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News Every Day |

San Rafael artist reflects on work as ‘call to action’

San Rafael artist reflects on work as ‘call to action’

Patrick Gannon is not afraid to make a statement with his art. During the drought in 2014, the San Rafael resident drained his swimming pool and turned it into a mural that spoke to his concerns about climate change. And over the last few years, he’s used his work to convey his fears about the upcoming general election and what it might mean for our democracy.

Gannon, who has been painting for nearly 30 years, will showcase his work — including a collection of his original reproductions of paintings by artists like Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Claude Monet, Gerhard Richter, J.M.W. Turner and more — for Marin Open Studios’ first weekend from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. this weekend at 23 Sao Augustine Way in San Rafael. More information about Marin Open Studios is at marinopenstudios.org.

Q Tell me about your work.

A I’ve been an art lover for most of my life, dating back to my time growing up outside of New York City and going to its museums. I’m a self-taught artist. I’m really am an art collector without the budget, I like to say. Gradually, by reproducing these master copies, I taught myself painting in the styles of some of the people that I like. In some cases, I would see them, the originals, when I would go to museums. And I would say, boy, that’d be great to have on my wall. I would go home and paint it. I needed a creative outlet, and it evolved from there over the years.

Q How did the political art begin?

A Picasso’s famous painting “Guernica” in 2017 turned 80 years old. I saw that when I was a kid. Part of my motivation to reproduce it was because I felt there were parallels between 1937 and 2017, and I’m concerned about this upcoming election in November. The work, which I renamed “Our Guernica,” has been at the Museum of International Propaganda in San Rafael, but I’m showing it this weekend.

Q You view your political work as a “call to action.” Tell me about that.

A Yes, very much so. Part of what interests me about art is that it can motivate people to take action. I wanted the pieces that I was involved in to have power and to elicit more powerful emotions. I’m part of Artists 4 Democracy, and they’re trying to do the same thing. Again, using art as a way to move people toward action and to comment on issues and help clarify the challenges that we have as a country.

Q When did you realize that about art?

A It came from going to a lot of art shows and museums and being struck by the pieces that had a clear kind of message that captured some issue that I also identified with. I did my dissertation on traumatic commercial film and how film can impact people on an emotional level, a psychological level, and, in some some cases, could even traumatize them. But I think I gravitated towards the paintings like “Guernica,” where you know you see what’s going on. You see what the message is, and it’s affecting you, and it makes you think about your current situation or your country, your society and the issues that your society is is facing. And I’ve always had a political sensibility, dating back to going to college in the early ’70s, with the Vietnam War and Watergate. I was shaped by a lot of those things. A lot of my other paintings don’t have any political impact on them. They’re just beautiful images. There’s really always been two threads in my artistic interests. Art as beauty, art as an image that is appealing to look at and then the other one is art as a carrier of a message.

Q How has your work influenced your art?

A I went into psychology and clinical psychology, which eventually evolved into doing performance psychology. I also work with athletes and classical musicians that have performance anxiety. And a lot of that is about trying to help people be their best selves, whether it’s public speaking or athletics. I have a PGA golfer in my practice. I have a 15-year-old soloist in my practice. Pushing them and helping them has actually helped me. That’s allowed me to grow and not have trepidation about trying new things. Not being afraid to fail has allowed me to continue to push myself in these new artistic endeavors.

Q What do you hope people take away from this?

A In my pool mural, there’s a female figure, and she’s holding a sign saying, “Wake up, world.” That’s basically what I’m hoping: people to wake up to what’s happening and do some reading, get involved, talk these issues with people and make a commitment to vote.

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