This week’s feature, John Patterson, is a fourth-generation farmer of the San Luis Valley; who has been “spreading the joy of what [he] calls ‘farm art’ for over 40 years.” His work -- self-described as: “creating smiles out of junk” – largely consists of colorful, welded, whimsical sculptures.
Patterson considers himself a festival artist, comparing the scene to a sort-of circus. “The artists travel from town to town [for the festivals], pitching tents and performing for the masses. I’ve done shows all over the state.”
Festivals require artists to be constantly engaged with their communities, as that’s how connections – professional or otherwise – are made. So, it comes as no surprise Patterson describes himself as: “A people-person! I’ve made many friends at these circuses, statewide and locally.”
Growing up on a farm, where one’s entertainment relies on their creativity, Patterson was introduced to art at a young age. “Mom was always giving us “projects” and – being equidistant between Taos, Sante Fe and Aspen – we frequently visited galleries. I loved it!”
His love for art stuck. Luckily, Patterson’s high school – though small and rural – had a great art program. He was introduced to a surprising variety of mediums, including but not limited to: ceramics, painting and block printing.
On the farm, Patterson eventually learned how to weld. It was here he discovered he could pair this newfound skill with his love of crafting. Utilizing mostly scrap metals he found on the farm, Patterson began to create the playful sculptures we see today.
He landed his first public commission at 21 years old. One of his largest pieces to date, Patterson’s “Cooper the Whooper” can still be seen today in front of Monte Vista’s Safeway.
“The City traded me two years of membership for that piece and the Monte school kids named him, so it was kind of a public project.” He was awarded a 2-year membership at the local golf course.
Though his golf game never improved, Patterson notes being commissioned by the city – so early in his career – really energized him.
During this career, Patterson has: participated in countless shows and festivals, created many public installations; and had galleries, from every SLV town, show his work. Alamosa’s Firedworks gallery currently shows a few of Patterson’s piece.
Now 62, Patterson continues to sculpt and participate in local shows and festivals. “I’ll do anything to spread the smiles Farm Art always brings my patrons. Since I’m kind of getting up there in age, I hope to make sculpting part of my retirement plan.”
Patterson shouldn’t have a problem maintaining those patrons, as his investment in them and his larger community is evident. He has not only participated in many local art events, but has even helped organize a few.
This includes Monte Vista’s “Swoop of the Cranes” project. Patterson helped organize this, employing 40 local artists to create the 50 cranes that now reside on the town’s light posts.
“It has been a wonderful experience, although – since it was a ‘community’ thing – the artists mostly donated their work. Please go, in person, or visit online and vote!
Though Patterson says it is too hard for him to choose, he encourages all to “Vote for your favorite on bit.ly/BestCranes.” In September, the city of Monte Vista will award cash prizes for a People’s Choice, a Chamber choice and an Art Panel choice.
Currently, with a few of his neighbors, Patterson is working to get the city’s approval for a large, interactive, outdoor installation. It would be a metal sculpture on the road divider near Alamosa’s golf course.
“I’m really excited about this project because we want to invite everyone in their street community to donate a piece of memorabilia, which I’ll add to the piece.” While the details are still in the works, Patterson says: “We could maybe host a block party or even invite the whole town.”
To finish up, I asked Patterson whether or not he would consider himself an artist and to explain his answer.
“Personally, I don’t care whether someone says I’m just a crafter or says, ‘You’re a great artist’; after all, I’m really just an Old Farmer who likes to create smiles out of junk -- so leave the pondering to the ‘Art Pundants,’
“But I believe art is a very existential way of creating peace within the individual … it’s a world where dreams are found. It’s love, it’s laughter, it’s in your heart and mind.”
“Let the light shine! Yes, be an artist, be a Creator; but most importantly: be yourself!”