The Flow of Chance: Pat Steir’s ‘Waterfall’ Paintings

In much of her work, Steir—whose latest paintings are on view in the exhibition “Pat Steir Silent Secret Waterfalls: The Barnes Series,” at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia until mid-November—applies a mass of oil paint to the upper part of her canvases, many of which are taller than herself, then lets it drip. Or she throws paint at the surface, letting the marks happen by accident or by a process we might call random design. “My idea,” she says in a new documentary by Veronica Gonzalez Peña, “was not to touch the canvas, not to paint, but to pour the paint and let the paint itself make a picture. I set the limitations. The limitations, of course, are the color, the size, the wind in the room, and how I put the paint on. And then everything outside of me controls how that paint falls. It’s a joy to let the painting make itself. It takes away all kinds of responsibility.” 

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