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Patte Loper and the Art of the Resistance

Experimental painter Patte Loper (left) proudly showcases her artwork at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Arts Center at Governors Island. PHOTO/ Flickr

By M.A. Rahman

Published: November 28th, 2018

Guest speaker and experimental painter Patte Loper discusses and reminisces her past work/experiences throughout her professional art career, courtesy of the Brooklyn College Art department as apart of its ongoing guest-speaker art series.

Loper, who describes herself as ‘a painter first and occasional sculptor and architect,’ has had an extensive art career spanning 20 years of works that have captivated the interests of museums and exhibitions since the mid-90s.

“It was quite good,” expressed Celeste Wilson candidly, a member of the Graduate Art Students Union (GASU) and co-chair of the Visiting Artist Lecture Series.

“Scheduling can be a bit difficult since everyone has different classes,” Wilson added, suggesting why few students were in attendance.

Loper, an ever traveling resident of both Brooklyn and Boston, whose work is now curated from a myriad of places such as Juliette Art Museum at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, has primarily been best known for her paintings that incorporate sculptors and videography to enhance their artistic effect.

In the lecture, Loper wastes little time in establishing her early days as a struggling artist fresh out of college, electing to draw a chronology of her life parallel to major political developments at the time, noting the then high hopes for the recently elected then-president Bill Clinton.

The purpose of such parallels, while not immediately clear, had started to make sense later into the discussion. Loper, in addition to being very politically motivated, has been fascinated by the number of social changes the country has undergone particularly in decades pasts.

Like many that choose to be involved in politics, many of Loper’s earliest and more comprehensible works demonstrate her desire to right by those believed to be misjudged as showcased in her postmodern re-paintings of old middle age crude caricatures of persons born with physical abnormalities.

Elaborating on one piece named ‘A Girl born with Fur Because of the Imagination of Her Mother,’ Loper jests at the absurdity of old age thinking “the rationale at the time was this girl was born the way she was with ‘fur’ all over her because her mother saw a painting of John the Baptist at the moment of conception,” Loper said chuckling.

Finding Postmodern art gradually less exciting than before, Loper abandons it citing it’s ‘narrowness in scope’ and working at the behest of some ‘authority’, opting to create more urban-based paintings.

At this point, it was the mid-2000, Loper denotes, and like many Americans dissatisfied by the current political leadership, Loper found herself likewise never satisfied with paintings.

Being highly conscious if not critical of her own work, she inserts her own critic into her modern urban paintings – a deer, that at least serves to demonstrate some semblance of lacking appreciation for her work even as it is apart of it.

As the 2009 election came around, it became clear to Loper that like America, she had to change and possibly reinvent herself to enjoyment out of otherwise tedious, monotonous art by exploring into a different world of art altogether: sculptors and architects.

Inspired from everything from environmental upstate water streams to use gravity based painting, to famed disaster artist Lebbeus Woods for construction and planning procedures, to the tips made by vandals in one her exhibitions, Loper found new ways to create new and once again exciting art.

“Someone must have seen what I was drawing for my sculptor and said, “Oh somebody’s drawing this and I’m gonna draw on their drawing!” Loper erupted in a laughter.

Shifting her attention once again to the political tensions marking the country well into Obama’s first term, such as the Occupy Wall Street movement, Loper admits to her ambivalent attitude towards ongoing political movements saying that while it is tempting to support and incorporate them into her work, she would rather work with lesser controversial, past movements like Civil and LGBTQ rights.

While a ‘safe choice’ in the eyes of some activists, Loper emphasizes her stance in today’s political climate “I am a part of the resistance,” she said in a firm tone.

Pointing to an intriguing story of Cuban dissident and artist Tania Bruguera, who had managed to evade arrest for protesting the Castros in Cuba in 1999 under the pretense of creating an ‘artistic performance.’

Which prompted Loper to gain the confidence she needed to create her own means to subtly use of art as means of dissent, by way of creating a fascinating, but vague painting to showcase children in coal dominate West Virginia of alternate forms of energy, a matter their parent would likely not approve of.

Concluding the lecture, Loper, whom in addition to discussing her past work, had paid a visit to the private BC graduate art studio in Boylan Hall, remarking positively to many of the works she saw, a sign many of the students found encouraging.

“It was wonderful meeting and speaking with Patte, we organize these lectures not only to educate ourselves but also our community, including those that are just interested in art,” Bob Szantyr said, President of GASU, expressing confidence in future lectures to be just as intriguing and insightful.

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