Paula Bullwinkel by Editor January 19, 2020 0 Portfolios

The work is influenced by a fluctuating stream: dreams of gorgeous colors, nightmares of lost friends and family members, the zeitgeist, the last president bragging of sexual assault, textile patterns, the sound of the rivers, memories of mom working long hours, oblivious to all else, in her ceramics studio, my photographs, the writing of Elena Ferrante. Life is sometimes incoherent and absurd. Beauty is counterbalanced by spooky, sinister with boring, fun with forlorn. The dark side can reflect our shameful society today; our shocking willingness to beat down the vulnerable, while the lighter side evokes our chance, our hope, shining forth, when time is taken to look more closely. There is a tension between the two that creates energy.

Born in Northern California, I spent my childhood making little animals in my mom’s ceramic studio, playing for hours in the woods, and concentrating fully on imaginary characters I invented. Before painting, I was an editorial fashion and portrait photographer in NYC and London for 18 years, a rare woman in a very male-dominated field, working for the best mags. I was trying to capture the female figure and attitude in the form of a narrative. The story was usually fantastical and sometimes absurdist – a theme that I continue to explore in paint. The animals protect others in the artwork, like a charm or pact. They soften the strangeness that is allowed to creep into the juxtapositions. Their participation adds goodness and loveliness. Familiars; part of a person’s soul in animal form, but having their own agenda as well, undefined but potent. The prehistoric animals in some of my paintings seem recognizable yet odd-looking. They are extinct, so their beauty is lost forever.

Allegorical and narrative, the paintings present heroines and animal-heroes balancing feelings of mystery or foreboding with a sense of celebration. They have some kind of task or important mission. The images are about the hardest part of the trip; the intersection between potential and conflict.