Wednesday, June 30, 2010

SUZANNE PAUL: Portraits and Prominent Figures in the Early Houston Art World

Edward Albee, 1999
Photograph (c) The Estate of Suzanne Paul/All Rights Reserved

Clair With Fly, 1976
from "Women See Women: A Photographic Anthology"
Photograph (c) The Estate of Suzanne Paul/All Rights Reserved

Richard Stout, 1999
Photograph (c) The Estate of Suzanne Paul/All Rights Reserved

Mel Chin, 2000
Photograph (c) The Estate of Suzanne Paul/All Rights Reserved

Exhibition Catalog FotoFest 2001
Short essay by Exhibition Curator Clint Willour and paragraph by Walter Hopps. Cover photograph of Edward Albee by Suzanne Paul

Self Portrait with Bob, Central America, 1971
Photograph (c) Suzanne Paul/All Rights Reserved

Mercedes and Bob, Houston
(scan through glass)
Photograph (c) Suzanne Paul/All Rights Reserved

Elizabeth Paul, Candy Frasier and Marilyn Schiller (Mayo), Houston 1971
"This is a small test print...thought you might be interested, love Suzie"
Photograph (c) Suzanne Paul/All Rights Reserved

"There is a belief in many cultures that the camera is capable of stealing the human soul or spirit. Suzy Paul's camera may not steal the soul, but it certainly captures it and the spirit within."–Clint Willour

Being Human: Portraits by Suzanne Paul
September 6 - October 13, 2001
Curated by Clint Willour
Executive Director and Curator, Galveston Arts Center

Houston, TX (August 20, 2001)- Fotofest began its 2001-2002 exhibition programs at Vine Street Studios with Being Human, an exhibition featuring over 60 black and white portraits taken over a period of more than 40 years by Suzanne Paul. In intimate and revealing ways, Paul documented many of the artists, curators, and gallery owners who shaped Houston's art scene since the 1970's and 80's. (Houston's Fotofest)

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"The late Suzanne deYoung Paul (b. 1945 - d. 2005), a pioneer female photographer in Houston, was best known for her intuitive portraits of the art world. Being the first female photographer to have a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and many other prestigious exhibitions including The Fort Worth Art Museum, Galveston Arts Center, private galleries and museums, Paul became known for her portraits of such well known artists as Julian Schnabel, Mel Chin, Andy Warhol and playwright Edward Albee. Several of her photographs are in the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

The late Walter Hopps said of Suzanne Paul, "[She] should be recognized as one of the finest photographers to come out of Houston. Her essential medium is black and white photography, and her most important subject matter is portraiture. Not all photographers are skilled printers of their work. Paul is a superb printer achieving areas of deep black in line with her instinct for the chiaroscuro lighting of the subject. Having been the subject of one of Paul's portraits, I have experienced the directness and honesty of her work. She has caught an unidealized view of who I am." (Deborah Colton Gallery)

At the age of nine, Paul began photographing her sister, dogs, and horses with a Kodak Brownie camera given to her by her father, also a photographer. She studied Fine Arts at the University of Houston graduating with a BFA in 1963 and later did graduate work at the University of California at Berkley in 1970. She considered herself to be a self-taught photographer, however, because classes in photography were not available at that time. Early on she saw an Irving Penn photograph which sparked her interest in photography. She credits Diane Arbus with inspiring her to search for "that most revealing moment" in portraiture. Her start in the art world came in 1976 when Contemporary Art Museum Director Jim Harithas hired her to document artists and exhibits for the museum's catalogs.

Paul used a 1957 Rolleiflex camera, drove a 1960 Oldsmobile, and may have been one of the few artists in Houston without an e-mail address. Following in the tradition of Imogene Cunningham, Paul photographed with the twin lens reflex camera as well as a Holga camera with a plastic lens. She began shooting with 35mm but eventually felt the need to move to the larger 2 1/4 medium format negative and continued to do all her own printing. As stated by her daughter Mercedes Paul, "Suzanne's ability to capture the true essence and spirit within the souls of her subjects proved that she could identify with people from all walks of life. She worked on a higher, more intuitive level than most humans experience."

Suzanne Paul's photographs are represented by
Deborah Colton Gallery
, Houston

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Clint Willour has curated and juried hundreds of exhibitions all over the world. He visits studios and volunteers his time for myriad committees and boards. Noted for his keen eye and dry sense of humor, Willour is a trusted advisor to all kinds of people in the art world. He's an enthusiastic advocate for emerging artists, giving insightful portfolio reviews everywhere, from FotoFest's biennial "Meeting Place" to the People's Republic of China. Willour, who was named Texas Patron of the Year in 2006 by the Art League Houston, is also an astute collector and generously donates to institutions. Over the years Willour has given more that 1,000 artworks to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; they're now valued at $1.2 million. (from Houston Press)

I'd like to personally thank Clint Willour, Executive Director and Curator of the Galveston Arts Center, for his more than generous help. He actually took the time to research SP's work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and send it to me! Thank you so much.

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Very few images of Suzanne's work are available to view online. I hope this post may inspire a Photography student in Houston to create a project for academic credit to scan Suzanne's photographs. Hopefully many more people will be able to view her work online in the future.

Please excuse the poor quality of the images above. It's no reflection on Suzanne Paul's work, but on my poor attempt's at scanning.

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