About Pagani Art

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Artist’s Statement:

Chriss PaganiI often say, “I am not a human being.” … But if I am not a human being, then what am I? This remains for you to discover!  Yes, I’m an artist. I’m also a certified meditation teacher, a recipient of Dharma transmission, and an animal rescuer. Art and meditation saved my life!  Attention Deficit Disorder, gender identity disorder and pretty severe dyslexia were making me kind of nuts, but art and Vispassana and Mantra meditation saved me. Now I help others.

At the bottom of this page, you’ll find a list of my projects – and there are probably a few more that are at least in my head and/or about to happen that I forgot to mention.

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Bio

I was born in Portland, Oregon, but spent much of my early life being homeless in various places, from Sacramento, California to Tillamook, Oregon.  I wrote a tiny bit more about those times here. I can tell stories about eating flour on a stick or the fact that I didn’t get my first pair of shoes until I started school (a year late because we were homeless). These things may be relevant to understanding who I am but I will leave that for you to decide.

Being the child of extremely brilliant but emotionally unstable people has shaped my life and given it many unusual twists. Growing up, and even right now as an adult, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD) has made it difficult for me to zero in on much anything, for any length of time.  So when you wonder why I’m wandering all over the place, that’s why.  Then there’s that whole thing about gender identity disorder – something other people seem to care about a lot more than I do. Why some people insist on obsessing over this, I don’t know, but I wrote about it because they do, not because I want it to be an issue. The truth is, I’m kind of a bi-gendered person; not really all one thing or another. It’s just how I am and how I’ve always been since the day I was born. I’ve learned to live with it, and the world can, too!  And anyway, this page is about my life as it relates to art, not my suffering. I have tried to overcome the bad things.

I started painting and drawing prolifically about age four. Of course, when your family is often homeless you aren’t an artist, you’re a vandal. I painted on walls and sidewalks because that’s all there was. So I was also taught at an early age that art is bad. It took me a long time to learn differently.

When I was eight years old my father committed suicide.  I never got to see the body or go to the funeral. It wasn’t allowed. I think my father’s ashes became the property of the state. I’ll never know the story, I guess. Despite the threats to kill me and my mother, I still was devastated by the loss of my father and missed most of a year of school. When I recovered, I buried myself even deeper into art.

As a child I spent every free moment drawing and painting. It doesn’t mean I was good at it. Who gets to decide what’s good and what is art, anyway? Anyway,  it never crossed my mind to make it a career. If I had thought of such a thing I’m sure I would have been told it was a stupid idea. Come to think of it, art as a career is a stupid idea! Don’t do it. But I tend to not listen to anyone, even myself.

In Junior High I fell in love with photography, thanks to one father figure replacement, science teacher Burford Wilkerson. Thanks, dad. …My earliest work was with my beloved Polaroid. Since we were a very poor family, however, I didn’t get to experiment as much as I wanted. Nevertheless, I still managed somehow to take hundreds and hundreds pictures – probably none of which survived. We still had to move around a lot and as with childhood, there was nothing I ever owned that I got to keep. Ever.

I have always had an overactive need to discover meaning and purpose…. (Sorry for backtracking here, but that’s how my ADD works!) I remember how, on my fourth birthday, I sat on a curb contemplating what it meant to have lived four years already -and wondering how many more there would be! I’ve been told that this is weird and four year olds just don’t do that! I don’t actually know if that’s true or not; maybe everyone reading this sat around contemplating the meaning of life when they were 4.

Well, everyone has to make a living and so I became a commercial fishing boat captain at 18. I found it mind-numbingly boring even though I liked the solitude of the sea, so at 19 I went to college. I attended Eastern Oregon and majored in Sociology with a minors in music and photography. Later I went to Clatsop College for a Law Enforcement major. Then I attended Northwest Bible College and United Theological Seminary.  To make money, I’ve done all kinds of things besides the stuff I’ve already mentioned, like being a security patrolman, a heavy equipment operator, a long-haul truck driver (briefly!) and a real estate agent. I was even a wedding photographer’s assistant for a while – a happenstance of fate that dramatically improved my photography skills.

