Houston art connection brings new work into hospital art collection

 It was a crisp, brilliantly blue March afternoon when my husband, Lal, and I first met artist, fellow native Houstonian and fifth-generation Texan John Palmer at the 2004 Bayou City Art Festival.

Bluebird weather days are rare in Houston, but our chance meeting of Palmer made the day rarified. Lal and I were immediately drawn into Palmer’s mesmerizing mixed media canvases and works on paper. Ours was an instant gravitation; a pull so powerful that we could not leave without becoming collectors of his work. Little did Palmer know that his paintings would soon journey their way to Pagosa Springs, Colorado on separate, but parallel paths.

 John Palmer was exploring his Oxford series at the time. Vivid, fractured color fields of a depth bearing resemblance to Mark Rothko’s distinctive abstract compositions whose parallel color masses exude a uniquely luminous vibrational energy. Perhaps the meditative quality of Palmer’s work was what first attracted me. But in Palmer’s compositions there is also energy, a free-form movement akin to the emotional qualities of life. Curvilinear arrows draw my eyes from one area of his painting to another. Scribbled marks and lines appear here and there as if trying to mask the hidden meaning in his message. Palmer’s paintings are innovative compositions of unique symbolism that are in a way reminiscent of works by Robert Rauschenburg, who created from everyday sources of information.

 Palmer is taking a page out of the Robert Rauschenberg playbook by adopting a similar mentality and work ethic. John says of his art, “I put all of my soul into each piece. By releasing my inner struggles and insecurities out through my brushstrokes, I gain confidence, come to peace with myself…”

John Palmer believes art is therapy. By reading about Palmer’s life, I know for him that art is not a “may,” but a “must.” Creating art is healing for Palmer. He knows that art can inspire, art can relieve, and art can take both the artist and viewer to a heightened awareness of their life. It is for these reasons that Alley House Grille owners Todd and Kellie Stevens also became admirers and collectors of Palmer’s art; and were moved to donate John’s “Equestrian Series” 46x40 mixed media painting on canvas to the Pagosa Mountain Hospital permanent art collection.

 How interesting that our separate paths would meet in Pagosa Springs! You see, the Stevens also came from Houston where they opened their first Farrago Market Café restaurant in 2000 in the newly renovated Midtown section of Houston’s downtown district. Kellie, an artist turned pastry chef, told me that Todd and she first met John Palmer through mutual friend, Jim McDermaid, who was managing the Stevens’ Houston Farrago at the time. It wasn’t long after this initial meeting that the Stevens became close friends with Palmer, and began to exhibit his art in their Houston restaurant.

Kellie recalls, “In 2001, John gave Todd and me one of his paintings on canvas as a housewarming present. What I love so much about John’s work is his freedom in expression. His use of rich, bold colors creates a sense of calmness, yet reveals an underlying energy that is quintessentially John.” Kellie adds, “One gets excited about John’s excitement in life and how he makes one feel.”

 It was natural that Palmer’s art journeyed to Pagosa Springs with the Stevens when they moved here and opened their second Farrago Market Café. Little did the Stevens know at the time that John’s art had come to Pagosa Springs through Lal and me, too! When Lal and I first ate at Farrago on Pagosa Street, much to our joy and amazement adorning the walls were several of John Palmer’s box paintings, which have become an integral part of his current body of work. Since that time, the Stevens have continued to introduce Palmer’s art into the Pagosa Springs community, exhibiting his work at their Alley House Grille on Pagosa Street, and offering their public opportunities to meet John at their restaurant. The Stevens latest restaurant venture, Digs Market Café, which just opened in the Three Springs community east of Durango, is also featuring Palmer’s incredible works of art.

 Palmer, in his 10th year as a professional artist, continues to develop as an artist and as a person. John has learned that an appreciation of art goes hand in hand with an appreciation of life. He strives for the best in life, working to improve himself and his outlook through yoga, meditation, healthy living, community outreach and travel. Kellie lamented to me, “John has the best heart. He’s sweet, good and charitable. We love having him visit us in Pagosa Springs and we love exhibiting his artwork here, too!” It is the Pagosa Mountain Hospital Art Committee’s hope and desire that the hospital’s visitors and patients who view John’s Equestrian Series will also appreciate art through John’s work, and be touched by its healing force. When asked about their selection, the committee responded that “although this piece has serious overtones it exudes a youthful playfulness and lightheartedness achieved through its subject matter and warmth of color.”

 John first studied art professionally at the Santa Reparata International School of Art in Florence, Italy in 2001. In 2003, he studied under Robert Venosa in Cadaques, Spain (the former home of Salvador Dali). Palmer spent the summer of 2004 working with Master Painter Philip Rubinov-Jacobson in the Austrian Alps. In 2005, he studied mono-printmaking in Skopelos, Greece under the direction of California artist Linda Goodman. Other travels which inspired unique bodies of artwork include John’s journeys to Cape Town, South Africa, Tokyo, Japan and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 Palmer’s exuberance and energy flow through him, onto the canvas. He loves the way people react to the feelings in his work. John is pure energy.

Photo courtesy Linda Echterhoff
Pagosans Todd and Kellie Stevens have donated Houston artist John Palmer’s “Equestrian Series” 46x40 mixed media painting on canvas to the Pagosa Mountain Hospital permanent art collection.