Home eco: Costello digs domesticity

Patrick Costello, "The Things We Do to Make Do."
Patrick Costello, "The Things We Do to Make Do."

Making art is by nature a personal experience, but it's rare that an artist's work and life offer as seamless a continuum as Patrick Costello's. Like a MĀ¶bius Strip, Costello's daily endeavors–- often focused on growing and preserving food in a sustainable way–- lead to his art, and the ecological ideals of his art lead to his everyday actions. This integration of existence and expression is the key to Costello's beautifully unified exhibit, "Cheer On," currently installed at The Garage.

Comprising geometric paintings–- often with narrative content–- letterpress images, screen prints, and sculptural pieces, the show addresses the efforts people are making to recover an environmentally sound way of living. But rather than wagging his finger and taking the preachy high road, Costello has created a homey show, filled with warmth and nostalgia for planting gardens, recycling worn-out clothes into quilts, and canning homegrown goods. Costello furthers this feeling of grandma's-kitchen comfort with a mix-and-match approach to framing.

The sweetness of his message, though, does not compromise Costello's artistic integrity. The former UVA Aunspaugh fellow combines a flat, linear aesthetic with an interest in textile design. Each piece is distinct, yet Costello threads them together through palette, symbolic repetition, geometric elements, and stylistic flourishes. For example, the hair and beards of his farming figures, which occur in several works, are similar to repeated compost heap images and the textured tops of recurring acorns.

Deftly using a palette dominated by browns, grey-blues, and ochre, Costello's pieces woo viewers with a satisfying symmetry, although small moments of asymmetry keep things lively. For instance in the quilt-like acrylic painting, "The Things We Do to Make Do," the top of a diamond of intersecting dodecagons features a linear pattern that descends into a fringe of arms hanging down, with an implied but inexact symmetry, ending in hands holding multicolored jars of canned preserves. Below, overlapping leaves/gloves drape over the backs of twin mirrored figures planting stylized saplings.

The piece de resistance of the show, however, is the sod-roofed "Shack," which Costello has constructed from recycled lumber and typesetting drawers, and hung with beaded lamps crafted by his grandfather. The chevron-patterned floor of brown and blue planks points to a whitewashed back wall, where seven shelves dazzle with color-coordinated jars of jellies, pickles, sauces, and preserves canned by Costello himself, their hues as delicious as what they hold.

Costello's embrace of life as art and art as life is definitely something to cheer on!

Patrick Costello's exhibition, "Cheer On," is on view through October 31 at The Garage, 251 First St. NW (across from Lee Park). Gallery hours by appointment; for more information, e-mail ptack.costello@gmail.com.

1 comment

Congratulations Patrick--impressive. I wish I were rich enough to hire you! With any luck we will be able to see the show. Again, congratuations. I am keeping my green felt Christmas tree for when you are so famous--at least I will have a piece done by you!