FKIN (A)rt Friday

East Village Artist Paula C's Colonial Porn & Butterfly Pussies

For this special edition of FKIN (A)rt Friday, Erotic Intent wants you to meet East Village artist and longtime resident Paula C.

An avid gallery and museum goer, her interest in art began pretty much when she realized what art was, took her to art schools and international residencies and made her a fixture on the 80s and 90s Downtown New York art scene.

Below she generously shares her humorous, tongue-in cheek, and sweetly subversive Colonial Porn series as well as several painting from her Butterly Pussy collection and talks about art and life in the now virtually nonexistent East Village of the 80s and 90s.

The paintings are small, from about the size of a dinner plate, to about 15 - 20 inches tall.

All paintings are by Paula C. If you share, please credit Paula and the Perfect Fit Brand Erotic Intent blog.

Colonial Porn series by Paula C.

Colonial Porn series by Paula C.

When, why and from where did you move to New York City’s East Village?    

I moved to NYC in March 1979. In 1980, I moved to the East Village, where I still live. I moved from Oyster Bay, Long Island. I moved to New York City because that’s kind of what I was taught when I went to art school in Philly. That was their main objective, to teach you that you should move to New York City and try to become a successful artist. [Laughs] Kind of a weird trip, but that’s what one of the undercurrents of our education was.  I had been coming to New York since I was a kid, so I was in love with New York City ever since I was small. I started coming on school trips when we were in grade school and as a teenager I started to come into the city and hang out and then it was just inevitable that I would move to New York.    

Colonial Porn series by Paula C. Man With Cock

Colonial Porn series by Paula C.

What was it like then?    

The early 80s were a bit rough. Tompkins Park was a tent city. There was a lot of drug dealing around the East Village. It was tons of fun though, too. Even though the neighborhood was rough, the East Village, there were lots of openings and parties, clubs and free admission, free drinks. So, the early 80s were great. They were really fun, but there were a lot of friends getting mugged, women getting raped, there was a lot of horrible shit going on, also, in that period of time. But it was affordable. You could be an artist and run around the city and go out and get in for free and go to Studio 54 and places that were cool where we went to party.   

Colonial Porn series by Paula C.Colonial Porn series by Paula C.

Where did you like to go?    

I think in the 80s l liked Danceteria a lot and Area and I did go to Studio 54 a few times, but you had to get somebody to take you there. They wouldn’t let in women by themselves. I had to go with a guy, like a sort of suit type guy. There also was The Tunnel, Limelight, and Palladium.    

Where were the artist hanging out?    

Danceteria was real art spot in a lot of ways. People gathered at art openings. Everything was in SoHo then, so it wasn’t in Chelsea or the Lower East Side. We would go to big openings by certain artists who’d gotten a name for themselves at the big galleries like Mary Boone and Leo Castelli. So everyone went and that’s where the artists met and there were often afterwards parties somewhere where you get in for free. There was a free drink hour or so if you could get lucky and get close enough to the bar and get yourself a drink.    

Colonial Porn series by Paula C.Colonial Porn series by Paula C.

Had you always be interested in art? A particular medium? And what drew you to art?    

From an early age, I loved art. When I was 12 years old, I went to MoMA, That was the END all. A profound experience. I never forgot it.    

What blew your mind at MoMA?    

Guernica by Picasso. I think seeing that huge painting of the war and the horse falling and the image of it all. That and a Louise Nevelson installation. I remember those two really distinctly. I was really moved by what art could be.    

When did you start making your own art? And what was the first thing that you did that made you think this is what I want to do?    

Actually, I started out with an interest in sculpture. It was much later on in art school that I realized that I wanted to go for painting instead, and I switched. I wasn’t very good at painting in those days. I like working with my hands, doing more sculptural multimedia things. I was into clay, early on, in high school days. I made sculptures and things I could sell, like all handmade planters and you know like art objects.    

Colonial Porn series by Paula C.

Colonial Porn series by Paula C.

When did you make the switch to painting and why? 

