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Artwork Statement: “Following The Wrong Gods Home” (River Stones series)

river stones oil painting


As a culture, we’re following false gods, and our rivers, salmon, and resident orcas are paying the price.

While hiking in the North Cascades, I emerged from the woods onto the banks of the Skagit River, onto a beach covered in beautiful river stones. The Skagit is the largest and most biologically important river draining into Puget Sound. It is home to a major salmon run, as well as the largest feeding site in the country for the American eagle. The Skagit is also of critical importance to the survival of Puget Sound Orcas, whose main source of food is the chinook salmon who migrate up the Skagit to their breeding grounds.

Each of the paintings in this series takes its title from poetry that celebrates the truth in nature, and the misguidance in following the wrong gods home.

“Following The Wrong Gods Home” accepted into Museum of Northwest Art’s 2019 live auction

oil on linen river stones
oil on linen on panel, 16″ x 20″

My oil painting “Following the Wrong Gods Home” has been accepted into the Museum of Northwest Art’s 27th annual live auction by juror Stefano Catalani, Executive Director of Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, and former Executive Director of Bellevue Arts Museum. This is quite an honor, since it’s more difficult to get into the live auction than the silent one.

The title of this painting comes from a line in U.S. Poet Laureate William Stafford’s poem, “A Ritual To Read To Each Other” and is part of my river stones series, an homage to the Skagit River and its importance to the survival of our salmon and resident orcas.

This year the auction is on Saturday, June 8, 2019, with a Preview Party on Friday, June 7, at the Museum of Northwest Art in LaConner, WA. Make your reservations now!

Giclee prints now available

giclee print of original oil painting
fine art giclee print of original oil painting “The Brooks That Brawls Along This Wood”

Not everyone can afford one of my original oil paintings. I get that. Now, I’m making available limited edition giclee prints of my work. These are fine art prints on archival, non-acidic 100% cotton rag paper. You can order any size that suits your wall space. Contact me via email for details.

“Living In The Layers” wins a $200 prize from Kent Arts Commission’s juried online exhibition

oil painting river stones

My painting “Living In The Layers” (oil on linen on panel, 30″ x 30″) has been accepted into Kent Arts Commission’s online juried exhibition “New Year” and comes with a $200 prize. The painting’s title comes from “The Layers,” a beautiful poem by UW Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz.

The Layers, by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives, 

some of them my own, 

and I am not who I was, 

though some principle of being 

abides, from which I struggle 

not to stray. 

When I look behind, 

as I am compelled to look 

before I can gather strength 

to proceed on my journey, 

I see the milestones dwindling 

toward the horizon 

and the slow fires trailing 

from the abandoned camp-sites, 

over which scavenger angels 

wheel on heavy wings. 

Oh, I have made myself a tribe 

out of my true affections, 

and my tribe is scattered! 

How shall the heart be reconciled 

to its feast of losses? 

In a rising wind 

the manic dust of my friends, 

those who fell along the way, 

bitterly stings my face. 

Yet I turn, I turn, 

exulting somewhat, 

with my will intact to go 

wherever I need to go, 

and every stone on the road 

precious to me. 

In my darkest night, 

when the moon was covered 

and I roamed through wreckage, 

a nimbus-clouded voice 

directed me: 

“Live in the layers, 

not on the litter.” 

Though I lack the art 

to decipher it, 

no doubt the next chapter 

in my book of transformations 

is already written. 

I am not done with my changes. 

Stanley Kunitz, “The Layers” from The Collected Poems of Stanley Kunitz. Copyright © 1978 by Stanley Kunitz (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2002)

Curator’s review of my latest work

Bellingham National 2019: "Water's Edge: Landscapes For Today"

“If you don’t know the kind of person I am, and I don’t know the kind of person you are, a pattern that others made may prevail in the world, and following the wrong gods home we may miss our star.” – William Stafford

Progression comes not only from doing, but from reflecting upon what we do, and adjusting for the next step forward.  As creatures of habit, living in a society that values structure, routine, and efficiency, it is often easy to overlook or ignore the importance of consideration, and walk along the same path.  Repetition, though the path itself is stemmed with avenues of opportunity for change, can render one complacent or stagnant, destined only to follow a predetermined sequence.

