Alex Paulus

AB: When you graduated with your MFA did you want to teach? 

AP: Yea, that’s what I was expecting to do after I got my Masters.

AB: Did you get your position with Southwest right away?

AP: I got a job the following fall because a girl who graduated with me got a job teaching Art Appreciation at Southwest and ended up moving. She put me in touch with the department head.  I’ve been teaching there ever since. Well I taught there and MCA as an adjunct for around three years.  Then Southwest offered me full time.

AB: That’s great that you have a full time position now.  Is working full time too much sometimes? You seem to be so prolific.

AP: I think it’s pretty easy for me to balance several things at once. I have been teaching 6 or 7 classes a semester since I became full time.  I’ll get my painting class started on a project and then I’ll start on a painting of my own and let them watch what I’m doing. That has been helpful. When I have a show coming up then that’s all I do. I’ll just come home and work on art. Like this last show at Crosstown we had about 4 months. Clare came in November and we figured out the topics, then I just spent the next 2 and half months working on stuff everyday.

AB: Did you and Clare share images back and forth during that process? 

AP: Yea, we came up with a general idea with a couple different topics. Then whenever we would finish a piece we would send an image to each other. I think I did that dog chasing its tail and she said she was going to do a snake that had caught its own tail, so we were having similar ideas. She had a piece with a big Band-Aid across the drawing of a statue or a bust and I ended up doing a piece with a weird little cut out Band-Aid that I pushed into thick oil paint.

AB: Yea everything worked well together. It was a nice show. 

AP: Thank you. We are going to try and pitch the show to some places in New York and try to do a similar show there.

AB: That would be nice. Have you ever shown there?

AP: No

AB: Are you from Memphis? 

AP: I’m from Southeast Missouri.

AB: So you moved here for school? 

AP: Yea moved here in 2007.

AB: Why did you decide to stay? 

AP: Because I started teaching immediately.

AB: Yea, a job helps. Have you grown fond of Memphis?

AP: Yea, when I first moved here the orientation people at MCA made Memphis seem really dangerous. I mean there is crime in any city but they almost made me afraid to go out at night. I also didn’t know anyone so that was weird.AP: Yea, when I first moved here the orientation people at MCA made Memphis seem really dangerous. I mean there is crime in any city but they almost made me afraid to go out at night. I also didn’t know anyone so that was weird. 

AB: Were the grad studios downtown then? 

AP: No they were in the office buildings down here. So for the first year or so I just felt really weird here. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. Eventually I got more comfortable and met a bunch of people.

AB: So I’m not familiar with much of your early work. Do you feel like your work has changed drastically since your time here? 

AP: Yea, I don’t know if I have much in here.  This is one of the early ones I never finished from undergrad. Ok, this is a really big one. (Pulls out a large rolled up painting of a nude woman)

AB: Whoa! 

AP: There is this weird double figure over here. I was doing a lot with this pattern. I don’t know, I don’t really like this painting.

AB: I would have never thought that was your painting. Yet you haven’t thrown it away…

AP: Yea, after undergrad a lot of stuff I did was figurative.  I kept painting figures and then I moved to St. Louis and took a painting class at a community college up there. I started doing stuff like this.  I remember Dwayne Butcher came in and looked at one of these and was like anybody can paint like that.  When I got in to grad school I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. They give you no guidelines and I just sat in my studio making really terrible looking drawings and paintings because I didn’t know what I was doing.

AB: Did you paint nude women a lot? 

AP: Well I was going to start getting models and I just didn’t really want to do that anymore but I didn’t know what to do. Have you seen any of my stuff from grad school? A lot of it was really thick oil painting; I would carve in to it.  I got really scared to use color.

AB: Was that because of your professors? 

AP: I remember having a critique and they questioned why I was using certain colors. I was like, I don’t know, for aesthetic reasons. They said I needed to come up with a reason for every color I chose.  Then I got really nervous and didn’t paint for a month and a half.  They criticized the way I was using a palette knife, it looked too much like a palette knife.  Ultimately it made me think more about the stuff I was making, and that was helpful.  When I got out of school I just did whatever the hell I wanted.

