Patrick Fredericks, Sr. is the kind of neighbor who will be out in a blizzard, snow-blowing the sidewalks as far as three doors up the street—that would be up to and including my house. In the summer, he will greet you from the porch with Marianne, his wife of 53 years, and insist on giving a tour of their prolific yet compact garden plot tucked into this crazy-quilt neighborhood of old Beacon, on the mountain side of town.
Mr. Fredericks has lived his whole life in Beacon. He was born there in 1936, and in 1991 retired from the New York State Department of Corrections after 33 years of service. He started painting at the age of 69, when his wife gave him an acrylic paint set for Christmas in 2004.
“I found that I enjoyed the experience. I never painted before then.”
After Mr. Fredericks painted a dozen or so canvases, he asked if I would look at them, to offer him any advice, since he knew I was an illustrator and artist. When I entered the cozy living room, full of pictures and souvenirs and memories of a family life fully-lived, I wasn’t quite prepared for what jumped from his canvases.
Vibrant colors, abstract divisions of space, spare yet sophisticated compositions that yielded both the symbolic and the representational—the unique purity that comes from being self-taught was much evident. None of the umbrella terms for this style seemed to capture the work—primitive? Visionary? Outsider? Those labels are usually accompanied by bios of artists consumed by religious demons or confined by prison bars. Mr. Fredericks is all the more unusual for being a happily married man, a good neighbor, and a truly expressive artist.
My advice was simply to keep painting, and to contact the Howland Cultural Center. He now is included in the annual Artist Members Exhibit.
Meanwhile, he and Marianne have adopted a cockatiel named Max, who constantly vies for attention. I have a feeling that Max will be a future subject for the prolific artist. But he has to wait his turn. Next up is Derek Jeeter.
Artwork copyright Patrick Fredericks
Sharon: How delightful it is to discover beauty in unexpected yards. Sort of like I do when reading your writing.
Thank you for that uplifting analogy!