FROM THE ARCHIVES | Love Letter to Patricia Hagen

The fingers, roots of a tree stump stretch into warm green grass like veins of a river, the sky shades of pink and peach and cream, beyond, a lush treeline just below.
Patricia Hagen, Passage (Witness), 2021. Oil on canvas.
75 × 63 × 2 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Since Variable West launched in August 2020, we’ve published almost 100 Love Letters, Reviews, and Interviews. Over the next few weeks, the VW team is looking back and highlighting some of our favorite pieces.

When Lisa Jaffe wrote “Patricia Hagen’s work never makes me feel stupid,” she made my dreams as an art writing editor come true. This Love Letter is one of Jaffe’s first times venturing into the often obtuse world of art writing, and I was absolutely thrilled that she found an artist she loved so much, she was willing to take the risk. One of the main goals of Variable West is to show that art and art writing are for everyone—they’re not just for snobs clad in black clothes talking jargon in elitist white-walled galleries. I truly believe everyone can find art that moves them, and I’m honored to help make that discovery possible. —Amelia Rina, Variable West Editor in Chief


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 patriciahagen.com or LindaHodgesGallery.com

We’re here for you and because of you.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve spent thousands of hours doing everything I can to uplift and amplify the outstanding artists and writers on the West Coast—all on a shoestring budget. Next year I plan to do more, and I need your help. By becoming a monthly subscriber or making a one time donation, you’re directly helping the Variable West team build a stronger, more resilient and diverse West Coast art world. Your support makes it all possible! —Amelia Rina, Founder and Editor in Chief

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Author: Lisa Jaffe

Lisa Jaffe lives in Seattle with her son and her dog. She reads like it's a religion, bakes, gardens, and is trying to get better at ceramics. You can see pictures of her incredibly cute but very shouty dog on her Instagram at @lisa.r.jaffe.