Julian sits down with Brooklyn-based comic artist / painter Pat Palermo. Pat is currently living and working in Galveston through the program at Galveston Artist Residency. Stay tuned for his upcoming GAR exhibit! Photo: Galveston Artist Residency
Julian: Did you know that you wanted to be an artist from the beginning? What was your experience with art growing up?
Pat: Well, I was actually…unsurprisingly, I was super into comics as a kid, which kind of taught me how to read and to draw. When I was a kid I was into fuckin’ Spider Man or GI Joe comics or whatever.
Yeah? I guess the question always seems like Marvel vs. DC.
Yeah, well it’s always Marvel, it’s always Marvel. Then I got into more artsy comics like Love and Rockets, and Maus (by Art Spiegelman), and Alan Moore, who was writing superhero comics, but not your average superhero comics, you know?
It’s interesting because a lot of the artists I’ve talked to describe their medium as watercolor or oils or photographs. So are comics a medium of their own?
Comic books are definitely a medium. If you just draw, well, then you’re making ink drawings. But comics have a narrative element, so you’re never just drawing, you’re also serving some kind of narrative. It’s like, if you write novels, your medium isn’t typing; you’re a novelist, you’re a writer. That’s how I make the distinction.
You describe yourself as a Brooklyn-based artist. What is it like being a creative in a big city like that?
Brooklyn? I love the city. It’s you know, it’s difficult…the thing about New York is that there’s like ten different art scenes. There will be more commercial galleries, which nowadays are in Chelsea, which are super established and kind of not that interesting, and there are not a lot of young artists. And then there’s like, say, the Upper East Side gallery scene which is really blue-chip, all the old, whatever, super valuable, “you have to be rich” pay-to-play. And then there’s like the Lower East Side art scene, which is more hip.
And then there’s the Brooklyn art scene. I co-started an artist-run gallery there (that I don’t run anymore) called Soloway. It was an old heating and plumbing shop that we took over with a little storefront.
How would you characterize your style?
On the one hand I’m working on this serialized project called Live, Work that’s very naturalistic and work intensive. And that’s one kind of style. But then there’s like the daily diary which I spend anywhere between 45 minutes and 3 hours on, but it’s much more casual. And then I do paintings too, which are a whole different kind of thing.
Right now, I have a project with a friend where we’re collaborating on paintings that we’re mailing back and forth to each other. It’s cool, though he owes me some paintings, I’m waiting on the mail…hopefully we’ll have enough for a show at the end of the year.
You’ve been in Galveston for about a year now. Is there a scene that this city reminds you of? Or is the island a thing of its own?
It seems like Galveston has two kinds of scenes, which are the sort of really commercial galleries, which are like paintings of clown fish and ships and stuff; and there’s the scene that GAR is kind of the center of, which is more contemporary, which is close to the kind of thing you’d see in Brooklyn, with a local, very tight-knit group of core people. Like the WAKE people, you know?
I know you’ve been doing the daily art blog here documenting your experiences of the island. What has been particularly memorable?
It’s funny, because Galveston has a very grungy bar scene. People are smoking inside and it reminds me a little bit of Dayton, Ohio, my hometown, because it’s a little depressed, a little divey, most of it. And then you have places that are closer to a bar in New York I’m used to. And there’s things like the golf carts everywhere—I mean, how’s that a legitimate mode of transportation? It’s geared toward this low-maintenance, how-to-drive-drunk thing. And it’s an island, so it’s got half of a beach town vibe, too, adding to its character.
Pat Palermo holding the banner for Festival of the Beautiful, a Mardi Gras parade sponsored by no one and open to everyone. Photo: Galveston Artist Residency
And how has the city influenced your work?
I’ve never worked with a daily diary like I do now, and that’s a big influence, working on a page a day, that’s certainly an opportunity that I’ve never had before. And it’s not a challenge to do them, it’s a challenge to do them and have them be any good. Like for them to be interesting to me.
Like right now…well, ever since Trump got elected, it was non-stop anguish and rage, and now I’m kind of tired. I’m in this period where I’m a little exhausted from that, but also, Galveston has been kind of a celibate city for me, like there’s not a big dating scene here. Nothing happens to me.
It’s kind of like, “I hope I run into a weirdo at the bar, otherwise it’s going to be a pretty boring comic tomorrow.” And right now, I’m trying to figure out alternatives because I can’t afford to go out to the bar every night, but I need material, you know? *laughs*
Man, I get it, totally, believe me. I always fantasized about living in a big city and wondered what that would be like.
Well, the funny thing is you can’t seem to ever…it’s hard to find a balance. In New York, there’s so much stuff happening all the time, but you’re so tired from commuting and your job and then there’s so much going on that you feel guilty all the time because you don’t have the time. I don’t go to anything in New York, I’m always missing everything.
Being in a smaller town, it’s nice. If there’s anything going on, you’re going to see it. I wish there was a little more going on sometimes, but it’s really nice because you get to be at the ground floor of everything. You get to be more of an author of your own culture.
Like that Festival of the Beautiful? That was great! I had never even done Mardi Gras before and now here I am, I get to be a founding member of this cool parade, something I think they’re going to do every year. And that’s really great. Because you can just do that. Galveston is a blank canvas.
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Pat Palermo (center) waits alongside fellow GAR resident Fidencio Fifield-Perez (left) and Eric Schnell (right) for the Festival of the Beautiful parade to begin. See more at the GAR Blog. Photo: Galveston Artist Residency