On the Water paintings in my February 6 -March 3, 2023 Solo show at the Village Art Galleries in Tequesta, Florida are a curated collection around the theme of water. The attraction to water is universal. Whether we just look at it, hear the sound of waves, swim, play or boat in it, all of us want to have that water experience.
I’ve always been drawn to bodies of water. Growing up on Long Island, I went to the beach year round – even when it was empty in the winter. The beauty of the ocean and the Long Island Sound made a deep impression on me. I started painting the beach from Long Beach to Montauk when I was very young. Then, New York City became home for most of my adult life. I’ve painted New York Harbor, the East River, the Hudson and the lakes & ponds of Central Park in every season. There’s joy in water.
Living on the water for the last two years since moving to Florida has given me the chance to really experience looking at water and life on the water all day long, everyday. It’s an inexhaustible well of inspiration. The changing light and color and the moods of people boating or their absence is my subject in these On the Water paintings. Beyond beauty, there’s an emotional or spiritual energy that water inspires in me that’s hard to express and to capture. I want to convey that feeling to the viewer.
Frequently I’ll work from life but since water and weather are so changeable, I also use my drawings and watercolors as sources for on the water paintings. Traveling gives me a further opportunity to do watercolors that I use back in the studio. I especially like working from memory and sometimes will first make a sketch, but often I just trust myself, pick up my brush and see what surprises appear on the canvas. The freedom of working that way seems in tune with the freedom I feel on the water.
Aet Paaro paintings at her Solo Show “Finding Home” can be seen currently at 243 E. 34th St. New York City The Estonian House through December 6, 2019. 47 Vermont landscapes and New York City cityscapes comprise the show. All of the landscape paintings are versions of the same view from the artist’s Vermont home and were created in varied seasons and times of day. In the Artist Statement below, Aet Paaro writes about her background and why she paints the same view over and over.
“I’m often surprised to realize the true meaning of work I’ve made decades ago. The most basic choices in form & color, when compounded relentlessly result in a meaning whether I want them to or not, whether I recognize it or not. This meaning in its rawest form is the truth about me.
My parents came to America as Estonian refugees after WWII. I was born in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany. My father who had narrowly escaped death in a Nazi forced labor camp was placed in a zone for Estonian nationals where he met my mother. Although I was only a few months old when we got sponsorship to emigrate, I grew up in a home where the Golden days of life “back home” were celebrated and the losses relived. Indeed, growing up in the thick of the rich cultural world that postwar Estonians created on the East coast from Baltimore to Toronto, I was convinced that this community was drawing inspiration from a truly ideal place: Estonia. A place we couldn’t go visit – probably never because the Soviet Union had swallowed up Estonia into its grim Empire & we would end up in the Gulag if we tried to go there. Books with blurry photos in gray mustardy colors of dairy farms & empty factories provided frustrating visual clues. Soviet era snapshots of unsmiling relatives in shabby apartments arrived in letters once a year. To experience Estonia was literally unattainable. It was as if it didn’t really exist. My parents could never go home again and they weren’t really at home in America. I led two lives. One as an American girl living on Long Island and the other as an Estonian girl going to Estonian language school, Girl Scouts, summer camp and celebrating Estonian Independence Day here at the Estonian House every year. I spoke Estonian at home and English everywhere else. My strange name signaled to people that I wasn’t really American. In fact, I was from this tiny place no one had ever heard of and spoke a secret language no Americans spoke. Where did I belong?
Estonians don’t complain. They get on with it so I resolved to fit in and make myself at home here in America. As an introvert, I had my work cut out for me but finally, in high school I started feeling comfortable. I’d always had an odd yearning for the country, so I went to Bennington College in Vermont to study art. Vermont bewitched me. There was something beyond the beauty of the landscape – possibly the emptiness and the quiet and the strange taciturn people who would always show up silently to help in any given crisis. Unfortunately, it was 1968 and the world turned upside down with assassinations, elections and cultural unmooring. With the world shifting under me, I returned to New York where I finished school, married and stayed.
In the 1980’s, New York City was in the middle of a crack cocaine epidemic and I was one of the many New Yorkers fleeing the city for the summer and on weekends. I’d been painting in Soho and the Hamptons and was satisfied until I visited neighboring artist Janet Fish at her farm in Vermont. It seemed like a paradise. Janet helped us find our first rental house nearby and that summer I started painting the Vermont landscape with a real fervor. Reader’s Digest bought a large number of those works so I was encouraged to keep going. I started looking at land to build on.
On a completely foggy day, I was taken up an overgrown driveway to see a property that supposedly had a beautiful view. We came upon a large bird struggling on the ground, tangled and trapped in a mass of white string. When we finally freed the bird, it flew away into the fog. I’ve always had an unfortunate weak spot for signs and romantic symbolism so I was primed to like this property. The fog lifted when we got to the top of the hill and in that distant view of mountain after mountain, I had found what I was looking for.
We built our house on that spot and I’ve been painting the same view for 30 years. Why I need to paint the same thing relentlessly is a matter of conjecture. Initially, I was just trying to capture the changes in the light, the seasons, the weather but it’s now an excuse to give myself wide latitude to handle paint in a way that expresses something I can’t with language. Further, I don’t like to paint my actual house because somehow the view itself represents home to me. Perhaps it’s because it’s always a distant thing that’s way out there, that I don’t possess, that I can’t possess, like Estonia it’s the ideal place. I don’t yet know what it means.”