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Tarmo Pasto’s erotic red hills are a response to the desert of the Southwest and, perhaps, and homage to Georgia O’keefe.

Works Shows Surprising Local Collection
By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

For its first show of 2009, Works new Exhibitions Coordinator, Stephanie Battle, introduces a local collection of two artists’ work. This is not in the Works tradition of contemporary art. The Pasto-Midjo collection, loaned by Dr. Mathew Pasto, is one of mostly modernist landscape paintings by Christian Midjo and Tarmo Pasto. At first glance, I was taken aback by this retro surprise, but Works is nothing if not full of surprises these days. I quickly got into the game of sorting out the influences of these two painters, and enjoying many of the dramatic landscapes that they interpreted in paint.

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A dramatic cloud with a phallic rocket-like formation dominates Christian Midjo’s desert landscape.

As an art historian, Stephanie Battle is the right person to help viewers appreciate the historic threads that run through Pasto and Midjo’s work. There are references to of Cezanne, Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Georgia O’Keefe and others in one image or another.

Christian Midjo, was born in Norway in 1880, where as a youth he learned to love the land. He sailed the Fjords and skied the snowy mountains. At age 19 he took a five-year scholarship from the Norwegian government to study abroad at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen. He graduated with distinction and was awarded further funds to travel and study, ending up in New York in 1906. By 1921 he was a full professor at Cornell University in Ithaca.

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It was at Cornell that Midjo met student Tarmo Pasto, of Finnish descent with a major in psychology, but who minored in oil painting. The role of art – especially concerns of color and space – in the visual expressions of certain psychological syndromes, interested Pasto. Ultimately his painting and parallel investigation into the imagery of the mentally ill contributed to substantial grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and professional publications of importance in the field.

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The friendship of Midjo and Pasto lasted a lifetime. It was Pasto that lured Midjo to Sacramento, California where he had built an art studio for his mentor. Midjo had already discovered the West and the drama of the Southwest Desert as the paintings on display reveal. Although, in his later years, Christiian Midjo returned to his native Norway where died at age 93, a large body of his work was acquired by Tarmo Pasto in California. It is this collection that his son, Dr. Mathew Pasto presents along with the work of his own father in the exhibition.

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