Artist: Nathaniel Paderanga
Media: charcoal, canvas, paint
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Dr. Maxine Merlino Gallery
About the Artist
Few artists could use a Baroque style blended with deep emotions to highlight modern issues so skillfully as Nathaniel Paderanga. He is heavily dependent on the use of light and shadow to show definition , which comes from his study of the old master Caravaggio. Nathaniel is currently in the Drawing and Painting program in CSULB’s School of Art. His exhibit, Social, was done to highlight some issues he has seen that have currently come to his attention. It was also created in memory of a loss in his family he experienced. His pieces are all done in paint, and they take him around two months to complete. Though often he works on three at a time, so individual times would vary. He is more firm on the time of day he wishes to paint; late at night. Of all the artists I have interviewed, this has certainly been the most popular time. Many of his pieces certainly take place in nighttime settings.The dark background allows greater focus on the subjects often illuminated by a focused beam, either from a sparkler close to the face, or the blue glow of a tablet screen. Nathaniel’s passion for art has influenced his career choices as well. He would love to teach art in the Murrieta school system with any age group from elementary on. Nathaniel has a great love of people. Some of his favorite activities include just being with his family, and enjoying their company. Perhaps this love of social activities is what caused him to be so sensitive to some of the more prevalent social issues surrounding him. His observations aren’t just kept to himself, though. As stated initially, he wanted to bring these issues to light (no pun intended), and show the somewhat oblivious public the problems they may often overlook.
Nathaniel’s work deals with a myriad of issues, but his paintings are all connected with a common style. He uses a focal point of light that often scatters across the subject in a way that isn’t always a uniform glow. Sometimes it is soft and even, slowly fading into darkness. But sometimes the light is more varied, dappled across the scene like sunlight scattered on water. Either way the light is organic, without any harshness. The most precise lines in these pieces are the edges of the canvas. Every color and shape flows nicely with the next. Though the shapes and colors are in harmony, the overall mood is one of melancholy. Most of the colors are somber grays and blues, with more shadow than light. Even the paintings that have a daytime setting, like Happy Birthday!, and The Fisherman feature a mostly overcast sky. For an exhibit called Social, an audience member can feel surprisingly lonely.
Nathaniel had an amazing breadth of issues to cover but he was able to successfully connect his pieces in a exhibit of beautiful paintings all with similar styles. Each painting dealt with a different problem society faces, though a few were exceptions, which I will also go over. 2nd Street and Corona dealt with homelessness. This was the issue Nathaniel believes needs most to be changed. The scene is at night, and shows a dimly lighted street. On the left a homeless man huddles in an alcove while on the right, people walk by oblivious. Nathaniel stated that many of his works deal with underlying conflicts present in seemingly ordinary situations. This is evident somewhat in 2nd Street and Corona. The people on the street waling are carrying few belongings, indicating they are most likely not homeless. There is an underlying tension between them and the homeless man. One man is the poorest one can really get in the US, and the other men clearly have more. How often do those of us with houses, food, and cars forget how much we truly have? And how often do we turn a blind eye to a homeless man or woman asking for our help? It’s an issue Nathaniel believes is begging for a solution, though he also believes it may be the most difficult to fix. Nathaniel’s next social issue was brought to light with Get Together. This painting details an older man and a youth sunk into opposite ends of a relining couch. Both are deeply interested in their respective electronic devices and oblivious of each other and the dejected looking dog lying at their feet. Nathaniel wanted to show a recent social issue all ready heavily lamented: technology. Specifically how it is causing a greater divide between people and causing society to lose its ability to interact with others face-to-face. As shown in Nathaniel’s piece technology can even begin to separate families. The Fisherman was another piece that dealt with lack of communication. Nathaniel told me that it seems that no matter what dock you go to, there is always the obligatory old man alone, catching fish. One of Nathaniel’s beliefs is that everyone has a story worth telling, and an old fisherman is no exception. But so few will ever stop a stranger on a pier and take the time to hear their life story, which can leave both parties out on information they could have gained from each other. Happy Birthday! dealt with a bit of a different issue: loss. Often in society today loss and grief are private things, and people have trouble letting sadness go. Nathaniel told me the balloons represent griefs that many bear that may be better to just release. Nathaniel has had his fair share of grief. He dedicated his gallery to his mother, who passed away in 2015. His painting, Karen S. Pateranga, is of his mother. Though the color and style are similar to the rest of the exhibit, this picture breaks a bit with the theme of social issues to deal with a more personal one. Nathaniel says this and two other works, small portraits of his grandparents, were added more as an afterthought. None of them really represented social issues, but they did show Nathaniel’s own social circle with his family.
Synthesis/ My Experience
I always find it intriguing when concepts learned in two separate classes suddenly connect with perfect clarity. Just this week in my Communications class, I was learning about different types of informative speeches. Specifically a configural pattern called “Problem-No Solution”. This type of speech involves the speaker telling about a problem in-depth, but offering no solution to the problem. It can actually be a fairly important set-up. It is used to bring people together to solve a problem, instead of having the burden fall on the speaker. This is a style often used by CEOs and business leaders to bring their workers together to solve an issue one man or woman would have great trouble doing alone. I saw this speech style reflected in the exhibition Social. “Problem-No Solution” speeches use an auditory medium to bring up an unsolved issue. Nathaniel’s exhibition did the same thing, but it used a visual medium instead. Most of his pieces, excluding a few like the ones of his mother and of his grandparents, were made to inform viewers of social issues that Nathaniel sees. But no solution is offered in these paintings. So it leaves the viewer to decide what must be done to overcome these challenging and pervasive problems. It provides a unique opportunity for the viewer to interact with a painting beyond surface level understanding. In many ways Nathaniel’s work is a call to action for his audience. He does not have an answer to the issues he sees each day, but he hopes just one observer does. And maybe one will.