Somewhere along the line I discovered meditation. It started with Alan Watts, then I went on to learn from Thich Nhat Hanh and others. I cannot overemphasize how mediation completely transformed my life! I learned that thoughts, feelings, and emotions are not self. I learned that there was a much bigger picture to it all – more than I ever imagined. I had an Awakening experience.

Art continues to be a source of meaning and fulfillment, however artificial and temporary. There is a certain duality within my work and that reflects the duality within me. Abstraction and impressionism, fantasy and reality, male and female – all colliding and forming possibilities new and different. I just wrote that and I don’t even know what it means. In my heart, though, it is a deeper truth. What I do know is that beyond duality there is a ONENESS of everything; we live in a world of illusion and delusion, and only through clear seeing can we discover our True Selves.

So where are we? From here, my intention is to continue with my work in the many areas of painting and photography, as well as keeping my street creds as a generalist and painter of Oregon. And should you be wondering, I will not let down those who have invested in my work. I feel I owe it to those who collect my work to do everything I can to ensure future value. People who choose to own my art are my family. I will share the transformative power of meditation as the opportunity arises – and we will all find our way home, together.

Homeless no longer, I often prefer to feel the freedom of a general lack of ties and i don’t really invest a lot of thought in mortal comforts. For me, home is where my art is.

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 Projects/Themes/Work

My ADD probably holds me back because I usually work on several projects at once. But that’s just the way I was made, so we all have to just live with it. 🙂 I also create show-specific, theme-specific works from time to time as well as collector-directed commissioned works.

“Abstract Expressionism in Black & White” – a Pollock-inspired series of large format paintings using drip, spray and other action techniques, exploring the neural space of abstract expressionism without resorting to color. An ongoing series commenced in 2007 and found here on this site.

“Oregon Natural” – A series of impressionist paintings,drawings and photographs depicting the natural beauty of Oregon. The paintings/drawings portion of this body of work include watercolors, oils, pastels, graphite drawings plus a few experimental India ink works in the abstract impressionist style I learned from my teacher Domenic DiStefano, with additional influences from the works of Homer and Degas. Ongoing work since 2002. Some of my impressionist work may be viewed online at The Painter of Oregon Gallery.

Graphic Arts – Over many years, I’ve found a great deal of satisfaction from drawing humorous cartoons and caricatures, and my work in this area has received some acclaim. There are several characters that I am continuing to develop. Among these special characters are Widget and Skeptical Cat. In addition, my body of work is evolving with interesting typographical and abstract designs. Some of my design work can be found at ToonZ Me.

“The Feral Life” – A photo documentary essay on the lives of real feral cats and their struggle to survive. All photography in this series is done within two feral cat colonies on the Oregon coast. This work is naturalistic, raw and gritty. There are no studio shots or set-up poses, only real life – as it is. Currently this body of work is available as a calendar and forthcoming book, and some is documented at the Feral Cat Rescue Project. My feral cat documentary photography work was recently featured at the Center For Fine Art Photography in Colorado.

“Rural Street Photography” – I haven’t done as much of this lately, but I do enjoy depicting only ordinary people living the most ordinary lives; on the streets, of small towns, in the markets of rural America, on the boardwalks and beaches of tiny tourist traps – captured candidly and silently. Really, it was at least partially inspired by the work of  America’s greatest unknown street photographer, Vivian Maier.  – someone I discovered right after John Maloof discovered her, and I promoted her work relentlessly after than. John doesn’t know it, but a lot of people heard of her (and him) because I nagged them about it.  Anyway, a million people have street photography projects going in urban target-rich environments; so I figured country people deserve attention, too! Continuing hit-or-miss project since 2009 and partially covered here. Street photography is a type of documentary photography that depicts people’s lives as they are lived in public spaces. Sometimes there is a fine line between street(public) portraiture and straight street photography and I straddle that line on a daily basis.

Meditation – You can find my meditation commentary on Facebook and YouTube.

 


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