Thursday, April 29, 2010

True grit

Outsider artist Tyrone Patkoski at Tacoma Art Supply

Published in the Weekly Volcano, April 29, 2010

Pictured: READY TO DISCOVER: An untitled painting by Tyrone Patkoski on display at Tacoma Art Supply.

What a wonderful find! An unheralded and untrained artist with innate talent, guts and sincerity is discovered, and you can see his paintings and sculptures at Tacoma Art Supply. Don't miss this.

Tyrone Patkoski is half Polish and half Native American. He has survived homelessness and mental illness, has never studied art and has never even been inside an art gallery; yet his two- and three-dimensional art is not only powerful and gritty, it is well-designed with a good sense of balance, rhythm and color composition. The imagery is, as should be expected with outsider art, highly personal. Even though none but the artist himself can possibly relate to all the references and hidden meanings, it is clear that these images must have deeply personal meaning to the artist. I was told there is nothing in these densely packed images that does not refer to something in his life experience, his demons or his hopes, and that he can explain it all.

The paintings are complex and mostly abstract, often encrusted with objects of every imaginable description including bits of hair, rocks, fingernails, found debris of all sorts and piles and piles of paint. He's fond of framing devices such as using insects and sticks stuck to the edges or repetitive patterns painted around the edges. Often there are frames within frames, all of which are painted over in brightly colored patterns.

He uses classical balance and mirror images a lot, with variations of similar forms repeated left and right or radiating from a central point. There are a lot of insects and other creatures in his work, human and animal faces and figures, some very crudely executed and others drawn with great skill. Fish and fish skeletons show up a lot, and many amphibious creatures that look very threatening.

Most of his paintings are abstract, but a few are more realistic. There is one haunting self- portrait. There is only one painting on view that I did not like. It is a bullfight scene that is like a million other bullfight pictures we've seen a million times.

You can easily see a change in his art over time, which may or may not reflect changes in his mental state. His later works are more densely packed with imagery and more three-dimensional, blurring the lines between painting and sculpture. The later works are also generally better, evidence that even without any formal training he is advancing as an artist.

Patkoski's art was discovered and is being promoted by Joan Staokes Baum of the Tahoma Indian Center Program and photojournalist Casey Madison, who has provided biographical information. It can be seen online at

But it needs to be seen in person. Tacoma Art Supply is next door to Twokoi Japanese Restaurant at 17th and Commerce.
Tacoma Art Supply

Through May 31, 1552 Commerce, Tacoma, 253.444.2341

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