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Paula Wilson in solo show Imago at Denny Dimin Gallery

August 31, 2022

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Denny Dimin Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by multimedia artist Paula Wilson: Imago, opening September 9 – October 29, 2022. With the scope of her wide ranging practice incorporating themes of identity, image making and the natural world, Paula Wilson is an artist who has become sought after for institutional exhibitions and inclusion in important public and private collections. Alongside her exhibition at Denny Dimin Gallery, she is exhibiting within a group exhibition Plein Air at MOCA Tucson and has an upcoming solo exhibition Toward the Sky’s Back Door at The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs in 2023. In addition, her upcoming Albuquerque Museum show: Nicola López and Paula Wilson: Becoming Land opens October 8th, 2022 and is part of a larger umbrella of shows titled: Historic and Contemporary Landscapes including work by Thomas Cole and Kiki Smith. She has also recently had an acquisition placed at Colby College Museum of Art.

Through Imago, Wilson’s second solo exhibition with Denny Dimin Gallery, we see the gallery space transformed into the artist’s world, where her multimedia works of large scale collages, tromp l’oeil assemblages, monumental figures and video works are brought to life furthered by wooden sculptural collaborations with her partner Mike Lagg.

The title of the exhibition, “Imago”, explores the ideas of imagery, regeneration and reflection. Directly taken from the Latin word meaning image, it relates to a stage of metamorphosis when a winged insect reaches full maturity having morphed from egg to larva to pupa, then moving through imago to adult. There is also a secondary meaning attributed to “Imago” in psychology where we unconsciously reflect personality traits from formative relationships. Usually this pertains to a parent figure, however, with Wilson she uses it to delve further into her artistic relationship with her partner Lagg, a woodworker who has contributed to this exhibition.

Wilson posits that we become what we turn our attention to. Her life’s work is devoted to image making; she uses different media such as print, collage and painting to explore repetition and difference in creating images. Motifs are drawn, printed, reprinted, dissected, cut-up, collaged and painted over to form a whole new image. Here we can witness the metamorphosis at play, where through Wilson’s hand the medium moves through stages to where it reaches her version of imago – and its final transformation. Along the way Lagg’s contributions which take place as bespoke wooden lamps for her large assemblages Sunflower Night, 2022 or in works such as To Burn III, 2021 where printed images of wood off-cuts from his work are layered, visualizing the bonfires they have at their enclave in Carrizozo, New Mexico. These nuanced inclusions show the symbiosis of their life and practice. Their most direct collaboration, Microhouse, 2022, is a dollhouse sized version of a 200 square foot space Lagg made for Wilson to act as part home, part studio on their property. Here they share their domestic and working worlds which become immortalized in Microhouse complete with miniature textiles printed by Wilson and even a tiny wooden laptop intricately carved by Lagg. This handmade dedication is given 21st century life with a micro video installation embedded, which again deepens the reflection of their world showing playful activities filmed in domestic spaces.

Returning to “Imago” as insect metamorphosis, we consider how intrinsic entomology is to Wilson. The surrounding environment of the New Mexico flora and fauna features regularly in her art. Taking imago as the stage at which insects reach their sexual awakening, Wilson celebrates this transition into life making life – which in turn becomes life making art for her and Lagg. In her new video work Life Spiral, 2022, featured in the exhibition, Wilson centralizes herself at different stages wearing self-made garments directly referencing insects, their physical changes and growing sexualaity as they transform. As a celebrant of nature and lover of the outside world she sees herself as an ecosexual [1] where nature moves away from something that humankind uses or consumes to a place to love and explore as a lover or partner. These sentiments naturally flow into her relationship with Lagg and in turn into her art practice.

“It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real” [2]

When Baudrillard wrote these words, his was a critique on the proliferation of imagery substituting the real experience. In Paula Wilson’s work, the image, its replication, reflection and repeated imprint is the real experience by which she lives and practices as an artist. Each element of who Wilson is embeds in her work and that in turn casts the experience into the environment where the work is shown and placed. In this latest exhibition, the magic of her world and life in New Mexico is not simulated but simply extended into the gallery where the works come alive having realized their full transformation of imago.

[1] The term ‘ecosexuality’ gained notoriety as a doctrine to interact and love earth and nature pioneered by artist and activist Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens in 2008.

[2] Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1994.

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