Whitehot Magazine

SPARKS OF JOY? : Richard Pasquarelli’s “The Matter at Hand” at Jennifer Terzian Gallery, Litchfield, CT.

 Richard Pasquarelli at Bethlehem Indoor Flea, CT 


By JAMES SALOMON March, 2022

“Show me a man who lives alone and has a perpetually dirty kitchen, and 5 times out of 9 I will show you an exceptional man. Show me a man who lives alone and has a perpetually clean kitchen, and 8 times out of 9 I will show you a man with detestable spiritual qualities.”    - Charles Bukowski, Tales of Ordinary Madness.

“When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine
your inner state.”    - Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

“Look at that -- more garbage.”    - John Salomon, at any gathering that involves opening presents.

Okay Richard, let's get to the matter at hand. What’s going on?

I am organizationally obsessive compulsive, and the problem is that when you live this way, you are constantly compelled to adjust and move things. At home, it got to a point where my family, I’m married and I have two kids, couldn't take it anymore. I would fix and straighten everything. For example, they might throw down their backpack after school and I would have to set it upright, or put it up on a chair, I couldn’t just leave it laying on the floor. When they loaded the dishwasher, I would have to rearrange it. If they put their books down on a table, I would stack them neatly and in order of size. They couldn't live with it anymore and finally told me. And I'm glad that they said something, because then I thought, why do I have to do this? So, I started to do research about it, and this led me into the study of mental health, psychology, physical sciences, and philosophy. I delved deep into the subject. I became more and more interested in studying the relationships between our minds and the objects we surround ourselves with. I started to see the world around us as a physical manifestation, or extension of our psyches. All the reading was informative, but I wanted to further my research, and decided to go into the field to find observable evidence of these relationships.


“Barta No. 14”, 2022, oil on linen, 44” by 44” (detail)


Tell me about Barta, one of the driving forces in this series. How did you meet or find her?
A couple of years ago, I attended a professional conference on hoarding in Philadelphia. Although the conference had speakers in the fields of psychology, academia, and therapy, I did meet a few people who were dealing with hoarding disorder. They were there to learn more about their own condition. I chatted with them and told them about my compulsion for organization and order. My relationship with objects was unusual, and their relationship to things was unusual. I told them about my art, and how I create works based on this subject, and asked if I might come see their environments. I believe that, because I was open with them about my own compulsions, they felt comfortable inviting me back to their homes. I went back to Philly a month later and met with three of them, back-to-back. Ellen, Sharon and Barta. While I was photographing their homes and interviewing them, I learned more about their life and their “stuff”, I started realizing just how much of an unfiltered extension their material surroundings were of their personalities.


Field research photograph by Richard Pasquarelli

Walk me through the moment you pulled up and knocked on her door.
On my way back to Philadelphia to meet with the women, I felt a little anxious. I was heading into environments that were the polar opposite of my own. What was I going into? At one point in Ellen’s home, I saw my own feet in one of the photographs I had just taken. Seeing this made it real for me. Here I was, standing in piles and piles of stuff. I stopped and looked around without the camera. I thought to myself, “whoa, how did you get here, what are you doing, how did you end up in this kind of place?”. I was overwhelmed but at the same time excited. Barta was the last of the three people I visited that day. She lives in a one-bedroom apartment. She is friendly and warm and welcomed me into her home. She was self-aware of her problem and was working hard to address it. She had started the process of cleaning out her home and it was well underway. I was proud of her. It’s an extremely difficult and emotional task. While we were talking, she conveyed to me multiple stories of traumatic events in her childhood. I noticed the way in which she told me the stories. She was very precise in her descriptions of the details; down to specific dates, times, the age she was, and the places in which these events occurred. When I looked around her home, I saw how, in essence, her hoard was her “proof” of this past.

I have only scratched the surface in trying to understand the ways in which trauma may be evidenced in the objects with which people choose to surround themselves. By making paintings based on these environments, I hope to better understand the correlation between the two. I consider my paintings more than representations of people’s possessions; they are portraits of their minds. 

“Vexation No. 2”, 2021, watercolor on paper, 56” by 64” in 15 parts.

This series of 15, what am I looking at here?
On the flip side of the works based on the homes of people affected by hoarding disorder, are works inspired by my own compulsion for perfection and order. While in residence at MASS MoCA a couple of years ago, one morning I arrived in my studio and placed down on the desk my coffee, phone, headphones, sketchbook, and a pencil. For some reason, I took note of the way I had placed these objects on the desk. Compositionally speaking, they looked so perfect next to one another. So, I took a photo of it. The next day I put them down again, in another pleasing configuration. This was the start of a new concept for “Vexation No. 2”. This work offers the viewer a glimpse into the idealized state of perfect order sought after in my own mind. When I look at the paintings together, I believe it almost looks like some type of code. It not only shows the computational ways in which we process information, through patterns and systems, but presents it to us in physical form, through the rearrangement of the personal everyday objects I carry with me daily.

Jennifer Terzian at “The Matter at Hand”

So, what’s the idea regarding the Terzian show?
In “The Matter at Hand”, I am presenting two series of watercolor paintings, juxtaposing order with disorder. The first series is based on the home of Barta, the woman I met at the conference on hoarding. Opposing the Barta paintings, hangs the second series, “Vexation No. 2”, a single work made up of 15 individual watercolors inspired by my own organizationally obsessive compulsions.

My goal with these various bodies of work is to actuate a visual language which represents the workings of the human mind. Although my paintings engage with aspects of realism, abstraction, and minimalism, the mental processes I depict require me to seek out a different set of visual archetypes. WM




Richard Pasquarelli, “The Matter at Hand” @ Jennifer Terzian Gallery, Litchfield, CT.
March 5 – April 2, 2022.  

Richard Pasquarell, “As it Should Be” @ BravinLee programs, New York, NY.
April 14 – May 14, 2022.   

Richard Pasquarelli, “The Things We Are” @ Olin Hall Galleries, Roanoke College, Salem, VA.
September 9 – October 9, 2022.   

Richard Pasquarelli, “The Thing About Things” @ Studio Artego, Long Island City, NY.
November 1 – November 29, 2022.  


James Salomon

James Salomon is the Director of Achille Salvagni America in NYC. He occasionally takes photographs and tells stories for Whitehot and various art and lifestyle publications.


Photo: Lori Hawkins


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