Jazz Al Fresco, 1990
Accession Number: PC.122
Artist: Pat Cairns
watercolor, 22.5 x 30 inches

Pat Cairns works out of her Atascadero, California studio. For many years, Pat Cairns was known for her impressionistic watercolors of children. Warm, intimate images of boys and girls frolicking at the beach, marching in a parade, or just sitting on the curb watching the world go by were the hallmarks of her work. These familiar, often tender scenes celebrated the emotional power of everyday experiences and were emblematic of Pat Cairns’ interest in connecting the personal with the universal. It is no wonder that the paintings that ignited her career were of children, as Pat Cairns spent twenty-five years teaching art in the San Luis Obispo school system and at Cal Poly. Her children, grandchildren and students were her models.

After retiring, however, her life took an unexpected turn and her art with it. Her husband passed away unexpectedly, she eventually remarried, and she began to travel more. Despite the long-standing success of her figurative paintings, Pat Cairns was drawn to a new world of abstract, nonrepresentational, mixed media art.

Now Pat Cairns jumps in and lets the painting guide her. Instead of controlled brushstrokes, she now scratches, stamps, drips and explores, layering media and collage as she works. Strong design, light, contrasts, and a sense of drama have characterized Pat Cairns’ work throughout her career. Now the marks are bolder, the color palette deeper, and the subject matter more abstract. In her own words, “Where my paintings once whispered, they now shout.”

This painting was donated to the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art’s permanent collection by the artist in 2014.

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