Paula Billups' work crosses the media of painting, drawing, collage, installation, 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, and her work has appeared in national periodicals. 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 Palimpsests
I create partial images as analogs for the unmapped interior lands of our consciousness. I am inspired by Byzantine art and Pompeiian frescoes. My palimpsests resemble fragments unearthed from ancient sites, old stories whose original meanings are lost. It is a core ethic of my work to make no attempt to fill in the gaps. I only point out the mystery. The titles read like sentences rescued from a disintegrating parchment. Visitors are freed to use these fragments to construct meaning relevant to themselves, recasting themselves in the process as agents of the work's completion rather than passive spectators. I hope to bring them into contact with their own mysterious internal landscape in a private meditation, so their discoveries can remain secret.
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.
My portraits are painted entirely from life. I always work with close friends. These are compressed four-dimensional records of the time we spent together and the interactions, conversations, and silences during studio sessions, in which we unconsciously influenced each other and responded to those influences. The shifting over time of the model's state of mind and body and the changing energy of my own arm and movement over time create a feedback of our individual physical states, creating a shimmering surface that I can only reach by patiently working from life.
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.
I meanwhile continue to create palimpsests and portraits.
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.