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The first shirt works were conceived and completed in Washington Heights during the years of 2012-2015. Prior I lived in The Explorers Club on the 4 1/2 floor. I was able to write and produce short films and exhibitions in the Explorers Club but its historical significance though wonderful for the housing of paintings deterred me from making them, all my previous studios were subterranean and lacked the ventilation and natural. Finally on top of Manhattan I could paint. I had access to the roof by fire escape and permission from the super to paint up there anytime. All my windows faced east for the sunrise. During the inception of these paintings I was fighting against an addiction to heroin and I needed help. I would often be up with the sun and find myself inline with a colorful array of people from down trodden to business men on 167th street.
The first paintings were started in the summer. I have always believed in the lives of the inert. Objects can hold spirits and energy. My grandfather had passed away when I was 16, Harry was six foot six so when he passed I was fortunate enough to receive his wardrobe and his car which was two large for my Grandmother. I sold that car and its winnings combined with earning from refrigerator contraband/home video rental sales provided me with the nest egg necessary to support my move to Manhattan in December of 2005. I no longer had Harry’s car but I had his shirts which when worn it felt like armor, I could feel his love, his respect, they made me feel safe. Most of the time when you take drugs you don’t actually want to take them, but the idea of feeling what your feeling vs taking drugs somehow tips the scale. Until I became at peace with myself drugs were winning every time. Before drugs I dealt with my anxiety with physical activity and controlling my surroundings with a camera. Finding that composition and perspective can have huge impacts on one's emotional state.
These tools were always in use but during my early and mid 20’s those lines often blurred. During a moment of sober thought and being I found myself feeling okay, existence was light in that moment. In the same way I found a moment or composition that calmed me with the camera I found specific parts in Harry’s shirt that had the same feeling. That moment was fleeting but a few days later I started painting that moment from the shirt. As I completed the first painting enjoying its emotional impact some much that I began another. It wasn’t just calming, it was also excitement knowing that there was beauty and solace all around you, you just had to know where to look.
I was seduced by the patterns and the forms, the reduction of nature that somehow amplified its allure and essence. I also enjoyed how infinite they could feel and their disregard for scale and perspective (a freedom found in early cave drawing and children’s drawings). The paintings were first displayed at Marlborough in NY in 2014. The sales from these paintings provided the resources necessary for me to purchase a small building in the Bronx and a small plot in the Bahamas, the place where my grandfather wished he spent his final days but didn’t. This structure and that bit of earth provided the foundation for my new life, I find strength in myself and in my work and at last felt comfortable in my own skin. In 2018 I presented my second exhibition of shirt paintings, three 12x8 foot canvas, banners of freedom and all that comes with it at Galerie Kandelhofer Vienna.
In January of 2020 I began painting for Flotsam and Jetsam, painting in a new baby safe studio sometimes even painting with my son Cy in my arms. The new use of water based paint and quick drying times added a new element to the paintings. Quicker strokes and beginning of hard lines and expressive lines. Also working on a smaller scale allowed me to produce pairs which I enjoy a great deal, exploring and further exploring. Always while making these paintings I found moments within the moments and stages of the painting mid completion that felt almost more perfect and more complete. Having my son has triggered something in my brain, a boldness to try, that its now or never. I owe it to the work. Work that brought me back to life and gave me solace and shelter.
  • Grear Patterson, 2020


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