“Following the Wrong Gods Home”, a series of oil paintings by Patricia Halsell, depicts intimate studies of river stone beds that line the banks of the Skagit River in the North Cascades. Conceptually, her meticulous observations stand more as reflective commentary on the impact human industrial growth has had on the surrounding environment, and the push to re-evaluate our interactions with nature in all of its simplicities and complexities. From my perspective, the carefully curated selection created space for a cathartic, cogitative experience. It felt almost as if I was crawling along the ground, exploring the miniature pockets of life that stir within the hollows between rocks, wood and soil. Sitting alone in the silent gallery, immersed in naturally soothing applications of color and layers of stone, I found myself re-visiting walks I would take along the rocky shores of Ireland, or explorations along the stream beds of rural Connecticut; places I call home, that harbor natural safe havens for me to sit alone with my internal narratives and reverberations. Spaces where I could digest my own human experience, and follow in toe the gods that would guide me along my own path to self-progression.

                                                                        -Yelverton Freeman, Art Curator

2019 Bellingham National juried exhibition

Bellingham National juried exhibition

I’m delighted to announce that one of my latest paintings, “Tell The Truth But Tell It Slant,” oil on linen on panel, 30″ x 30″ has been selected for the 2019 Bellingham National Juried Exhibition “Water’s Edge: Landscapes For Today.”

river stones

You can see the exhibit from February 1 until May 19, 2019, in the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, an architecturally beautiful space perfect for art exhibitions.

Bellingham is such a scenic place to visit, do yourself a favor and take a day trip to Bellingham to see the show!

Besides, visitors can cast their vote for their favorite artwork in the exhibition, and the winning artist, announced in the closing week of the show in May, will receive a $500 cash prize. I sure could use that money to buy more brushes. So, go visit the show and vote for my painting!

It’s an honor to be chosen for this national juried exhibition by such a well-respected curator and art historian. The juror, Bruce Guenther, is a specialist in post-war American and European Art. He is former Chief Curator at the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California, and of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois, former head of the Modern Art Program at the Seattle Art Museum, Washington, and former Chief Curator and Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Portland Art Museum, Oregon, until his retirement in 2014. He’s now Adjunct Curator for Special Exhibitions at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, and has curated major monographic and thematic exhibitions internationally, and authored numerous books and exhibition catalogues.

“Following The Wrong Gods Home” (River Stones series) at Steele Gallery, Gage Academy, February 8-March 5, 2019

Bellingham National 2019: "Water's Edge: Landscapes For Today"

“Following The Wrong Gods Home” is a solo show of thirteen river stone paintings by Patricia Halsell, on exhibit at Steele Gallery at Gage Academy, Seattle. The show’s title comes from a line from W.S. Merwin’s poem, “Thanks.”

Titles are borrowed from the following works:

As You Like It, Act II, Scene 1, by William Shakespeare

poem “The Layers” by Stanley Kunitz

poem “Thanks” by M.S. Merwin

poem “Over In Montana” by William Stafford

poem “A Ritual To Read To Each Other” by William Stafford

poem “Tell The Whole Truth” by Emily Dickinson

Artist Statement

I’m an observational painter; my work is based on my interpretation and response to what I see, as opposed to purely invented subject matter. I was trained as a figurative painter, but am not particularly interested in exalting the human form in my work. I instead prefer exploring the small pockets of nature that are often overlooked in our busy, fast-paced lives. In my paintings I try to evoke a feeling of meditative calm, a space the viewer can enter in order to quiet the mind long enough to see the metaphorical bigger picture.