The works in Virgie Ezelle Patton’s show at William Busta span the last two decades. That’s a lot of time to cover in a typical exhibition, but not enough time for a retrospective, especially for an artist born in 1928.
All works on view were done after the artist reached 65. I mention this because it’s remarkable on its face, and because the time-span makes me wonder if the exhibition is intended as a retrospective. The works themselves are vigorous and betray no sign of age. Patton was unknown to me before this show and if I hadn’t read the supplied biographical material, I would have had no idea of her age.
Drawing is the heart and soul of art, and Patton can draw. Every true artist-designer is full–fecund–and their art making is about reducing and removing the non essential: the discovery of simplicity. This description is an apt one for Patton.
In the wonderful “Two Women,” the suppression of unnecessary detail results in an elegant economy that installs the figures in that timeless, familiar place where the good stuff lives.
Moreover, she does not self-consciously emphasize the art-making process, which so often spoils paintings. No, she stands aside and lets her creation speak–sing–for itself.
Echoings, borrowings, and influences are seen everywhere. This is not a criticism. All artists start someplace, and the strong ones commune comfortably with their earlier brethren.
Unlike many contemporary artists whose knowledge of art history goes no further than, say, Warhol, Patton’s line of vision stretches back to the Time of Giants (metaphorically speaking).
This group of wash drawings (reminiscent of similar work by Rodin) struck me as the essential Patton: engaged with nature and communing with previous masters while searching for the subject’s irreducible quality.
The only bad thing about this exhibition–given the time covered–is that there isn’t more of it.
Patton is a poet. She makes her strong design sensibility serve her poetic vision. In her drawings, (the place where artists are seen most nakedly) we see the poet always and everywhere searching for the essential.
Patton begins her discoveries honestly, without the least cant or cynicism–so I say. The show’s only sour notes were adventures of discovery that struck me as start-overs or start-agains. I suspect they are start-overs, due to…life. But to paraphrase Shakespeare: here she is; take her all in all.[Photos are mine, works are copyright Patton.]