Yes, there is such a thing as luck, and it struck us on October 13, 2022, as we were leaving downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas — we saw the mural Venus of the Springs as a work in progress.And lady luck gave us a rare opportunity: to speak to both the artist and the art owner in one place simultaneously — themselves two world-class talents in their respective fields.
The Artist: Patrick Cunningham
RoverTreks: Patrick, please tell us about this mural.
Patrick: About a year ago, I sold a small painting to the owner of the building. He later asked me to replicate the work into this giant mural which, as you see is almost complete.
RoverTreks: So did this work have a special meaning for you as a source of inspiration?
Patrick: Oh yeah. I'm a big book collector and like to study the old masters. So I thought it would be interesting to do an old master-like work to display the dichotomy of contemporary art with an old master theme, a juxtaposition of the two. The works of the 16th-century Italian painter Titian inspired me to create the face. The swirls are from ancient petroglyphs that symbolize water.
The title of the painting is The Venus of the Springs. In Roman mythology, Venus was created or born from the ocean. With the origins of her birth in mind, you'll see a big sea shell on the other part of the building — it's just around the corner.
RoverTreks: So, have you been an artist your whole life?
Patrick: Oh yeah. Selling works. In my younger days, in my twenty's, I was an electrician doing construction work, but I still sold artwork. So that construction work actually filtered over into my artwork because I fabricate sculptures and this is a lot of fabrication for this mural. The work is really a mosaic more than it is a mural.
The Art Owner: Thomas Nagin
RoverTreks: Thomas, please tell us about your interest in this work.
Thomas: Patrick did a painting for my wife with the lady [pointing to the painting nearby]. Patrick is into symbolism in his works, and we felt a connection to this particular work. We liked it so much I asked Patrick if he could replicate it on a building, and he said yes and here we are [Thomas waves toward the building].
So, the face [in the mural] is influenced by the 16th-century Italian painter Titian. The gold leaf actually inspired us. My wife and I run a mining and jewelry company, and we've traveled all over the world, especially to South America, in connection with our work. The gold leaf on display in buildings in South America is a memory and inspiration for us, and this work is a connection for us to our work and our life. My wife uses gold leaf on works in our studio.
You can find this mural is on the back of the Post Office building at Karicole Plaza in downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas. Thomas Nagin is the owner of the building and the name of the plaza, Karicole, is contrived from the names of his daughters.
From Patrick's website:
“… Patrick Cunningham (aka Giolla Patraic, his Irish name) has been influenced by the love of art and history all his life. Through this passion, he has developed a philosophical way of looking at life and the world around him.
Born in Southern California, Patrick knew at an early age what he wanted to do with his life. His passion for history and art ultimately led him to develop the Old Master Style for which he is known. Oil paintings are his primary medium, but portraiture, sculpture, and figurative abstraction are also part of his work.
Patrick also believes learning is a lifelong pursuit that is essential to one's growth as an artist. His studies have taken him to Ceri, Italy, a small Tuscan village where he studied fresco techniques under Italian masters, and to France, where he studied mural design.
Patrick's work resides in numerous private collections across the United States and Europe …”
The Art Owner
Crystal Springs Mining & Jewelry Co., Inc.
620 Central Ave. Suite 2G
Hot Springs, AR 71901
Tel: (501) 623-2323
From Thomas' website:
“… A native of the Washington, D.C. area, Thomas' entry into the mineral trade began in the late 1970s when he joined a friend on a buying trip to South America. The rare Peruvian and Bolivian minerals he brought home were a hit, even earning him a sale to the Smithsonian institute. The prestigious museum wanted more, and a career was born.
Over the years, Thomas' clientele has grown to include other museums, as well as collectors, decorators, and retailers around the globe.
Attracted to Arkansas for its natural beauty and world-class quartz crystals, Thomas relocated in 1976, though he continued sourcing minerals from South America and other parts of the world. He operated a quartz mine in Santander, Colombia from 1980-1985, at a time when no one else was mining for quartz in Colombia. It was during the Emerald Wars with various factions battling over control of the profits. To work there, Thomas had to negotiate with a heavily armed guerrilla group that was controlling the area. With a crew of about 30 people, Thomas and his Colombian partner began supplying collectors, decorators, and the growing metaphysical community with the much-sought-after quartz …”
“… During his search for the world's finest gems, crystals, and minerals, Thomas discovered an entirely new passion – one for documentary filmmaking. He created the unscripted reality series Mineral Explorers to share the fascinating world of minerals and answer the many questions people have about his profession. The series showcases some of the most remote mines on Earth, providing viewers with a glimpse of the mineral trade and the cultures surrounding it. Over the course of two seasons, Thomas produced and hosted 13 episodes that aired for four years on public television stations (PBS) across the country, reaching approximately 90 percent of the total U.S. market. Thomas is currently producing a documentary about the life of the miners at a high-altitude mine in Peru where crew members risk everything to search for rare rhodochrosite crystals. It is slated for a 2022 release …”
The verbatim comments of Patrick and Thomas and the narrative from their websites were edited for clarity in this post. We thank Patrick and Thomas for their time with us and their contributions to the world of public art.