Love Letter to Patricia Hagen

Under a grey sky, two trees—one a stump, another's branches reaching out of frame—dominate the foreground, while others linger behind and crowd just before. Painted in veins like fingers, these muted colors seem to undulate.
Patricia Hagen, Passage (Witness), 2021. Oil on canvas.
75 × 63 × 2 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Growing up, I gleaned most of my art knowledge from that old board game, Masterpiece, though I don’t think the game had any artists in it later than Picasso.  

My lack of art knowledge has often left me feeling intimidated. I remember seeing a giant canvas at the Tate Modern in London called Study in Blue Number 2. It was painted in different shades of blue but nothing else. I didn’t get it. I felt like an outsider and imagined that ,if the artist saw me standing there in front of their painting, confused, they would judge me for not understanding it.

Patricia Hagen’s work never makes me feel stupid. Yet, even though it’s accessible, it isn’t simple or mundane. For the last couple years, Hagen has had an obsession with tree stumps. Many of her paintings and ceramics feature stumps in shades of grays and browns. To some, these colors might seem desolate; but I love the texture of her stumps. They are both alive and dead. I think of all the critters that make their homes in stumps—the fungi, the bugs, the way the decomposition leads to new life. The duality is so clever.

At her recent gallery opening, Hagen told me she focused on trees because, as an older woman, she thinks about the decay of her body. In her work, she also comments on human’s destruction of the environment. I love that something that is in some ways obvious can also have hidden meanings.

Hagen recently moved from Seattle to Port Townsend, Washington, an artsy town on the Puget Sound. Her new studio looks out onto Mt. Baker. Lately, she has been painting it. I don’t know what the mountain means to her. Maybe it’s about the majesty or timelessness of mountains. Regardless, I can’t wait to see the results. 

Patricia Hagen’s work is currently showing at the Linda Hodges Gallery in Seattle. Her work can be viewed at or


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