At social events, we all field the question,
“So, what is it that you do?” with an expected answer of, “I am a ____,” and subsequent filling in of the blank.
When that query is posed to Pat and Patricia Fleming, a husband-wife artistic team from Kennewick, WA, the answer — even a vastly simplified one — requires more than one to five words. And even afterwards, one gets the feeling that all the blanks haven’t been filled in.
“We live in a clay house that I built from 2002 to 2005,” Pat Fleming says. That’s a good start, because the potter, who is also a painter, who is also a retired art instructor regularly returning to the classroom to part-time teach, is known for digging his own clay from a spot in Othello, WA.
The corresponding pottery he creates from this activity is truly unique, if for no other reason than that many pottery artists, as well as pottery purchasers, rarely consider the possibility of such a DIY attitude. But, as Pat points out, digging one’s own clay is not a new concept:
“My pottery statement is, ‘See what our ancestors did for over 12,000 years, and we can still do it.’ It is cost efficient, it is possible, it is the ultimate craft.
“Also, ‘See what this stuff that I dug out of the ground can do with the guidance of a knowledgeable practitioner.'”
One thing this particular knowledgeable practitioner — whose expertise extends beyond creation of individualized pieces to the production of nationally distributed wholesale restaurant dinnerware — has done is share the wisdom base of a very ancient craft. During a 33-year teaching career at Kennewick schools, Pat led groups of students on weekend field trips to collect material.
At one point, “we had so much local clay accumulated that we never had to buy any for 12 years.”
One of Pat’s favorite phrases, and indeed the one upon which he grounds his professional career, and life, is,
“This is what I do.”
Pottery is one element, teaching another (“I have been called out of retirement for a fourth time”); even bricklaying, originating from work as a hod carrier when he was 14, forms a part of What Pat Does. He also paints, but in archetypal Fleming fashion, in his own way.
“I mix powdered tempera with masonry acrylic additive which I buy at Lowe’s by the gallon . . . My paintings are about everything from, ‘Look at what the light did to that wine bottle,’ to ‘Ode to Retired Bankers Everywhere.'”
Well, that’s Pat, simplified. What about Patricia?
A photographer who greets each day for its potential of perspective, chroma, and form, Patricia teases out the unique attributes of landscapes and still life, transforming everyday views into, “Stop. Look at me now,” visual monographs.
“I love the light and became interested in reflections, shapes, and shadows,” Patricia says. “Everyday items take on a whole new perspective when the sun and shadows hit them — that’s when I feel a great urgency to record the scene I am seeing.”
No Photoshopping, other than cropping, she adds. The artist’s eye directs the final view. It is a view that insists upon being seen:
“While I have sold many photographs, the one that means the most to me was a patient at a hospital who said she strolled by my photograph called Bella Beach many times, and felt a real sense of peace when she looked at it.
“She later purchased it, and I love the thought of her looking at it in her own home. I think of her and hope she is now healthy and happy.”
When they’re not creating their own art, the Flemings focus on the work of others, cofounding Cyber Art 509 (www.CyberArt509.com), an online group of 57 artists in the 509 phone area code. Members show their work at local restaurants, shops, wineries and offices in the form of rotating exhibits.
It’s all part of what they, the Flemings, do — potter, photographer, painter, teacher, writer, marketer, artist. As Pat says,
“I don’t golf, I don’t bowl, I don’t own a boat. I paint and make pots.”
Patricia photographs and conquers the computer and the website.
It satisfies them to say, “This is what we do.”
Pat and Patricia Fleming are the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artists from Monday, May 9 through Saturday, June 4. Pat will be showing his pottery and paintings, and Patricia will be showing her photography.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.
Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists. Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.