Monday, April 21, 2008

Art Space Talk: Camille Patha

Camille Patha has been an important part of the Northwest art scene since 1970, when she was invited to participate with the famous Washington State delegation to the Oska World’s Fair. Her work is in numerous public collections including the Tacoma Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, Jundt Art Museum, and the collections of numerous cities in the state of Washington.

Accelerant Red, Oil and Encaustic on Canvas, 36 x 48", 2006

Brian Sherwin: Camille, you were born in Seattle and currently reside there. Would you say that your experiences of living in Seattle have influenced your work directly?

Camille Patha: Though I live and paint in Seattle, my work has had several other important influences... primarily my color sense. When I moved to Arizona to attend Arizona State University, my pallet became very intense and colorful. The sun blazed everyday and the light was clear and intoxicating. To this day my palette remains pure and seductive. This is very unlike the Northwest climate, which is dark, moist and sometimes somber.
I returned to the Northwest after two years and earned my Bachelor and Masters of Fine Arts degrees from the University of Washington. Other influences have been my travels to Europe, Canada and Mexico. Seattle’s bonus for me is its thriving arts community, public support of the arts (I served seven years on the King County Arts Commission), knowledgeable collectors and galleries and a great art museum.
Lucent Thicket, Oil and Encaustic on Canvas, 103 x 75", 2005

BS: You studied at the University of Washington and Arizona State University. Who were your mentors during your academic years? How did those years help guide you on your artistic direction?

CP: Many professors had many things to say. However, the most influential I think were the visiting professors from other areas, for example Charles Cajori, a New York painter, and William Siebner, a German painter from Canada.

BS: Can you discuss some of your influences? Are you influenced by any specific artists or art movements?

CP: I started as an abstract painter, working first in oil then switching to acrylic. In the 1980’s I became restless with the absence of realism. So I experimented and developed of full language of realism. The settings were very surrealistic and intriguing. I stayed in that mindset for about fifteen years. I longed again for the purity of abstraction and its broader range of meaning – I went back to oil and have since included some encaustic in the works. It’s hard to name any specific artists who influenced me, but certainly the surrounding world of art has been part of my awareness.
Present Company, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48", 2007

BS: I really enjoy your piece titled Present Company. I'm also fond of New Blue. Can you tell us about these works? What do they represent to you? Also, tell us about your state of mind while working... for example, is your work intuitive? Do you attempt to block outside thoughts while working?

CP: The creative process is very complicated. I am totally isolated (no music or radio) when I work. My fullest attention is focused on the weaving of color and form. I use a lot of transparent color and shapes, intricately placed to give the illusion of deep and shallow surfaces. You mentioned two paintings on my website, "Present Company" and "New Blue". Both are I think interesting paintings. The pallet range of each is quite different but there is a harmony of intent in each. Though I always prefer the larger paintings which to me are more satisfying.
New Blue, Oil on Canvas, 2007

BS: Camille, can you tell our readers about your process. For example, you utilize oil and encaustic on canvas often. You have also utilized airbrush.

CP: I use encaustic in a sparing quantity. So many artists I think use encaustic in a very gimmicky way, it can become a cliché that waxy look can become a substitute for painting ability. I also use airbrush in small amounts.

BS: I've read that when you work it is as if you are surrounded by a constant blur of energy. You move all around the canvas with active strokes of the brush. Working on large surfaces-- you do not use help from assistants. In that sense, the energy captured in your work is purely you-- so to speak. There is a very physical side to your work as far as the movement involved. Do you gain inspiration from the act of creating itself? Do you tap into that energy?

CP: When I work on a ten foot canvas, of course, I move around. Usually up and down a ladder. My work is not gestural, but carefully planned and executed. Yes, I do need and have lots of energy.

BS: When I view your work I often discover fragments of figures hidden within. It is as if the paintings take on a narrative of their own. The paintings remind me of a combination of layers that one can pull back with his or her mind in order to discover new meaning and visions. With that said, I've read that you avoid narrative consciously during the act of creating and that you view your work as being purely abstract... do you find it interesting when viewers observe something in your work that you did not set out to do? When viewing your work do you ever 'see' things other than your original intention?

CP: Yes I agree my paintings are multi-layered with transparent and solid complexities. Viewers each bring to a painting what they have within themselves. I am pleased when someone comprehends what I am doing and understands that it is intended as the purest of abstraction and void of figurative imagery. But I can’t help if people read their own interpretation into the work. As long as the viewer enjoys being in the presence of the painting and finds it stimulating, then with that I am okay.
Primary Flux, Oil on Canvas, 68 x 60", 2005

BS: With the question above in mind-- are you interested in psychology as far as your work is concerned? If so, can you go into further detail about that?

CP: My work is the culmination of my education and years of experience. It is a composite of my complete psyche both left and right brain sides. Psychologically, it speaks to everything I was, and now am - that which is very apparent as well as the hidden under fold of my personality. The results are unique and as individual as my finger prints.

BS: When I interviewed Sylvia Sleigh she discussed the difficulty that women have had in the art world. She did mention that things are better now than they were a few decades ago... but made it clear that there is still a division between male and female artists-- at least in the gallery scene. You have been very active since the early 70s... what can you say about these issues through the years? In your opinion, how can we combat sexism and other forms of prejudice in the art world?
CP: My friend Judy Chicago has always been a fervent advocate for feminism. Clearly, women artists are treated differently from their male counterparts. Though, as with racism, it is hard to pinpoint. As a young painter I used only my first name initials so no one would know I was a woman. But as I became more and more well known I dropped them and now use my first and last name. I know my work was treated more fairly when people didn’t know I was a woman. I think things are somewhat better today. Certainly there has been change.

BS: Camille, what are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current work?

CP: I’m continuing my investigation into the silent language of color and its relationship to space. I find this search exciting and with inexhaustible possibilities. I have just completed nine large paintings in the current series and am at work on an eight foot work now.

BS: Your work can be found in numerous public collections, including the Seattle Art Museum and Jundt Art Museum. Where can our readers observe your most current pieces-- aside from your studio... do you have any upcoming exhibits?

CP: I will have another show at Davidson Contemporary Gallery ( in 2009. And I’m anticipating the Tacoma Art Museum’s new show "Past Mystics" in late 2009.
Phoenix, Oil on Canvas, 92 x 81", 2004

BS: I understand that a collection of your art was published. Where can our readers purchase a copy of that book?

CP: Yes, the beautiful new hardback book Geography of Desire by art critic and author Matthew Kangas with preface by Judy Chicago is on sale now at book stores and through Partners West and World Wide Books: Davidson Contemporary Gallery or Normandy Park Editions, Elizabeth Paulsen manager.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art and the direction you have taken with it?

CP: I have spent my life as a painter, chasing the illusive butterfly of creativity. My work is a composite equally challenging and satisfying. My current work is for me the most satisfying and powerful of my career. All artists are basically paranoid, they say they aren’t, but they are. It is important for me that my work is taken seriously. Fashion changes, but good art endures.

You can learn more about Camille Patha by visiting her website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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