WHAT’S A REAL STORY WHEN PAINTED

137ac  — PAULA ISAAC

Her statements

November 2014 — Art is what you make of it. It is sexuality, immaturity, advancement, it is a definition of how much you study life and your own feelings, of how you manage your life or self-esteem. For me, it is love of yourself and I am gonna say no more.

January 2015 — All the old masters were the greatest painters of a time men wanted to see themselves as being beautiful. Then Norman Rockwell came along at a time men wanted to feel good about who they were. This artist is my hero. He painted a human life America wanted, and needed to lift American spirit. I paint more informal than he did. I am telling a tale that is more contemporary. My travels are real stories and his was more storytelling.

PAULA ISAAC, Self Portrait, 2014, Oil on canvas, 28" x 22" Courtesy of 137ac

PAULA ISAAC, Self Portrait, 2014, Oil on canvas, 28″ x 22″
Courtesy of 137ac

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Paula’s bio by Paula

I, Paula, am a go getter shy woman born in Trinidad in 1960, a twin in the middle of ten children. Trinidad let me memories of colors. Since age three I drew and made paper dolls and their clothes. I was a quiet child. Dad loved to make masks for the carnival in Trinidad. I would be a plumber if I had listened to him.

When I was 8, we joined my two older sisters in Queen, New York. I saw snow for the first time that year. I went to the High School of Arts and Design; wanting to be a cartoonist, I wanted to draw at least. Then I moved on to FIT, fashion illustration, remember the paper doll dresses? But there was no drawing real people.

At age 22 I decided to be a real artist and got part time work to pay my supplies. At 27 I married Bill and became the mom of Letitia at 32, Bill died of cancer when she was only 5. My time as a mom went by so fast, occasionally I could sell a painting for us to go to a movie or theater. Then I joined the Arts Student League to get my hands back in the arts: survival for my mind. In 2014 I was invited to join 137ac, so I took a chance.

WHAT’S A REAL STORY WHEN PAINTED

by Rosanna Albertini

What comes and go, on the flat land of a canvas, is bodies and time. How they want to be there is the artist’s discovery. A woman sits and looks out of her confinement. Each eye shaped by a different state of mind. The same happens in Woman V by Willem De Kooning. And same stillness. The canvas is where she belongs, fluids and feelings so compressed within they pierce her skin to bleed out. The figure at odds with light perhaps because she can be hit — light, life, pressure of reality. Instead she wants to stay, stay like a brick needs to be in a wall. A visitor asks Paula if the painted woman is a self-portrait. “Oh that,” she answers after thinking a moment, “ that’s my spirit.” It’s Paula’s blue period, brown and blue. It doesn’t really matter the kind of scene that is painted, it’s not a collection of figures in different postures. Objects are absent, humans fill the stage. If they sit, they just sit on their own presence: a woman smokes and sits, it is maybe three times the same woman as in a film sequence. She doesn’t look out of the painting.

PAULA ISAAC, Her, Herer, Herest, 2015, Oil on canvas, 28" x 35" Courtesy of 137ac

PAULA ISAAC, Her, Herer, Herest, 2015, Oil on canvas, 28″ x 35″
Courtesy of 137ac

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The subject of the painting, like the subject of poetry, is “the life that is lived in the scene that it composes; and so reality is not that external scene but the life that is lived in it. Reality is things as they are […] It is a jungle in itself. As in the case of a jungle, everything that makes it up is pretty much of one color.” (Wallace Stevens)

The blue of the lake, the blue of the sky in Paula’s work. Not only the figures’ body, their mind wears blue, the scene works in blue, moves through time creating distance without perspective. A prominent point has replaced the vanishing optical illusion. Here’s now. I follow the fantasy that Paula thinks blue letting the brush be liquid and flexible. Erasing as well as selecting.

In the studio a catalogue of a Filippo de Pisis exhibition is open on the table. In and out of her paintings, the artist, maybe, can’t really separate them from her life, the internal scene has become a picture of her being in the world. Paula wouldn’t stop reading De Pisis’ painted thoughts, how he painted what remains in his mind of a city, a beach or a bunch of flowers. As she unfolds the Italian painter’s thread I can see hers, and I would cry with pleasure. My inner painting.