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A Profile by Jeff Kenney

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Patrick Bannon is thumbing through his attractive collection of reproductions of first edition American novels, among them John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms,” and Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” The latter novel by Kerouac especially influenced generations of poets, artists, writers, and musicians, beginning with Kerouac’s own “beat” generation, a group that especially influenced Patrick Bannon and his own art.

Bannon will be on hand at the Culver-Union Twp. Public Library on Saturday, July 25 at 7:00 PM for a reception and opening spotlighting his art. Like last month’s show, featuring Culver artist Charles Duff, Bannon’s art will be on display for several weeks after the opening, in the West Meeting Room in the lower level of the library.

“My influences,” says Bannon, examining his extensive collection of leather-bound and dust-jacketed books, “are the Beat artists and writers of the 1950s, the Surrealists, the Impressionists, and Oriental art. I try to combine all these influences into my own art.”

He also has been influenced by popular culture, such as classic and horror films, and “pulp” fiction, “Weird Tales kind of art,” he says. He has a series of paintings influenced by such writings and publications. “They all tie in. Mysteries and horror stories I’ve always loved. They were the sociological commentaries of their times, and so is the art that surrounds them.”

Patrick Bannon was originally from South Bend, though he grew up in several other Indiana towns and attended high school in Warsaw. His mother inherited a house on the east side of Lake Maxinkuckee in his youth, and he spent the summers of his early teens through his college years on the lake. He attended college at Northwood of Indiana near French Lick and was heavily involved in the Performing Arts department there, another passion of his.

Bannon has performed in theater and film for years, beginning in his childhood during some years spent in Peru, Indiana, where he improvised his first “acting” job, a clown modeled after Emmett Kelly’s famous “sad clown.”

“I used to play with Emmett Kelly Junior’s kid. My dad gave Emmett Kelly Jr. his first job in Chicago, as a clown at a furniture show.”

In college, Bannon acted in a number of plays, eventually (after graduating) helping revive the Black Friars’ Theater in South Bend, which had recently closed down. Afterwards, he headed to California, where he spent about a third of his life, helping to develop as well as acting in the Renaissance Fair in Hollywood. He was also a part of La Mamma Hollywood, the Theater Exchange, American Radio Theater, and Dance Outreach, about which PBS filmed a documentary with which he was also involved.

But his love of, and involvement in, art also began at a young age, when Patrick Bannon inherited his grandfather’s art equipment. His grandfather attended the Chicago Art Institute and went on to start an art and photo business in South Bend. “At age 7 or 8, I inherited my grandfather’s photography and art equipment,” though he never met his grandfather, says Bannon. “I still use my grandfather’s camera.” He has been practicing art, in one form or another, ever since.

“I use oils, pen and ink, pastels. I also build my own frames and stretcher bars and do wood work.” Among his wood work is a series of 13 walking sticks carved from branches he gathered in local woods around Culver. “The number 13 is significant,” says Bannon. “It reflects the local Indian heritage and history of the (Culver) area. For the Indians, 13 was a positive, tribal, holy number.” He has completed nine of the thirteen sticks, and is at work on the tenth.

Much of Bannon’s art is done in series form. “I’m not a vanity artist (who does) portraits of people or their houses. There’s a statement I make in my art or I don’t want to do it. I want to create a cultural awareness that’s being lost right now in our culture.”

“It’s important that avenues of intellect, thought, and creativity are always opened up. Nothing new or innovative or creative was done by saying, ‘You can’t do that!’”

Patrick Bannon’s show and reception is part of the Culver Public Library’s Summer Artist series, which features a different artist each month during the summer. August’s artist will be Academies’ art instructor Robert Nowalk.

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Above: Patrick Bannon in his studio

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Above: A work in progress (top) and two finished works from his Weird Tales series.