Pondering and painting the apocalypse

Pondering the cataclysmic prediction that the world will end later this year, Schoharie County artis
“Woman in Bud,†a bronze sculpture by Patrick Sarisky, is one of several hundred sculptures he’s done over the years, many emphasizing his love of nature. (Alan Ginsburg/For the Sunday Gazette)
“Woman in Bud,†a bronze sculpture by Patrick Sarisky, is one of several hundred sculptures he’s done over the years, many emphasizing his love of nature. (Alan Ginsburg/For the Sunday Gazette)

Pondering the cataclysmic prediction that the world will end later this year, Schoharie County artist Patrick Sarisky offers his own interpretation of the source of such claims in his painting “Gabriel and Diablo.”

The prediction, based on a purported ancient Mayan prophecy that the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012, has been declared unfounded by scholars who study Mayan history and culture, as well as by astronomers examining so-called evidence that the event will occur during certain planetary alignments.

Sarisky said he decided to convey his reaction to the dire prediction in “Gabriel and Diablo,” a 72-by-66-inch acrylic painting that he subtitled “A Synergy of Paganism and Christianity for 2012.”

Negative energy

Unfortunately, what may be cataclysmic, he said, “is the collision of the negative energy expended by people with so many different beliefs and their contradictions.”

Symbols of all world religions abound throughout the painting and merge with pagan symbols, some representing elements, such as wind, fire and water, others representing ideas.

“The eclipse and the comet streaming across the sky are signs of foreboding, symbols of impending doom,” Sarisky said. They play a major role in pagan beliefs.

He also included the symbol for the U.S. dollar. “The dollar sign is the biggest religious symbol in the United States,” he said.

So with what he called his “subtle sense of humor,” he depicted biblical and pagan images and themes throughout the painting. He included fiery red Satan with his horned head and outstretched forked green tongue, his clawed toes grasping a creature whose tail is fused into the “twisted tree of knowledge, which is losing its leaves.”

Diablo defends himself against Gabriel’s sword with one hand; the other hand is placed on the head of a skull, which is “a kind of humorous entrance into hell,” Sarisky said. Tiny volcanoes erupt on Satan’s knees, “since evil erupts.”

“I spent a great deal of time researching other artwork, especially various artists’ interpretations of the devil,” he said, such as “Saint Michael Vanquishing Satan,” the famous oil painting by Renaissance artist Raphael.

“A lot of the devils in those earlier paintings were too tranquil, so I decided to use the Mexican image of the devil, Diablo, the horned red figure.”

Catholic background

Noting he was drawing from his own Roman Catholic background, Sarisky used highly saturated hues to designate areas of heaven, purgatory and hell — blue, yellow and red, respectively. However, he “cooled down parts of hell” with a smattering of blue in the lower portion of the canvas.

“Some people may be shocked by the painting, some may be offended, but it’s just an expression of my personal thoughts,” he said. Moreover, he added, “The more reaction to the art, the more successful the piece.”

Sarisky, who grew up in Queens and later moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village, developed an interest in wood sculpting when he met the late Daniel Presley, an artist who created wood relief sculptures that were often exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum and sold on the village streets.

Sarisky had been working in the administrative offices of the former Eastern Airlines in Manhattan, a job he got after graduating from high school, which provided him with opportunities to travel abroad. Seeing wood sculptures in Africa on one of his trips also inspired him, he said.

After moving upstate to his home on Eminence Road in Summit in the 1970s, he continued creating wood sculptures and later became interested in bronze casting. He took two classes at SUNY Oneonta in the process of forming bronze casts but didn’t enroll in fine arts.

Later he spent two days a week for two years working on his castings in the art facilities at Hartwick College. Since the 1980s, he has created about 300 sculptures.

More recently, he began doing oil and acrylic painting, a path he chose after seeing that his friend, Jeff Bliumis — a New York City-based artist whose bronze sculptures have had a significant impact on his own artistic endeavors — had begun painting. Bliumis’ artwork has been exhibited widely both in the United States and abroad.

“I decided to approach a painting in a naïve manner and just rely on my ability to paint using the same approach I used when doing sculptures, starting out with simple forms. So I began with monochromes, simple black-and-white abstracts, and later learned how to use color.”

Several of his paintings hang on the walls of his home, a one-room cabin he converted into a five-room house. Several sculptures are displayed in his studio.

He lives alone with his pet Siberian husky Ena. “She’s a sweet dog, a really good companion,” he said. “I live a very simplified life, grow my own vegetables, and work most of the time.”

His son, Andrew, 25, also an artist, lives in Utah and teaches snowboarding.

Sarisky propagates rare daylilies, perennials and other plants and sells them by mail-order on the Internet. He said he’s a naturalist whose art is often inspired by his love of nature. “Living up here in Schoharie County is like a blessing for me. The beauty of nature here is very special.”

He described one of his works, “Dancing Plant Form,” a bronze sculpture, 431⁄2 inches tall by 18 inches wide as “a complex unity of simplistic plant forms, leaves with seeds on a crescent form.”

Another, “Moon Howl,” an American black walnut carving with bronze components, head and hooves, on a welded steel base, 64 inches by 16 inches, is “unique, wild and sensual. Not for the timid.”

His bronze casting “Woman in Bud,” 37 inches tall, 16 inches wide, 26 inches deep, her arms outstretched with palms up, “is extending to us through the beauty of nature,” he said.

Sculpture on view

His sculpture has been exhibited at the American Craft Museum (now know as the Museum of Arts and Design) in New York City and the juried Contemporary Sculpture exhibit at Chesterwood in Stockbridge, Mass. He has won awards at both the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit in New York City and at the Cooperstown Art Show.

He has yet to exhibit his paintings.

“I followed and watched Patrick make his paintings and sculptures with respect and amazement at the way his art stayed clean, pure and progressed and found itself in our time,” said Bliumis, in an email.

“He found a way in this day and age of post-post-everything to still make pieces that are honest in essence, informal in appearance and relevant to the present moment.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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