Paula Overbay

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Penelope’s Heart, by Paula Overbay

When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you’re telling it, to yourself or to someone else.

–Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

This is spoken as a voice-over at the beginning of Sarah Polley‘s new film, Stories We Tell. This part documentary/part artful exploration of how to tell a story is a stylistic tour de force. It is also one more example of Polley’s steely commitment to truth speaking, but a truth speaking that doesn’t flail or decimate as it burrows into our core. The deft hand of her film making, evidenced in her earlier projects including Away From Her and Take This Waltz, is becoming even more nuanced and sophisticated. Polley holds the delicate tension between what is authentic and the essential theatricity that is a film. She runs a grounding wire down deep and keeps her storytelling from losing its footing. I don’t know of another film that demonstrates this level of respect for the complexity and layered nature of a family secret. See the movie. I would love to hear what you think.

This quote by Margaret Atwood is also provocative on other levels. There is this now we are in and then there is the story that evolves about this moment that is constructed by our future selves. Similarly, visual art emerges from us in its own way, sourced and nurtured by who knows what. How differently we see a body of work when we look back on it years later, when its etymology and evolutionary lineage have been exposed and are easier for us to trace.

Yesterday my artist friend Paula Overbay showed me several works from her collection of art that she had purchased or traded for many years ago. Looking at many of those pieces now we both smiled to see the subtle suggestions and elements that ended up appearing in her own work many years later. They were there, in various stages of exposure and definition, presaged in pieces made by the hands of others. “I was drawn to these years ago, and I had no idea at the time that this was where my work would eventually end up,” she said. In the words of Margaret Atwood, “It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all.”

Buzz, by Paula Overbay

(Both images courtesy of Paula Overbay)

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Many of you have undoubtedly heard about the Chain Letter Show. The idea was a robust one—using the existing network of artists, create an international, artist-curated, pop up event at several locations around the world all at the same time. Ten artists were asked, and then they asked ten more, who then asked ten more. It is easy to see how you get to exponentiality very quickly, making this an idea that was clearly both crazy and very fun. How could I not go along for the ride?

On the day designated for dropping off work, my friend George Wingate and I arrived with our own work plus pieces by several of our friends at the Boston location, Samson Projects. By noon there were art objects stacked three and four deep, and a line of artists was starting to form in front. (By some accounts Samson ended up with over 1200 at the end of the day.) It was clear to George and me by mid day that this wasn’t a venue that would work for us or for our friends.

So there we were in the South End, our arms full of gorgeous pieces by artists we love. Then George and I had a “Salon des Refusés” (although in this case the “refusing” was self-inflicted) moment: Let’s decouple from the Chain Letter event and just have our own show: UNCHAINED. The first version of Unchained is here on Slow Muse, followed by a second “in the flesh” installation in George’s beautiful barn gallery in Wenham, just north of Boston, later this summer.

Here are the artists included in this first exhibit: Deborah Barlow, Kelvy Bird, Dennis Cowley, Pam Farrell, Patty Hanlon, Robert Hanlon, Don Howard, Elizabeth Mead, Holly Meade, Paula Overbay, Anne Pelikan, Mary Smith, George Wingate.


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Deborah Barlow
18 x 18″
mixed media on wood panel

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Mary Smith
ancient string/fairy
12 1/2″ x 13 1/2″
Collage on paper

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Paula Overbay
Penelope’s Handkerchief
12 x 12″
mixed media on wood panel

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Elizabeth Mead
Internal Organs
Misc. sizes
Porcelain on wood shelf

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Pam Farrell
Chinese Whispers
18 x 18″
Beeswax over oil on mulberry paper on wood panel

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Kelvy Bird
20 x 20″
Mixed media on paper

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George Wingate
Adam Grows a Beard
8 x 10″
Acrylic on panel

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Patty Hanlon
Blue Scenery
5 x 6″
Plexiglass CD box, latex gloves, pigments

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Robert Hanlon
The Decision
5 x 10″
Pigment and shellac on panel

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Holly Meade
Young Man Trapped in War
12 x 12″
Woodblock print

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Don Howard
2010 Christmas Card
5 x 7″
Collage, paper, feather, paint, pen

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Anne Pelikan
The Lookers
4 x 6″
Paper postcard with sections cut out

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Dennis Cowley
View from Browns Island 2010
4 x 5″
silver gelatin print (pinhole)

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