An oil painting from local artist Tom Paquette's studio has found a new home in the U.S. embassy in west central Africa. The Art in Embassies Program of the United States Department of State purchased Paquette's "Landmark Tree" to be exhibited permanently at the U.S. embassy in Libreville, Gabon.
This isn't the first time Paquette's paintings have gone abroad; since 1994 his work has appeared in embassies in Athens, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Santiago, Rome and Taipei. Thirty-four of his paintings have been lent to 16 exhibitions so far, typically for three to four years each, Paquette said.
His involvement began in 1993 when a curator from the State Department saw his work at a solo show. That led to five of his paintings being shown at the embassy in Chad, central Africa, from 1994-2001.
"Landmark tree" is the first of his works to be purchased for permanent collection by the State Department.
"Art in Embassies has purchased themed collections of art for new embassies in recent years, as part of the State Department's policy initiative to improve the quality of U.S. embassies by humanizing embassy spaces," Curator Robert Soppelsa said.
The theme of this new collection in Gabon is forests, as the west-central African country is largely forested. Paquette's painting of a grand forest inhabitant was a natural fit for the collection.
The painting three feet wide and four feet high is of a large hemlock tree from Adirondack Park in upstate New York and was one of several of his paintings in the D. Wigmore Fine Art Gallery in Manhattan in 2009 in the "Adirondack Art Today" exhibit. The painting was mentioned in a review of the show in ARTnews magazine later that year and was also part of his solo exhibition "Seeing the Trees" at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, N.Y., in 2010.
"At a function I attended five years ago in D.C., Colin Powell said that he felt the State Department's most effective diplomatic tool is art. I am not going to second-guess a Secretary of State, but I do feel honored and very pleased to be contributing to our nation's image abroad. People who see the works of art in the embassies get a sense of our cultural values, and that probably helps bridge some chasms," Paquette said.