So Many Barns, So Little Time
Artist Richard W. Patt turns barns into an almost abstract world of color and texture.
Luminous and bold colors vibrate in these deeply-textured paintings of barns. Wisconsin artist Richard W. Patt’s most recent works are now on display at St. John’s on the Lake in Milwaukee, in a show curated by the Museum of Wisconsin Art. Patt’s paintings challenge how we look at the commonplace barns that dominate our rural landscape.
Patt says his purpose is not to portray barns, but to give viewers a new pleasure they might never have had when looking at barns. He spoke to a small audience at the show’s opening. His goal, he said, is to “bring new pleasures way beyond the surface of things. Obviously, Van Gogh did not especially want to present us with beautiful wheat fields in southern France. He wanted us to have a pleasure beyond that.”
Patt says his paintings are exercises in the use of color, shape and texture. “As an artist I have my selfish preferences,” he said. “One of them is to use color,” and bright, bold ones at that. “I love paintings with subtle earth tones and so forth, but I am selfish about using color.”
“I also like shapes,” he continues. “When you see the show, I hope you will notice all the shapes and the way they are put together so that you almost say ‘look at all those shapes.’”
Patt said he always paints the broadside of a barn, because it automatically gives him three linear surfaces: the roof, the body and the foundation. The result is a dazzlingly colored, luxuriously textured image that verges on abstraction.
Patt’s choice of the “iconic barn” provides “a window into the process of abstraction,” writes Erika Petterson, associate curator at the Museum of Wisconsin Art. ”Forms become simplified fields of color.…Patt begins with something visually realistic and identifiable then transforms it. The viewer is able to connect with it yet still find the original source of inspiration.”
Patt, who lives in Wauwatosa, lived on a farm in New Berlin until he was 12, when his family moved to Milwaukee. He has been painting barns for five years while at work on a series called, appropriately enough, “Barns in the Wisconsin Landscape.”
“People ask me, well how many kinds of barn can you paint, aren’t you sick of it?” he says. “ No, I’m not sick of it at all.” Nor, it seems, are viewers. One of Patt’s paintings will be featured on the cover of “Wisconsin Agriculture: A History,” by Jerry Apps. The book is scheduled for publication by the Wisconsin Historical Society in August 2015.
“Agrarian Angles: Landscapes by Richard W. Patt” is open to the public, free of charge, daily from 10 am to 5 pm, through July 15, at Saint John’s On The Lake, 1800 N. Prospect Ave.