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FEATURED ARTISTS: Thayer & Van Patten

2012 September 22

Learn more about Cara Thayer & Louie Van Patten!

PEARLS of plurality

The artist features had to evolve. Some days I feel like I’ve seen everything there is to be seen.  When that I happens, I go back to the basics in an effort to remember what I personally love about art.  I think about what the art that makes me want to BUY work. 

This month’s featured artist is a departure, among other reasons, because they are this month’s artists, plural.   Collaboration.   Complicated.  They are also portraitist, of sorts.  Simplicity.  Collaboration requires a perfect combination of  both ego-maniacal fanaticism and selflessness.  There isn’t a middle ground; it is a combination of extremes.  Raw perfection.  Two pearls in an oyster–distinctly different, but the same.  I am proud to announce Cara Thayer & Louie Van Patten as this months Featured Artists…

Blue Canvas Magazine Cover by Thayer and Van Patten

Cara Thayer & Louie Van Patten

Cara Thayer was born in Panorama City, CA but grew up in Bend, OR.  She studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (not to be confused with the Art Institute of Chicago) and received her BFA in 2007.  Louie Van Patten was born in West Des Moines, IA.

They met in Chicago in events surrounding the attendance of a Pixies reunion show.

(If food wasn’t what brought them together, at least it was music.)  They both studied art at Central Oregon Community College under Bill Hoppe, who has been hugely influential on them. They have been collaborating since 2005, maintaining a day job together and painting on the side in Bend, until they went full-time with their art in 2008.

Chromatic Maladies V - part of a diptych by Cara Thayer and Louie Van PattenThey regularly show their art in Bend, Oregon and have participated in a handful of shows along the West Coast.  In 2011, they were selected to create the art for Deschutes Brewery’s annual , as well as being featured on the cover of BLUECANVAS magazine.

Talk to me about inspiration. “We are inspired by the little sweet spots of masterworks of art – – things in the margins, single frames from a film, faces and musculature in motion and in stasis. We are fascinated with flesh and the relationship between frame and canvas and skin and bone, the apertures of the face and the way intense light traces the contours of the skeleton under the skin. We are inspired by paint as paint and paint being an analogue of skin and viscera.

Saccadic II by Cara Thayer and Louie Van Patten“Our paintings could be considered to be at least quasi-biographical about paint itself, so paint and pigment are also very much a source of inspiration – – we are very medium-oriented at the moment, hopefully not to the point of the tail wagging the dog. It also just occurred to us that we’re probably a self-fueling fire as we inspire and invigorate each other. ”

What do you consider your media? Are these pieces strictly paint? “We are primarily infatuated with oil paint. We’re not sure that we’re strictly painters, though. A certain theatricality informs the work, being transduced into paint via photography. Our collaborative process first began with fiber art and work with resin and spray paint. It is likely we’ll return to more semi-sculptural fiber art at some point, especially as more opportunities for installations and public art surface. We very much enjoy working together and that is truly the only constant.”

Apertural - a triptych by Cara Thayer and Louie Van PattenClearly, portraiture has a strong influence in your work.  While I love the hands, I have to admit that I am drawn to the faces. “Portraiture does have an influence on the work, as does the general physicality of human forms, both formal and informal.  We tend to paint hands often, as they work as a portrait for people, rather than a specific person and they are also great armatures for paint.  We’re interested in faces for the apertures, as well as the effect of filling a canvas with the architecture of facial flesh.

Saccadic I by Cara Thayer and Louie Van Patten“We also enjoy the ambiguity that emerges from the truncation of the human face.  Some of the imagery emerges from the fact that we use ourselves as source material, the portraiture happens naturally, but not without intention. Creating an exaggerated representation of our process, the final image looks like two people struggling to fill the picture frame with only their face by brute force, but becoming one form instead.”  I find this an oddly poetic description of their own painting process.  Watch the video.

Do you have special terminology for how you collaborate?  “We do not have special terminology, although perhaps we should consider that. Conjunctive-painting? Bilateral art-making?

Tangled-arm painting? Shiva the Destroyer?


“As far as we know, the actual act of painting is painfully conventional in nearly every other way, aside from the fact there are two of us.

Chromatic Maladies IV by Cara Thayer and Louie Van Patten“Years ago, when we first starting making art, we created a website called, as a way to loosely reference this four-armed method of painting.  Essentially, a gryllus is a creature comprised of other creatures with nameable parts, such as a griffin.  Our use of the word may be a little off, but the basic idea is that we work as one painter, made of the parts of two significantly different people.”

You know we have to talk about food. What is your favorite? “We’re very partial to scallops with a little sriracha, as well as pan-fried Brussels sprouts with Parmesan. For Louie, it might just be NY-style pepperoni pizza dipped in pukka sauce (hot sauce made with Jamaican scotch bonnet peppers).

Saccadic III by Cara Thayer and Louie Van PattenGenerally speaking, we’re big fans of cured meats, aged cheeses, raw vegetables, and craft beer, preferably all at once. Since we seem to drink more than we eat (nothing terribly excessive, we assure you), we’ll also mention that Cara is a gin girl and Louie is a bourbon/rye/scotch kind of guy.” I’ve never been to Oregon.  I’m thinking the Thayer-Van Patten household needs to make room for a visitor. Yum.

What about snack foods? “We love smoked oysters with crackers. We also both love popcorn. Being a normal person, Louie shoves handfuls in his face like a savage, but Cara meticulously picks apart each kernel like a total weirdo. Point being, we have a very hard time sharing a bag of popcorn. It is a good thing painting doesn’t resemble popcorn-eating, at least not in any way we’re aware of.”  For the record, I avoided asking which two hands of this four-armed monster wrote the interview responses.

So, what’s coming up next for you? “Ideally, a lifetime of painting. This is something one does not have to retire from, nor should they desire to.”

Thank you, Cara and Louie for bringing me back to what I love about art–raw perfection.  The connection between you translates to canvas as a visceral tie to all that is human in art.  Lovely.

Learn more about Thayer & Van Patten online!

Learn more about Thayer and Van Patten!

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