino Sugar factory I was simply compelled to paint it. Stepping back to take in the view, I saw the composition with the bridge and hoped to get back again and catch the image. As fate would have it, we did get back, had sun and I was able to get the second painting.
It wasn't until we got the work out that night and had them sitting side by side the Donna commented that they lined up perfectly.
I never thought of myself as a diptych kind of guy - never say never.
A special thank-you to Lorian Jacks and the Lattimores for their splendid hospitality.
Domino Sugar 18" x 24"
Williamsburg Bridge 18" x 24"
Rural Farm Delivery 24" x 30" - $13,500
Some thoughts on critics and clear days:
As an artist in our time, is it trite to be moved and inspired by nature?
The last 100 years of art criticism would lead one to believe so - the funny thing is, those very critics would enjoy the same clear perfection, the same elemental connection to that day as me.
When did it become cool to not declare that which you love - that which deeply moves you?
The last 100 years of art criticism would say you were "merely sentimental" and tell you it was your job to "ask a question" or to "challenge the notion of..."
If you want to challenge the notion of something why not ask why it is so common today for artists to subordinate themselves to their desire for relevancy or why in contemporary art criticism, one must have their work relate contextually to something else.
We simply cannot accept that was "is" - simply, "is."
That which "is not" requires classification, evaluation and a scaffolding of words to elevate it when it is utterly incapable of doing it alone.
I get it. We are all insecure at times and believing that we have something to add to the world is a tall order, but why not consider risking love over irony? Or genuine connection over clever concept?
Why not have the courage to say to the world with elegance, grace and beauty: "I Love This."
Brutal 24" x 30" - $14,000 - SOLD
In nature's most brutal moments I find great beauty. Where the violence of nature co-mingles with exquisite subtlety I find great excitement. I suppose I simply prefer my beauty with teeth in it.
Valley Sawmill 28" x 40" - $22,000
Furrows & Fractions 24" x 30" - $13,500 - SOLD
After a recent painting trip West was cancelled, I headed to Wisconsin for three days with high expectations and large canvases.
The weather was sharp, cold and overcast but the compensation was rich color and a seemingly heightened sense of sound and smell. While painting the prairie school, I was treated to the crisp, almost ceramic sounds of a farmer stacking wood on that lonely road. With the working sawmill, the pungent, resinous fragrance of wet, fresh sawdust. These sensory gifts create in me a heightened sense of awareness which without doubt, inform the work.
I worked straight through the days standing on uneven ground in freezing mud with a bad back.
Well into day 3 - shivering, I unscrewed my thermos and realized I was smiling.
Thanks to my friend Andrea Gerasimo for her wonderful hospitality.
5:30 AM Schmidt Brewery 30" x 40" - $20,000 - SOLD
I may have missed out on the sounds of whistles, shift-changes and kegs being loaded, but at five-thirty am when the world is still asleep, I swear you can still hear them.
For over 100 years, this brewery was the epicenter of this working class neighborhood in St. Paul and kept many families alive and comfortably numb in the process.
One needs to be anything but numb when confronting such a fleeting effect. Recording that narrow window between night and day has it's challenges. It took nine mornings to get this on canvas and I was working against time in more ways than one: as a pre-dawn painting my window of opportunity was very short and the building was slated for immediate renovation to be turned into artists lofts.
I spent two days walking around the enormous footprint of the complex to find the composition and time of day I felt would make the most of the buildings unique silhouette. I was drawn to a combination of organic and rectilinear form which created a varied, contrasting trip for the eye. Further, I was challenged by the fact that the color had to be dense but still luminous.
After those nine intense mornings I was ready for a beer.
Just a month later, the restoration has begun and the view is forever changed.
It's amazing how quickly a plein air painting can become part of history.
Monday on the Mississippi 28" x 40" - $22,000
I am a daydreamer - always have been.
What I used to get scolded for is ironically how I now make a living.
This big view looking South on the river is exactly the kind of thing that would charge my imagination when I was a kid. I could free-spool for hours about being a deck-hand on the boats or hopping into an open door as the train went by. Where would I end up?
Surely one could survive anything with a pocketknife and a few canned goods. Soon I would be vaguely aware of being yelled at - "Mr. Paquet, do you have something you would like to share with the class?"
Sister Anthony Marie I give you "Monday on the Mississippi."
