Paula Billups' work crosses the media of painting, drawing, collage, installation, collaboration, and research. Her exhibition record spans galleries, museums, and institutions across Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Canada, Cuba, and the United States. Her work is in museum, government and university collections in the United States and Europe as well as private collections worldwide. She has held residencies in Quedlinburg, Germany and Siena, Italy, where she was the inaugural artist for the Siena Art Institute's Artist-in-Residence program.
Paula's interest in international collaboration has led her to work with paradigm-bending multinational collectives such as the Cottage University in Ontario and the BABEL Working Group in Toronto. She joined the Artist's Book Exchange at Telavi State University, Republic of Georgia and was a member of the American branch of the Tunisian Collaborative Painters Collective.
She was the sole American artist to exhibit at the 2016 VICEVERSA exhibitions in Havana and Holguín in Cuba under curator Dermis Leon. In 2015, she was a featured artist at Das Kapital salon in Berlin. That year, she also joined an artists' roundtable hosted by the Queens Museum, directed by curator Gabriel Guzman.
Her writing on art has appeared in journals in the United States and the United Kingdom. She has twice been a featured guest on Salon Radio in New York, hosted by the International Women Artist's Salon.
Paula holds an MFA from the Transart Institute in Berlin and a BFA from the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts. As well, she holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Texas at Austin.
Statement on Collage and Palimpsests
Using palimpsest, I create partial images as analogs for the unmapped interior lands of our consciousness. The right to keep our own mystery is a human right, one that is often challenged in a social-media culture which devalues privacy and promotes overexposure.
I am inspired by Byzantine art and Pompeiian frescoes. My palimpsests resemble fragments unearthed from ancient sites, their original meaning lost. It is a core ethic of my work to make no attempt to fill in the gaps. I only point out the mystery: I don't propose to solve it. I do whet the visitor's imagination with titles that read like sentences rescued from a disintegrating parchment. With only these bits remaining, visitors are free to use the fragments to construct a story whose meaning is relevant to themselves. This recasts the visitor as an agent rather than a passive spectator. It also brings them into contact with their own mysterious internal landscape - but in a private meditation, so their discoveries can remain secret if they wish.
My palimpsests and collages are made of paper from a certain place, about that place, in that place. The element of location and population gives a unique quality to the ephemera. My work is made of scraps of cities like Berlin, Venice, New York, Montreal, and Boston.
Statement on Painting
In my painting series executed between 2011 and 2015, I allude to ancient cave paintings using darkened exhibition environments, a limited earth-based palette and direct application of pigment to paper (the nearest analogy to a wall). I provide handheld lanterns for visitors to encounter the work as a process of active discovery. The subjects are humans in a primeval space that predates the flow of time. As with the collages, gradual discovery and individual discernment are key elements, casting the viewer as collaborator in the work's completion. In the case of these paintings, their action brings it, literally, to light.
Statement on Current Work
Darkened spaces are also a component of my current work as I explore the significance of weaving in Homer's Odyssey and consider the role of the loom and the mechanisms of power concealed in Penelope's ruse. This long-term work is under construction and will be posted to my site as it reaches a mature stage.
Influences that illuminate my work include Bruno Schulz, Remedios Varo, Thomas Hirshhorn, Joseph Cornell, Rogan Taylor, Milan Kundera, Joseph Campbell, Edouard Glissant, Emmanuel Levinas and mythological texts such as Homer's Odyssey.