Pat Steir has always had a poetic sensibility. As a child, her nickname was “Tree”—a play on Pa-tri-cia, and maybe a reference to her preternatural toughness and her instinctive grit. She can recall composing a verse “in the playpen”: “Which tree is me? Me or the tree?”
A similar melding of poignant lyricism and piercing inquiry governs Pat Steir: Artist, director Veronica Gonzalez Peña’s affecting new documentary released this week on several streaming platforms. In it, Steir’s spirited ruminations on her work—large-scale paintings produced by pouring, dripping, and splashing colors thinned with linseed oil and turpentine—become a kind of feminist manifesto: For a woman artist of her generation, it took an iron will just to be in the picture.