I went to school in Italy, in Rome, as a junior year abroad and the teacher was Ben Shahn’s son, John, Ben Shahn was a very famous painter. He was a real traditionalist. He wanted us to all go by his rule of  thumb. We had to do everything from the model, molding, figurative work. He was really way too traditional for my interests, where I was coming from. So, I just went to the painting department and said I’d like to change my major to painting. Can I do that? They gave me a bit of a talking to. Are you sure that’s what you want to do? And said ya, I do. So I sorta started late as a painter, I would say. I was in my 20s.    

What kind of stuff did you start off painting? Abstract, figures…?    

The early stuff is like animals and people in ovals, maybe a square canvas with animals in ovals with thick paint. I painted in oil, but I would build up underneath with acrylic and put oil on top to make it look thicker.     Where you always working in a smaller size?     No actually I did some really big paintings, like six foot square. Five foot by four feet. I made a really huge painting that was twelve feet tall  and had sculptural attachments to it. That was after art school, though. In school there were a lot of assignments in painting.    

Colonial Porn series by Paula C.

Colonial Porn series by Paula C.

How much longer after school did you do these American folk, sexy, humorous–what would you call it–paintings?    

Well, I call it Colonial Pornography. [laughs] But I don’t’ know if that’s a good title. I’ve been questioning that as well. That’s what it was meant to be. Like what’s wrong with this picture. Taking the Puritans, the Puritanical ethic and twisting it and you don’t see it right away, because they are smaller, then you realize, oh, you know, and people usually giggle or laugh. I started doing that about 20 years ago. And why? I don’t know.     

Your Colonial Pornography series, featured here, is witty and fun and reminds one of the randy satirical art of 18th century artists such as William Hogarth Thomas Rowlandson. What inspired this series?    

I saw an exhibition at the Whitney Museum on America Folk art paintings of three centuries. It was a great inspiration for me. I have the book. So, I work from the book, taking images from there and if they are conducive to my erotic thought patterns [laughs], then I just twist the image a little. That was how it started.    

Colonial Porn series by Paula C.Colonial Porn series by Paula C.

Do you still paint?    

I haven’t’ been painting. I’m trying to. I started a painting recently, but I just covered it all up because I just changed my mind. I want to work on something different. That’s where I’m at right now. Not sure what direction to go.    

Were there artists or galleries that inspired you? 

So many artists! I can name a few, but this is a short list. Manet, Goya, Picasso, Johns, Hockney, Stubbs, Schiele, Klimt, Munch and various America Fold Art painters, also Louis Bourgeois and early Rauschenberg.    

Butteryfly Pussy Collection by Paula CButteryfly Pussy Collection by Paula C

Butteryfly Pussy Collection by Paula C

Your “Butterfly Pussy” series reminds one of Amish hex signs. Did you have hex signs in mind when you were doing your, um, sex signs? 

I have never seen Amish hex signs, but after looking up hex signs, I can see how one could see that. I went to school in Pennsylvania, so I might have seen hex signs, but nothing I remember.     The “Butterfly Pussy” paintings don’t have a reference to hex signs, though. I did those three in Sweden in 2000, when I was an artist in residence in Gothenburg, in western Sweden. The “Butterfly Pussy” series was about the bright light—it didn’t get dark until 11 at night and by 2:30 or 3 in the morning the light was coming in again. There were sort of abstract, but then I put this little element of pussy in there. But basically, they were about the summer—I don’t know what they were about—but they came about because of being in a super light environment and a reflection of light. So the color is very keyed up, tones.    

You are a big art fan and regularly hit the museums and show. What have been some of your favorite exhibitions, shows, artists that you’ve seen lately?    

I really was in love and am going to try to get back to the Delacroix show at the Met. There are some paintings in there that will knock your socks off. The Charles White show was really good. It was on at MoMA. He’s a black American. I just saw the Jack Whitten show, which is really good sculpture at The Met Breuer. He’s another black artist. Those three shows were really, really good. I’m anxious to go see the Bruce Nauman show at MoMA and PS1. He’s an excellent artist who works in all different mediums. I really liked the Hilma af Klint show at the Guggenheim Museum.

Colonial Porn series by Paula C.

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