Feed Station in Autumn 24" x 30" - $13,000
Organic Geometry, 28" x 40" $19,500 - SOLD
Sometimes good things rise out of the ashes of failure and this painting makes the point. Two weeks ago we had a freak Spring snowstorm and I was bent on getting in a large painting that said "Winter."
Instead I spent four hours trying to salvage a painting where the snow melted faster than I could catch it.
When I brought it back to the studio my ego told me "I can make this work" so I spent a caffeine-fueled hour pounding its chest and yelling "breathe, dammit breathe." Despite my best efforts it was all over by two-thirty. I scraped no less than $25.00 worth of lead white off the canvas while I rationalized that, "It was for the best."
Vowing not to be in such a hurry next time, I spent a couple of days walking, looking and feeling out some locations here in St. Paul. When I saw this I was stopped in my tracks. For a guy who grew up in a working class neighborhood this had it all: grit, history -- the railroad. Those retaining walls had as much character as the face of a 100-year-old man. I was lucky this time -- the weather was perfect. For three days I banged away, blissed-out and feeling totally alive.
Same canvas, different ending.
I keep relearning things.
Morning Rythms, Yosemite 12" x 16" - $4,400
White Tanks, Blue Day 30" x 40" $21,000 - SOLD
These days I am often pulled toward unusual color harmonies, this scene stopped me in my tracks: the gray-violet of the sky, the green grass and sun-washed white tanks. Looking even deeper however I was blown - away by the myriad of color in the white tanks (see detail at right). I was completely transfixed by the wonderful, complex subtlety of it. In fact it is almost everything but white!
For three days I worked on this outdoors being mindful not to simply overload the painting with "stuff" adding only that which I felt would add to the big look using choice bits of intense color to serve the overall neutrality of the picture.
Florentine Nocturne, 30" x 40" - $21,000 — SOLD
Morning on the Mississippi, St. Paul, 28" x 40" - $19,500 - SOLD
Brooklyn with Barrel 28" x 40" - Oil on Mounted Linen - SOLD
He Sleeps with the Fishes 28" x 40" - O/ML - $20,000 - SOLD
Breath Deep II 22" x 28" - Oil on Mounted Linen - $13,000
God Made California on a Monday 22" x 28" - Oil on Mounted Linen - $13,000 - SOLD
Wilbur Returns 28" x 40" - Oil on Mounted Linen - $22,000
The title of the painting is a play off the title from a winter painting done in the same area a few years ago titled "Come Back Wilbur."
I am usually traveling during the best of the Fall season so made up my mind this year to do a major painting from life before the leaves were gone. This painting is a graduate study in unity and variety. Being a "flat light" picture with very little shadow I had my challenges with defining form and making strong bits of color take their place in the distance. Sometimes odd challenges pique my curiosity, like the dried-out pond in the foreground or the plastic wrapped hay bales in the middle distance. Anyway, regardless of all of the subjective choices I make in a painting, the truth of nature always keeps me in a humble place.
Just Off 'Q' 27" x 40" - Oil on Mounted Linen - $20,000 - SOLD
It's rare for me to come across a place that I can paint repeatedly and find new excitement each time. Fourteen years ago I painted this homestead for the first time, and have been coming back ever since. This time I felt compelled to paint a large version on site, in an effort to record the farm before it actually sinks into the ground.
From a painting standpoint it was a study in what I refer to as "optical painting" in other words, when focused on a given area, what does one perceive through ones peripheral vision. Hence a studied simplification away from the area of interest.
Shimmering Avalon 18" x 24" Oil on Mounted Linen - $8,200 - SOLD
Catalina Island has become something of a 'home away from home' for me. I connect to the place in a visceral way. Leaving Saint Paul in the very heart of winter and arriving at this freshly-washed, green island is a tonic to my soul. The rough electric shock of the drastic change of scenery allows a contrast which makes me appreciate both worlds more intensely and individually.
Woodsmoke & Wet Sawdust 18" x 24" Oil on Mounted Linen - $8,200 - SOLD
Rural Electrification 24" x 30" - Oil on Mounted Linen - $13,000 - SOLD
The above work was painted in one of my favorite locations in Wisconsin. The title, "Rural Electrification" embodies the subject. The last autumn tapestry of color and delicate pattern is what caught my eye.