Martha’s Vineyard’s Pagan presents paintings, digital art

"Woman Bather," is a painting that was displayed at Mr. Pagan's June 30 open house.
Photo by Domingo Pagan

"Woman Bather," is a painting that was displayed at Mr. Pagan's June 30 open house.

The vibrant, varied art displayed at Domingo Pagan’s home studio in West Tisbury last month came from all sorts of mediums. Photos were up next to oils, watercolors, and art enhanced graphically on the computer. Sometimes it was hard to pin down just what medium the art was. That is something Mr. Pagan intended in his show, “Eclecticism: The image is the message.”

“The point is to confuse people,” said Mr. Pagan. “There are no boundaries between photo, painting, and the computer. Sometimes I take a photograph, paint on it, work on the image in the computer, and then paint on it again. Everything is a tool in service of the image.”

The name of Mr. Pagan’s show is a goof on Marshall McLuhan’s famous quote, “The medium is the message.” Mr. Pagan holds that content is more important than the medium, and he demonstrates it with the many mediums he employs, each leading to powerful images.

By putting images into the computer, Mr. Pagan can play with forms that have mathematical basis. He uses depictions of fractals to capture infinite distance in a finite space and exults in how these geometric depictions mirror thought, which is also an infinite process that occurs in a finite space.

In artistic terms, eclecticism intimates the presence of many different styles in a single work of art. The walls of Mr. Pagan’s studio testify to his eclectic abilities. Many of the images were of beautiful nudes or semi-nudes; just as many were landscapes, cityscapes, fully clothed dancers or oil studies of other famous artists.

Mr. Pagan’s study of John Singer Sargent’s “Helen Sears” tells a lot about Mr. Pagan’s style of oil painting. Sargent’s painting has yellow highlights and a red foreground that slowly drift into the black of the background. The girl’s head and hair also gradually drift into the black background.

Mr. Pagan’s version differs in that he relies on contrast. The study uses a white/black emphasis that puts the figure in stark contrast. The change in emphasis credits Mr. Pagan’s personal artistic vision, but his deft brushstrokes do honor to Mr. Sargent’s classic piece.

One of Mr. Pagan’s most interesting paintings is of a wintry Beacon Hill street. The painting was hung before a window, and light shines through what look like little needle holes, giving the snow a natural glimmer. On closer inspection the painting is done on burlap, and sections of the painting are given a lighter coverage so that small holes will remain.

Equally creative are Mr. Pagan’s photographs, taken in complete darkness. He then “paints” with variously colored flashlights, which give color and realization to the image. It’s impressive that these open-shutter photos are done by the same artist who takes landscape photos. Often done in wide panoramic form or a narrow vertical presentation that best displays a change in terrain, Mr. Pagan’s landscapes demonstrate his eye for interesting angles of observation.

It’s incredible that one can mention all of these mediums before having gotten to Mr. Pagan’s watercolors, which are electric. They seem to crackle off the page like realistic, vivid eyes gazing out. Textured, defined hair frames luminous faces. “With watercolors you have to let go,” said Mr. Pagan. “Throw the paint out there. If you’re tentative it gets harder.”

Mr. Pagan and his wife, Karen Cullinan, bought a house on the Island in 1998, and have lived here full time since 2003. For his show “Eclecticism: The image is the message” Mr. Pagan converted his wife’s dance studio into a gallery. Two floors were covered in images, and there are countless others in storage.

More images of his art are available online at visualphysicalart.com, and he can be contacted at 508-693-7730 for more information.