Thomas Paquette

Stay In, 2017
30 x 34 in
I accidentally painted, in 2017, a prescient painting, apropos of the pandemic days in 2020. I couldn’t have had any idea when I painted it that it would so uncannily foreshadow life as we know it today, down to actually spelling out the enforced social meme, “Stay in!”. To underscore the strange coincidence, in my 32 years as a full-time painter, readable words only show up in two of my paintings. At the time, the painting was my response to a specific instance of feeling barred from the beauty of the world. I was on one of several painting journeys up and down the length of the Mississippi River to paint works for a traveling solo museum exhibition. About midway in the river’s 2300 miles, I was stopped for a long while on the middle of a swing-bridge, waiting for barges to pass. A sign on the bridge-railing commanded all drivers to “Stay in vehicle” – and, significantly, I included just the first part, “Stay in”, in my painting. In my case, the command proved impossible to follow on such a fine day. I got out to take notes and enjoy the beauty of the river. Whether mirroring the human condition in normal times or during a pandemic, "Stay In" stands as a reminder of the things we yearn for just outside our safety zones, the beauty just outside our plans, unbearably close and yet prohibited. An interesting side note is that the painting’s subject is just out into the Mississippi from Nauvoo, Illinois, a significant site for Latter-day Saints, the place where Joseph Smith died, and from where followers decided NOT to stay put, and settled in Utah.