Ed Pramuk recalls only peace in the warmth of a golden light, the same warmth that emanates from the gold paintings in his studio.
Maybe it’s in the way he’s arranged them. The large canvases form three walls, and a viewer in the center can almost see Pramuk’s vision when a stroke rendered him unconscious.
That was in 2010. He was at home when something exploded inside his head. He remembers the emergency responders placing him inside an ambulance.
“I felt at peace and safe in a state of equilibrium,” Pramuk recalls. “My one regret about entering this region was that I could not tell my wife and children not to worry. It was as if all of life’s questions and mysteries were being answered with great ease and without any words spoken.”
Pramuk awoke in a room at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, wife Mary at his side. He could speak and had full use of his upper body but was paralyzed from the waist down.
He wasn’t deterred.
“Returning home a week later, I began my physical therapy and attempted to make paintings about what I experienced in the stroke state,” Pramuk says. “Within six weeks I was walking and continued physical therapy to fine-tune my recovery.”
The paintings evolved, each emerging to reveal a heightened sense of Pramuk’s experience.
Now, he’s sharing his story in the exhibit, “Illuminations & Spring,” at the Gallery at the Manship Theatre.
Ann Connelly Fine Art, which represents Pramuk, is coordinating the show, which runs through Tuesday, Feb. 24, and an artist’s reception is set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12.
“Illuminations” is the title of his stroke state series. “Spring” refers to his series of paintings inspired by walks from his house to the LSU lakes in 2014.
The two come together for what Pramuk says may be his last solo exhibition. That doesn’t mean he’ll stop painting; he has plans for other works.
But another full-scale show of large paintings isn’t on the horizon.
“I think this is it for me,” Pramuk says.
Sitting in his Southdowns living room on a rainy day where the temperature hasn’t risen past 40 degrees, he doesn’t let the weather dampen his mood. If anything, he’s excited about opening the door to his studio.
He’s not sure how viewers will react to his paintings; many do not immediately understand his abstract impressionistic style.
Pramuk taught in the LSU School of Art for 35 years, retiring as professor emeritus in 2000.
His work was featured in a solo exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 1974. He also has shown in galleries in New Orleans, Houston, New York and in the Alexandria Museum of Art.
Pramuk made the “Illuminations” paintings between 2010 and 2014.
“I make no attempt to illustrate that ephemeral region, but rather to explore metaphors that suggest the energy and solace of that moment,” he says. “I can close my eyes and be there now. My doctor told me that my experience was unlike anyone else’s. Most people experience fear during a stroke.”
Six paintings averaging 60 inches in length make up the “Illuminations” series, their golden surfaces representing the gradual rising of peaceful entity or spirit.
Their presentation in the Manship Gallery may produce the same effect as in the intimacy of Pramuk’s studio space.
“It’s different in the studio, because of the way the paintings are arranged together,” Pramuk says. “The gallery is a great space, and I hope viewers will be able to get an understanding of the experience in the open space.”
And though the cool greens and blues in the “Spring” contrast with “Illuminations,” the paintings complement each other. Whereas “Illuminations” offers a peek into Pramuk’s stroke experience, “Spring” observes his appreciation of the world’s vibrancy in daily life.
“About a year ago in early spring, I took a walk to the LSU lakes from our home,” he says. “I often walk after dinner as part of my daily routine. For one reason or another, this evening walk surprised me in many ways.”
The large oaks’ fresh, green foliage seemed to glow with an inner light.
“It was a message I took to heart,” Pramuk says. “I arrived at the flat expanse of the lake with that image still in my mind. Along the shore I saw similar canopies of glowing trees.”
Then the sun made its appearance on nature’s stage, darting into the lake.
“I use those perceptions to create the three symbolic shapes that make up the geometric compositions in the ‘Spring’ series,” Pramuk says. “It is a format I use when I want to explore essential truths, unadorned. Rather than paint a landscape, I create a map composed of simple shapes that project saturated color.”
The green shape at the top represents the canopy with an expanse of blue lake below. And there on the side is a thin stripe of yellow — the sun.
“I find energy in their interaction,” Pramuk says.