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A Subdued Urgency: Patrick Willett’s Transience at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society

By Amanda McLaughlin:

A controlled frenzy, a tangential immediacy:  Patrick’s Willett’s new exhibition, Transience, features works preoccupied
with the happening past and the happening present.  Opening Wednesday, March 28th, at
the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, Transience is a selection of the internationally known artist’s
studies of the “unique and powerful”  (to
paraphrase Willett) Western New York landscape. 
More  than simply reworkings of
Western New York’s industrial years, Willett’s paintings activate Buffalo’s
past; the antique is reclaimed, put into motion, worked on by nature.

by the artist as a “visual meditation on space, transience, and the permanence
of spirit,” Transience is a study of
the transitional moment.  The landscapes,
which Willett argues are largely “autobiographical”– people, he suggests in a
statement, are molded substantially by their surrounding environment–are not
just renderings of industrial landmarks decaying amongst the grandeur of
nature; instead, through energetic, impetuous brush strokes, the paintings
focus on nature’s reclaiming of our own borrowed past.  The instability–seen here as largely generative–of
our existence is highlighted through light and shadow; Transience is largely preoccupied with the reorienting of
history.  To quote Willett:


While the local landscape supported
an industrial boom many years ago, we can now witness it slowly dismantling and
reclaiming many of these hulking monuments to our industrial past.

  We tend to hold on to a sense of place and
when in reality we are only borrowing the many things we acquire, particularly
the land and structures that sustain us.
We are transient beings.

works are imbued with a subdued urgency; the pieces are neither hectic nor
gentrified, neither treatises nor silhouettes. 
Instead, the works retain a seeming reverence towards established
form–energetic form that is not deconstructed–while challenging, with color and
shape, our notions of order.  (A nod,
perhaps, to Willett’s seeming preoccupation with disallowing the binary:  the industrial is reclaimed by the natural,
until they seem to be gesturing towards one in the same.)

Perhaps, then, we should classify–if such
classifications are even appropriate–Willett’s work as historiographical
instead of historical.  That is, his
pieces are concerned with the presentation of history, and that presentation’s
subsequent reclaiming: the “inherent energy”–to again quote from Willett–of our
surroundings, the surroundings we are molded by, that we share, and that are
both conditioned by us and beyond our control.

Beauty and history are, perhaps, fundamentally
intertwined–and here, too, on a literal level, as Transience opens at the phenomenally pretty Buffalo and Erie County
Historical Society (BECS), a Pan-Am building whose stone façade is just as
recognizable as the grain elevators of Willett’s watercolor paintings, pen and ink
drawings, and photographs.

The exhibit
opens today Wednesday, March 28th and runs from 6-8 PM.  It coincides with the Society’s Wednesday
night event; admission is free, and refreshments will be served.  In addition, Full Swing Sound will be
performing jazz music throughout the event.

The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society is located at 25
Nottingham Court in Buffalo, and more information, including the museum’s typical
admission hours, can be found at, or by calling 716.873.9644.  Additional information on Patrick Willett, as
well as links to his personal blog, can be found at his website:

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

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