November 14, 2013

Paintings that dance with death

Valerie Patterson's 'Ghosts in My Machine' opens Saturday in Malone

By ROBIN CAUDELL Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — Time is elastic in Valerie Patterson’s paintings.

Past and present shuffle in prominence, depending on her artistic whim — more than a little surreal with the narrative and illustrative power of Norman Rockwell.

She loved Vermeer’s technical prowess, but, unlike the 17th century Dutch master, her medium is watercolor.

“I always heard it’s unforgiving but not if you have the right paper and brushes,” said Patterson, whose new exhibition, “Ghosts in My Machine,” opens Saturday at the Pouring Light Studios and Gallery in Malone.

“I buy 300-pound paper; that way it holds the paint. I started with oil originally in college.

“I paint with watercolor like an oil painter. I believe I do, and people say, ‘I can’t believe that’s watercolor.’”

Growing up along the St. Lawrence River, she got interested in art in middle and high school at Ogdensburg Free Academy. At SUNY Potsdam, she majored in art with a concentration in painting.

She now teaches the next generation of artists at Petrova Middle School in Saranac Lake.

“I use gouaches like glazes in oil painting,” she said. “I never took a class in watercolor. They would not allow us to use it. We had to use acrylic or oil. That’s the traditional medium, I think, still in some places.

“I started using it (watercolor) because I could carry it around with me, and it dried so fast.”

Patterson’s paintings are unflinching glimpses of socio-political issues and mortality — the tough stuff. They are not pretty topics. She does not paint pretty pictures but ones that draw viewers in and make them think.

The show includes “He Always Comes.”

“It’s a picture of an old man’s hands up close,” she said. “He’s holding the top of the cane. On the top of the cane, mostly in black and white, is an old carnival ride with two women and a skeletal figure in the center.

“His head is in color. They are riding off the end of the cane. It’s about death. It always comes, and the skeletal figure, of course, represents death.”

“Contaminated” depicts the consequence of radioactive fallout.

“That has a black-and-white background of a nuclear bomb going off. There’s a picture of a little girl holding a cat, and she’s in solarized colors.”

A very, very large dead bird is the central subject in “The Beach.”

“It has a little boy, much, much smaller than the bird, going along the beach picking up pebbles,” Patterson said. “It looks like he’s handing the bird something.”

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IF YOU GO WHAT: "Ghosts in My Machine," new works by artist Valerie Patterson. WHEN: Opening reception is 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16. Show runs through December. WHERE: Pouring Light Studios and Gallery, 432 East Maine St., Malone. CONTACT: Call 481-5150 or visit