AB: Yea that’s a great feeling when you graduate and you don’t have to answer to anyone.  

AP: (pulling out thesis work from MCA)

AB: Are these dead bugs? 

AP: Yea a lot of the pieces had to do with the Old Testament.  I was looking at the bible as an evolutionist would instead of a creationist. So I was taking things that humans had done to counteract the punishments that god was doing to people. This one is a bug truck that people use to spray…one of them was the flood.  The titles of the pieces were all just bible versus. So a lot of my stuff from grad school looked like this.

AB: So different from now, no color. 

AP: Then I did animal heads in a similar style.  Eventually I started doing some collaborative stuff with Adam Farmer and Tad. I think doing the collaborative stuff really helped me make stuff in a different way. I started thinking about how we would each start something and then trade and work on top of what the other person did, so then I started treating my own pieces like I was doing a collaborative piece except I did both parts. So I really liked that, it made me think about different ways to make art.

AB: So was it when you started collaborating that you began making more humorous imagery? 

AP: I guess so.

AB: You have such a distinct style now that you have had for a while and I guess I’m just curious as to how you clicked in to that.

AP: The collaborative pieces helped but then I really got interested in George Condo. He is one of my favorite painters.  Then I have these books, they are sort of comic artists but they are really bizarre…they are like illustrations but they are really messed up. I liked how funny that was. Another thing that is really influential is Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job! It was on Cartoon Network. These books are pretty recent influences. 

AB: Your most recent paintings particularly feel so sure of themselves, I don’t see a lot of you repainting or struggling or being unsure of the images. Maybe that is partly because they are so graphic…are you struggling with this imagery or does it just come in to your head and you make it?

AP: I think sometimes if I get an idea and I don’t know exactly how I want it to look then it’s a bit of a struggle, but usually I can imagine what this stuff is going to look like in my head and for the most part it comes out how I want it to look.

AB: Do you feel like you’ve reached a point where you are making exactly what you want to make? 

AP: I think I’m almost there.

AB: Do you sell a lot of your work? 

AP: If I have a Yart Sale I sell a lot. I’ve sold several things through the price is right. I’ve done more online sales in the past year or two just because I am getting more of an online presence.  I got a couple of images in this collage show in Tate Britain.

AB: What! 

AP: They did this big display of the collage work they have in their collection and people submitted collage work and if you got picked they would have rotating images on these screens. Then an architect from Paris saw that show and he bought two of my paintings.

AB: Wow, so you have the Tate on your resume. That’s awesome.  When was that show? 

AP:  It was last year or the year before. The show was called Texture and Collage.

AB: Is there anything I didn’t ask you about that you want to talk about? 

AP: I recently got representation in Dallas.

AB: Congratulations, that’s awesome! 

AP: It’s called the Ro2 Gallery. I got asked to be in a show at Central Track, which is an artist residency program, they have a gallery. Trenton Doyle Hancock had a piece in the show too so I thought that was cool. They saw that show and contacted me. They had a price is right style show…then they asked if they could represent me.

AB: That is awesome. 

AP: So I am going to do a show there in June. I think they are going to be a part of the Dallas Art Fair and they said they would put a few pieces of mine in that.

AB: Well that’s big news. Have you already sent them a bunch of work? 

AP: I’ve sent them 11 or 12 and they’ve sold maybe 4 or so.

AB: What are you going do for your first show in Dallas?

AP: I don’t know because I’ve only shown a handful of pieces down there and I’ve got probably over 200 pieces of art in here and I don’t know if I should make a huge body of work. I could probably just take groups of these that fit together and hang them in installations. I’ll probably end up making new stuff just because I keep making new stuff anyway.  I think the show will be up through June.

 Additional information and images of his work can be seen at www.alexanderpaulus.blogspot.com.

Amelia Briggs