Artist: Nathaniel Paderanga
Media: Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Maxine Merlino Gallery
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/njpanda5/ (Private)
Nathaniel Paderanga is a student at CSU Long Beach who is currently pursuing a BFA in drawing and painting. His passion for the art-form began at the age of 18. One of the largest influences on him to paint is his mother, Karen S. Paderanga, who passed away last year on September 30th. Driven by his mother’s passing, he became driven to become a better painter. He is fond of traditional painting, which is easily characterized in his paintings within the exhibition. After graduating from Long Beach, he aspires to become a painting teacher.
Upon walking into the exhibition, I was intrigued by the variety of his paintings and the vibrancy of colors. From far away we could see his strokes on the painting and the contrasts of color, which easily isolated the focal point of his paintings. In every painting, there were notable things that stood out, which seemed out of place. For some, like the painting of the fisherman, it seemed much like the person or object of focus was just stuck in there after a the landscape was created, causing some disorder. For many others the focal point seemed to be created in a way where it was overwhelming due to the lighting and colors used, much like the portrait of his grandpa, which was left untitled.
Paderanga’s exhibition took on role of highlighting social and racial imbalances in our American society. There are things that are perfectly normal for people to do, such as celebrating a party and fishing. However, when we add the detail of race, things begin to seem out of place. Instead of thinking about whatever they are doing, we instead focus on their race. This is extremely evident in Paderanga’s painting “The Fisherman,” which is the former of the pictures above. We see an Asian man fishing on a pier, a normal activity that should have nothing wrong. However, we can’t help but fixate on his race. There are several details that attribute to this. First, the man is wearing contrasting colors between his baseball cap and his coat. Next, he is wearing shoes that contrast with the age depicted by the white hair and the liver spots depicted by Paderanga’s use of shading. Third, his ethnicity is brought to attention by carefully subtle colors around his face. From all these we can tell this this is an Asian man who dressed out of his age and sticks out “like a sore thumb.” We judge the man not by his action, but by his appearance. He is performing an ordinary action, but appears out of place, therefore we begin to discriminate. Through many details in his paintings, Paderanga isolates his characters to commentate on social issues that are unfairly undeserved.
I can easily connect to Paderanga’s message in my everyday life. I am a first generation Vietnamese citizen, born from immigrants who came to the U.S. in the 70’s and 80’s. When I see my dad’s choice of clothes, what comes to mind is how many people would judge him. Just like the fisherman in the painting, he is an older Asian man who loves to wear his hat, which sort of fulfills a stereotype in many onlooker’s minds. At times, he may also look out of place. They judge how he is like just by seeing him due to stereotypes, but that is unfair. To truly know how a person is you need to talk to them. A stereotype does no justice to either party since the assumptions that a person makes through them is often wrong. It hurts the people who are judged and it negatively affects the person judging. In our society we are surrounded by social issues such as this and often they are easily found in everyday, ordinary situations.