Patrick Donley. Photo by Terri Burt.

12 Questions for a Visual Artist: Patrick Donley

Patrick Donley is an artist and musician who has lived and worked most of his life in Louisville. He is a co-director of Zephyr Gallery, a bass player active with several bands, and just finished building his own house. An exhibit of his most recent work, Re-Constructed: New Wall Constructions, opens August 20 at the Krantz gallery at Jefferson Community & Technical College. Somehow he still found the time to answer our 12 questions.
Entire contents are copyright © 2012, Arts-Louisville. All rights reserved.
1.    How long have you been an artist? 
I started taking pictures in high school during the ’70s. In college, I took my first art course to help with my photography skills…and never turned back. In 1983, I decided that I would devote my life to the making of art.
2.    How important was education in your creative development?
Actually, my art education was tantamount to my development. It was through Art History classes that I began to understand the connections between art and religion, between art and politics, between art and life. As far as skill sets, I basically spent the first 20 years after graduate school “un-learning” everything I was taught. My work today relies more on intuition than any learned skill.
3.    Who has influenced your work the most?
Ed Paschke. He was teaching at Northwestern when I was in the graduate program. I still think about the concepts that he introduced – ideas about theme and variation. How dimension, value, hue, light-play are all variables that can be manipulated to keep the works fresh yet related to one another. “How would Ed solve this problem?”
4.    What makes the Louisville gallery scene so strong?
Persistence. A comradeship between the gallery owners. We work together to promote the visual arts in general. If someone comes to my gallery and I do not have what or who they are looking for, I send them to the gallery who can best serve their need. Big city galleries don’t do this; they are very cutthroat and greedy. Plus, there are a lot of great young artists who are seeing the value in living and working here. Pop-up galleries and alternative show spaces keep the scene vibrant.
5.    What changes would you like to see in the local visual arts community?
I would like to see more people of means realizing the value of buying real art, and I don’t just mean monetary value, but the value that original art brings to your everyday experience. A reproduction of a painting is flat and lifeless, soulless. An original has dimension, texture, vitality and sometimes even a scent from the materials used to produce it. People with the means to buy art do not always have the taste or background to appreciate why they respond to art  I have spent 20 years trying to educate viewers who come to Zephyr, and it does seem to be changing slowly.  
6.    What is the greatest challenge facing the visual arts community in Louisville?
Related to the last question, I think Louisville has to figure out how to sustain the growth in the art community. More artists means more art for sale. But do we have the buyers for that art? Do “collectors” really understand the responsibility that comes with owning a collection?
7.    Who is your favorite artist in Louisville?
This is a trick question, right? I could say that “one” of my favorite artists is Tom Pfannerstill.
8.    If you were not an artist, what profession would you choose?
I have actually thought about this, and I think that I would enjoy being in the creative side of advertising.
9.    Most recently, what inspires you?
Nature. Since moving down to the South End near Iroquois Park, I have become obsessed with animals and trees. Conscious breathing of clean(er) air.
10. What is the most annoying question to ask an artist?
Is it “art”?
11. What advice, if any, would you give a young artist?
Listen to your elders. We’ve been there, done that, and worn out the T-shirt. And lose the attitude: it means you are trying too hard, and I guarantee you that your sh*t DOES stink.
12. What’s on your I-Pod right now?
Buena Vista Social Club, Sonic Youth, Deep Sea Diver, David Byrne “Music for the Knee Plays,” the Frames, Joe Strummer, Les Negresses Vertes, Rebirth Brass Band, Shipping News (rest in peace, Jason), Wilco, XTC.
Re-Constructed: New Wall Constructions
August 20-September 28, 2012
The Krantz Gallery at JCTC
VTI Building, 1st & Chestnut Streets, Room 116, Louisville, Kentucky
Monday-Thursday: 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Friday: 9 a.m.-12 p.m.