Senator Joe Lieberman’s retirement is also occasioning the retirement of several pieces of artwork that were displayed in his office—including one that was recently returned to its New London artist.
Mark Patnode’s “Mitchell Beach #9” had been in Lieberman’s office in Washington, D.C. since 2006. The 30-by-40 inch oil on linen painting was first sent there as part of an art in public spaces initiative. It was formerly located directly opposite from the office entrance, making it clearly visible to all visitors.
“The fact that New London is featured at the entrance to his office is, I think, just a wonderful statement for our city,” said Patnode.
From shore to capital
When he painted the scene in 2003, Patnode was leading a summer workshop at Mitchell College. He said he wanted to show the city in a non-traditional way, focusing on its natural areas rather than urban scenes. “Mitchell Beach #9” is part of a series of paintings Patnode created portraying the view from the college’s private shore on the Thames River.
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Patnode said he was part of the state’s Urban Artist Initiative, a 10-year program encompassing 10 cities. He applied to the art in public spaces initiative through a juried exhibition in the program.
“Through that, my work was chosen to go to a public space, and that space turned out to be Senator Lieberman’s office,” said Patnode.
Clarine Riddle, Lieberman’s chief of staff, said the office worked with the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism to place pieces by state artists. Paintings and photography were featured in the office, reception area, and conference rooms. Although some of the art was cycled out, with several new pieces coming in during the summer of 2011, Patnode’s painting retained its prominent spot.
A senatorial favorite
“This painting was clearly one of the Senator Lieberman’s favorites,” said Riddle. “He commented many times about how he enjoyed looking at it and how it reminded him of the many beaches in Connecticut. He also commented that whenever he looked at it, he found serenity and peace in it and that that was helpful during many of the Senate’s busiest days.”
Riddle said she also enjoyed Patnode’s artwork.
“I personally always found that painting very restful and transformative,” she said. “Whenever I studied it, it wistfully took me to another location, with thoughts of future walks on the beach.”
Patnode said he maintained a connection with Lieberman’s office after “Mitchell Beach #9” was displayed there. When First Lady Laura Bush asked the senators to find a state artist to design ornaments for the White House Christmas tree in 2008, Lieberman asked Patnode to do the honors.
“Lieberman was absolutely wonderful to me,” said Patnode.
With Lieberman retiring after 24 years in the Senate, his office is returning the displayed pieces to their respective artists. Patnode said he told the office he would be willing to part with the painting, but Riddle said Senate ethics rules forbid Lieberman from accepting it.
"The Senator and staff cannot accept a gift of greater than $49.99," she said. "Mark’s painting is clearly worth more than that!"
Professional movers returned Patnode’s painting in a climate-controlled truck. He said he found level of care amusing given the painting’s origin in the windy, sandy conditions of Mitchell Beach.
“It’s wonderful to see it again,” said Patnode. “I’m not sure where it’s going next. I’m pretty much open to all possibilities.”