Patty Haller

I’m an analyst. I use imagery of forest plants, which grow all around us in the Pacific Northwest. My goal is to create spatial botanical worlds that live on wood panels.

I used to tell myself I create order from the chaos of the leaves and branches I see in nature. But I now I believe the chaos I see is simply the shortcoming of my own perception. There is a natural order to the way the plants grow, their density reflecting the available light and nutrients, their tracery reflecting their best bet to thrive. A windfall tree creates new opportunity for rearrangement, growth and a different species mix. Plants even communicate through root systems. This is all more interesting than what I may capture in a painting if all I do is look.

I’ve decided instead of seeing complexity and then simplifying into something I can understand and paint, I’ll look for a few compelling, simple forms then build something very complex with my art processes. I hope the result is both recognizable and mysterious, because that is how I experience the forest.

I’ll start with small groups of “charismatic” plants I find in the forest, whose gesture or spatial weaving with neighboring plants attracts me. I’ll spend hours drawing these plants with tiny brushes and paint. Then I’ll invent painted ecosystems in which these main characters can live. I’ll alternate careful observation with chance processes that increase the complexity. I’ll care for the abstract marks that emerge, carefully layering them with oil paint. I can group like objects into one perspectival space, or I can use color contrasts to create different spaces. Eventually a plant community appears, often backed by trees and a sky into which my charismatic plants can stretch.

I love art history and spend quite a bit of time in university libraries. I do careful color studies of historical artifacts I see in books. I’m seeing the impact of studying Japanese art in Europe during the Meiji period and the Vienna Secession. Unexpectedly, my interest in statistics and big data helps me make the paintings. I treat the forest as a huge dataset I am free to analyze, summarize, and reenter as I wish. No forest is ever altered by my analysis. I am free to reuse it, combining different plants or changing scale and perspective for new paintings.

This experimenting is endlessly fascinating to me. Every combination of ideas from seemingly separate bodies of knowledge is a great reason to make art about the one subject that does stay constant, the western forest.



Exhibits with Patty Haller

September 5-29, 2019

Patty Haller’s colorful and analytical paintings explore the beauty, order and chaos of the northwest forest. Andrew Vallee presents new wood and bronze sculptures, a shift towards representation. Man-made natural objects, derived from the shores of the Samish Bay.