Monday, January 2, 2012

Reflections on Pat Passlof

photo by Alice Sebrell

When Pat Passlof enrolled in a summer painting class at Black Mountain College in 1948 she wasn’t sure who the instructor would be. She was 20 years old and had recently seen an exhibit by the not-yet–known painter Willem de Kooning that had left a profound impact on her. Somehow she had feeling that de Kooning would be teaching that summer, and she was right. Passlof ended up studying with de Kooning at the avant-garde art school and even rode the train back up to NYC with him once the class commenced. This would be only the beginning of her lifelong journey as an artist.


Passlof passed away November 13, 2011 at the age of 83, and due to her affiliation with Black Mountain College, a selection of her life’s work will be exhibited this year at the Black Mountain College Museum and Western Carolina University Fine Arts Museum simultaneously from January 26 – May 27. A committed artist, Passlof left behind an extensive oeuvre of paintings, and the exhibit will contain work she produced throughout her life -- including one of the paintings made at Black Mountain College. “She really wanted to focus on her latest works, “ says Alice Sebrell, program director at BMCM+AC. “She considered them to be the most mature and successful of everything she’s done.”

For more on Passlof, read Portrait of Passlof which appears in the Jan 2012 issue of Verve Magazine.


On a personal note: The best part about my work as an arts writer is that I get to meet all kinds of interesting people and have great conversations about the creative process, materials, the art world, etc. I always come away with new tidbits of knowledge and fresh perspectives that I can apply to my own work.

Last month when I set out to write the profile article on Passlof for Verve Magazine I didn’t expect the whole experience to be as moving as it turned out to be. I met with Connie Bostic and Alice Sebrell of the BMCM+AC and they shared their personal insights on Passlof and their impressions upon visiting her in her studio in NYC. (“There was paint everywhere. There were coffee cups everywhere. It was just a mess! It was perfect,” Connie recalled.)

After the meeting, Alice sent me home with an envelope stuffed full of newspaper articles, gallery catalogues and Passlof's own writings. I read everything voraciously -- completely enthralled by Passlof’s straightforward statements on painting and art. For example, Passlof once declared that art should contain “no message, no politics, no political correctness, no ideas, no conformity.” Concerning painting, she wrote: "Find ways to ‘listen’ to your painting, and small visual events will occur…”

I was also impressed by how Passlof's life seemed to be as exotic as it was commonplace. She and her husband, (painter Milton Resnick) each renovated synagogues in the Lower East Side as studio spaces; she taught painting at CUNY Community School of Staten Island for 39 years, retiring in 2011, and continued to produce work until her illness would no longer allow it.

As a painter I am greatly anticipating Passlof:Selections. What a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the work of such an impressive woman who made her art her life.

Visit for more information about Passlof:Selections 1948-2011.

1 comment:

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