John Mulvany’s “Pattern Days” Is Haunting Your Google Docs

Austin-based painter isn’t letting the pandemic slow him down

Yeah, you know this fellow’s work. Either because you’ve seen it somewhere IRL, especially if you live in Austin, or you’ve been lucky enough to happen across it online.

We’ve certainly raved about it here in the pages of your Austin Chronicle a time or two.

And now John Mulvany’s got a new show up in the midst of our favorite pandemic (hey, it’s the only pandemic we know personally) and it’s a knockout of a collection and it’s available for viewing via Google Docs.

No, srsly.

And you’ll be surprised by how damned good it looks, even there.

Still, we figured we should ask the man: Why use Google Documents for a show?

We asked him another few questions, besides, and here’s how it all went:

John Mulvany: During the initial coronavirus lockdown, I had already been working on a series of paintings that were intended as a meditative response to the deaths of both my parents last year. I began to post them on Instagram and had a positive response in terms of feedback and sales. I’d been teaching my classes online and anticipated that it might be a long time before I’d be able to show work in person again, so I started to look for ways to potentially create an online show – and Google Slides fit the bill. It was therapeutic having the time and energy to create a new body of work.

Austin Chronicle: So it was an almost …meditative sort of thing, you said?

JM: Well, and the DIY digital punk-rock-mixtape quality of just finding a way to curate and share your work and not depend on someone to give you permission – that was appealing to me, too.

AC: What’s been the worst thing about this pandemic, for you, so far?

JM: Not seeing people is hard. Especially my kids not getting to hang out with their friends. The existential horror of watching the federal government response to the crisis is … existentially horrifying. Seeing from afar how other developed nations have handled the crisis in contrast to the #bestcountryintheworld is profoundly depressing.

AC: Brother, you ain’t kidding.

JM: In fairness, though, the Austin City government has been doing its best in the face of an utterly incompetent national and state response.

AC: Okay, and by way of contrast, can you name at least one good thing that's resulted from COVID-19 and our responses to it?

JM: There have been several good things about this time. Seeing how people have, on the whole, tried to help each other out – neighbors looking out for each other, et cetera – that’s been inspiring. And the ingenuity of artists finding new ways to create and share work is also inspiring. Surprisingly, the internet has functioned in some ways that are more positive – kind of how it was originally intended when Al Gore invented it (did he release it from a lockbox or something?) For example, the Artist Support Pledge initiative has had incredible success worldwide – and my participation in that project helped me to connect with many new people and to sell most of the work from this show.

AC: The … Artist Support Pledge initiative?

JM: Yeah, that’s the one.

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John Mulvany, Pattern Days, Google Docs FTW!

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