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Patrick McFarlin

American, born 1939

Joan Mitchell—Obituary 1925–1992, 2010. © 2010 Patrick McFarlin.

Obituaries and (mini) Masterpieces, 2010

Graphite or oil on paper
14 x 11 inches (35.6 x 28 cm) each
Charles W. Goodyear Fund, by exchange, 2010

Works in this series

Joan Mitchell—Obituary 1925–1992
, 2010
Graphite on paper

Mitchell—George Went Swimming at Barnes Hole, but It Got too Cold, 1957, 2010
Oil on paper

Mitchell Untitled 1958, 2010
Oil on paper

Mitchell—La Fontaine, 1957, 2010
Oil on paper

Another Untitled 1958, 2010
Oil on paper

Working in painting, drawing, and sculpture, Patrick McFarlin came of age under the influence of Abstract Expressionist greats like Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Joan Mitchell, and Robert Motherwell. His oeuvre has included landscapes—of Ireland, the Netherlands, and the American West and Southwest, among others—as well as traditional still life and portraits. When asked to provide an artist’s statement, McFarlin once responded, "Do I have a statement? A shelf? Narrative, portrait, landscape . . . I hammer away with pigment on a stick. Occasionally something happens." His words reflect an introspective, if self-deprecating, quality that runs through all of his work. 

These works come from a series that the artist based on the obituary section at the end of each Art in America annual guide. These five works, in particular, reflect on the obituary of the Abstract Expressionist Joan Mitchell, who died in 1992. One of the four miniature paintings done by McFarlin—Mitchell—George Went Swimming at Barnes Hole, but It Got too Cold, 1957, 2010—is of one of Mitchell's works in the Albright-Knox's Collection. Meditating on the impossibility of adequately reducing each great or "chosen one" into one or two sentences, McFarlin began replicating the obituary descriptions and portraits as beautiful graphite drawings, and transcribing notations of his own reflections on the artists' lives and work. He then began creating perfect miniature representations of the artists' paintings, paying homage to their work (visually absent from the obituaries), and displaying a virtuoso skill of his own. There is inescapable cleverness in anything so masterfully miniaturized. In tandem with, and perhaps in part because of, this intelligent humor, McFarlin demonstrates great pathos and poignancy in his ability to poetically highlight the lives and works of these late artists. Intimate and poetic, the works present an insightful and visually arresting meditation on the inevitability of death, and the opportunity for celebrating the lives of those who have passed on.