Martin Pate’s Within: Looking Beyond the Surface
September 23 – December 17, 2017
Within: Looking Beyond the Surface exhibits a selection of paintings and drawings by Atlanta portrait artist Martin Pate. Pate graduated with honors from Ringling School of Art in 1981. Several of his paintings have won awards at the local, regional, and national levels. For the past thirty years, Pate’s passion for painting the human figure has led to a career of commission work, as well as an over twenty-year partnership with the National Park Service. Pate grew up in South Carolina and he and his wife, Rhonda, currently reside in Newnan, GA. Pate is inspired by a history of realist portraiture, especially the late 19th century works of Waterhouse, Bougereau, Draper, and Leighton. Pate is specifically intrigued by classically painted figures that tell a story outside the obvious, often through symbolism. His implementation of symbolic, understated meaning in his tender and thoughtful images generates a deeper emotional connection.
To elucidate the artwork of Martin Pate, curator Madeline Beck asked the artist a series of questions:
Madeline Beck: You seem to focus on dancers a lot, but not always in the act of dance. What has drawn you to so frequently represent dancers, even those in moments of privacy and rest?
Martin Pate: I like their athleticism, the artistry of their poses, the often bold statement a costume can make. I like the contrast of a dancer dressed to the nines but sitting or reclining quietly if at rest or in contemplation.
MB: In almost all of your figurative works, your subjects do not make eye contact and many look away completely. What is the message you’re trying to convey by oftentimes hiding the face?
MP: I feel that if the subject is looking at the viewer, or even if the face is in full view, the painting has a tendency to become more of a “portrait” and the focus is often on who this person is. I’m often trying to convey an emotion or feeling that is better achieved if the face is not the focus.
MB: What in your life has urged you to paint these scenes of quiet introspection and moments of calmness?
MP: This is one of those questions that others may be able to answer better than I. I was fairly shy as a kid. Later, sports were a great outlet for me but I didn’t like being in front of groups or speaking out in classes. Often I was more comfortable being in the background and not upfront…Robin instead of Batman, perhaps! I was a little bit of a loner at times, but I had plenty of friends and got along with others well. I’ve always enjoyed a certain amount of alone time. Painting is mostly a lonely profession. I have found that many people can relate to that.
MB: Is there anything else you would like to add about your work or the exhibition?
MP: I hope people will come see the show and talk to me about what they like, don’t like, what they see in certain paintings, what they don’t understand, etc. I’ve had people tell me that they don’t get why I’d paint this or that…it often makes me think about things I’d never really thought about before. I learn a lot from feedback and questions