I'm sitting in an arts venue which I've become quite intimately familiar with over the recent years... Thinking about introductions...
Deborah Colton Gallery is presenting a special pop-up exhibition in between it's regular program of full scale exhibitions, which opens this weekend. The show will be up for two weeks and celebrates some standout moments in the gallery's 12+ year history, and is the first time that the gallery-sponsored IMAGINE PEACE billboard from artist Yoko Ono will be presented on-site.
I'm in the gallery as I type, in and out of writing and watching this billboard go up, as I begin work on a very special project. In this moment, surrounded by the preparation for celebration and altruistic intention, I find myself thinking of how intricately connected lives and timelines can be, and more faithful than ever that it is by no accident that we find ourselves in our present condition...
|Yoko Ono, Imagine Peace, 2011, billboard sponsored by Deborah Colton Gallery |
I first saw this billboard while driving along I-45 in 2011. I wouldn't say I was immediately struck in my tracks, I mean, I kept driving... but it did leave a subtle impression whose rememberance grew, and has grown, over time. The message is an important one and its expression was succinct - simplistic in its sophistication. I can still see the billboard from the freeway now in the vignette of my mind's eye... And since then I have indeed imagined peace.
Later that year, enjoying a free day with a new friend, I suggested we visit a gallery unknown to either of us, as it was the last day of an exhibitions of artworks by Yoko Ono. I'm not sure what we were expecting to encounter, but what we did take away was something neither of us could have anticipated.
That visit introduced us to Deborah Colton Gallery's leader, Deborah Colton, and in the almost-five years since, that friend, Jessica Crute, and I have both worked for a time at the gallery and have also presented the most significant creative projects of our early careers. And for myself, that first encounter was the start of a series of many significant introductions in my life.
In 2014, as Assistant Director of the gallery, I worked very closely with gallery artist Angelbert Metoyer in the co-curation and execution of Seasons of Heaven,
a survey of recent works from the career of Angelbert Metoyer. In 2015 Deborah extended to me an opportunity to curate Collective Solid
from concept to exhibition for the final iteration of ArtHouston, whose mission was to showcase emerging Houston talent city-wide.
|Suzanne Paul, Self-portrait, circa 2004, Contact proof print; Courtesy of Deborah Colton Gallery and the Estate of Suzanne Paul.|
I must give credit where it is due: in my time working for and with the gallery, I've been exposed and come to know some outstanding artistic talent, from across a great many international borders. However, the artist whose work I find myself most sensitive to is a native Houstonian and a pioneering female photographer whose work chronicled the budding art scene in the city in the 70s and its evolution over the two consecutive decades. Suzanne Paul thoroughly documented the artists of her social experience - of her real life - and those influential in our artistic community, and in working with some of the artists she's captured in my time at Deborah Colton Gallery I've come to realize the significance of her life's work. Through pure creative impetus and for love of her craft and the pursuit of photography, she was able to document a broad cultural aspect of our city's history. A large part of her life's work now serves as a resource to draw from, critically, historically, and creatively.
|Suzanne Paul, Susan Plum (Artist), circa 1977, Contact proof print; Courtesy of Deborah Colton Gallery and the Estate of Suzanne Paul. |
Susan Plum is a multimedia artist represented by Deborah Colton Gallery.
At the end of last year, I stepped down from my full-time position and tackled an ambitions special project as an independent curator in partnership with Deborah Colton Gallery to present Proof,
an exhibition that shared a select few portraits of creatives significant to the Houston arts community and featured some work never-before seen from the archive of Suzanne Paul, which the artist left in the possession of the gallery at the time of her passing. The hope was that the exhibition might pique the interest of our community and ultimately lead to the preservation of Suzanne's archive and the acquisition of her work by collecting institutions. It also just scratched the surface of examining her unique approach to photography, especially portraiture.
Suzanne Paul, Angelbert Metoyer, 1999, Contact proof print; Courtesy of Deborah Colton Gallery and the Estate of Suzanne Paul.
Angelbert Metoyer is a multimedia artist represented by Deborah Colton Gallery.
It's funny how one thing leads to another - and to another - and on and on... and here's where things come full circle...
Because of the positive feedback Proof
received, we have been encouraged to continue with this special project and I have been commissioned by Deborah Colton to pursue this undertaking to ends we cannot yet know. There is a sense that as we work to digitize, catalogue, and archive the collected works of Paul's, opportunities to expose her work to a broader and growing audience will reveal themselves. This is why I find myself again in the main space at Deborah Colton Gallery, in the beginning stages of a project dear to my heart and dear to my city, entitled Focus: Suzanne Paul.
This post is the first of many that aims to document this pursuit and shares the unique finds and critical moments we come to in this process, and I hope that a readership develops with me as I look more closely into the treasure left to us by Suzanne Paul.