An Artist Selects a Painting for Display at the US Embassy in Canada | News, Sports, Jobs
A local artist had another painting selected to be exhibited in a resolutely international location.
by Thomas Paquette “Onoko” was borrowed from the United States Department of State where it will be displayed at the United States Embassy in Ottawa, Canada. The painting, oil on linen and 54 by 38 inches, will be exhibited in the region’s public embassy for three years.
Paquette explained that the painting gives some of a now inaccessible waterfall in eastern Pennsylvania, Glen Onoko Falls.
Just days after he visited to paint the falls, public access to it was suddenly and permanently closed for safety reasons.
This honor in Ottawa is one in a long line of similar recognitions. His work has been exhibited in 21 embassies in places as varied as Santiago, Moscow, Taipei and N’Djamena in Chad.
“A few of these paintings ended up in the permanent collections of the embassies, but most were loaned to the facilities only during the tenure of the current ambassador,” he explained. “In this case, when Ambassador (David) Cohen leaves his post in Ottawa in 2025, the painting should also return to the United States, head to a gallery or a collector.”
This journey began for Paquette when he had a solo exhibition in Washington DC
” In 1994
I had a solo show in Washington DC, which one of the State Department’s chief curators visited,” said Paquette. “He selected five paintings that he wanted to send with the new ambassador to Chad.”
These paintings included landscape scenes from Colorado as well as one from Maine, where the ambassador was from.
“I guess the works became one of the favorites of the program, because not only did they keep the paintings in the embassy during the two embassies”, he explained, “but they have approached me several times, whereas most artists on display have their works borrowed once or twice as far as I know.”
There is also an avenue through the Department of State website for artists to have their work considered.
Paquette said he asked the curators years ago to consider his work for the embassy in Canada “because some of my favorite historical painters were from Canada’s Group of Seven.
“In any case, I am very happy to exhibit in a country whose artists have inspired me so much.”
With paintings all over the world, the geopolitical significance of what happens where these paintings are is not lost on the artist.
President Biden recently met with world leaders and spoke at NATO Headquarters in Brussels “of the new building where one of my large paintings was recently installed,” he said. “In another interesting moment, shortly after my painting arrived in St. Petersburg in 2002, George W. Bush traveled there to meet Putin. They then worked out a strategic arms agreement, although it obviously could have gone further, judging by the current situation.
When several of his works were installed at the Embassy in Athens, Greene, Paquette was flown in to give presentations and meet with Greek artists.
He met the career diplomat serving as ambassador “at a time when Greece was going through many upheavals and people were bitter against the Americans for the Balkan war which continued to cause them grief.”
He took a long time to call his wife, Ellen, from a payphone “when suddenly a mass of angry people came around the corner, shouting and waving sticks as they marched towards the government buildings. Aside from me – I was still on the phone – and about two others I could see, the street almost instantly emptied of non-protesters. Engulfed in the swarming crowd, I didn’t know if I should say my last words to my wife on the other end of the line.
This gave Paquette a very poignant view of the “kind of situation that diplomats must be able to weigh and react to on a daily basis in troubled countries far from the normal protections of their country.
“Their jobs are extremely important to our functioning as a global power. In fact, I was a bit impressed by all the people at the embassy.
He would like to be able to travel to Ottawa to see this new facility, but acknowledged that with the COVID-19 restrictions, it “might be more difficult to arrange than a flight to Athens had been, at least for the moment.
“I have always felt incredibly honored to help represent our country with art,” he said. “Some of my favorite historical painters, like Thom Thomson, were Canadian, so it’s a special honor.”