Saturday, May 14, 2011
Kevin Paulsen at Bergdorf Goodman
BB with artist Kevin Paulsen (click on photos to enlarge)
A couple of years ago I saw exhibited at Bergdorf Goodman on the seventh floor in the Home department some poetic paintings which really appealed to me. The landscapes looked like pieces of early nineteenth century folk art. Painted in a naive style, they resembled wall fragments of plaster murals which had been placed in wood frames. In the nineteenth century, itinerant artists made a living painting wall murals because it was actually cheaper for the homeowner than buying wallpaper. But these paintings at Bergdorfs were not ancient relics, they were by artist Kevin Paulsen who lives up the Hudson in Kingston, New York. I loved the historic nature, natural colors, and light charm of the paintings, and later found Kevin on facebook. Now Bergdorfs has a new exhibition up of the artist's latest work, there until May 31st, and I was invited to the opening this week.
The scene in the Sunlight Room on the seventh floor at Bergdorf Goodman:
Originally from Kansas City, Kevin Paulsen attended the Kansas City Art Institute and then lived on Nantucket for fifteen years restoring homes and learning about the folk art of New England, particularly the muralists of the 1840s. "After the Civil War, I lose interest," Kevin said to me, "Before the Civil War we were still innocent, in a way." Indeed, I think it's the innocence and simplicity of these paintings which speak to me.
This painting is called "Re-Seeding" but as Kevin was working on it the tsunami in Japan occurred so he incorporated a huge wave, creating a tragic scene.
This is "The Palace of the Pachyderm" and you can see the elephant in the center. This magical vision reminded me of the eighteenth century Italian painting of the matching castles that I saw at Carlton Hobbs recently at the Spring Show NYC.
Kevin decorated the mocha-colored walls of the Skylight room with white stencils which looked perfect with the art.
Nicholas Manville, who is Vice President of Home at Bergdorf Goodman, told me at the opening that after he spotted a painting by Kevin in the home of his father's friend in the Washington, D.C., he tracked down the artist in Kingston for the first show. He reported that the paintings were priced at $6,500-$25,000 and that three had sold so far. The Skylight Room with its natural light offered a great setting for the work. "We have the right canvas for his canvas," said Nicholas.
Across the hall a woman was considering buying this painting. It's called "New York to Buffalo" and it depicts life on the Erie Canal. You can see "Albany" lettered at the bottom of the painting, and notice how the edges of the painting are ragged to look like a piece of plaster but Kevin told me that it was styrofoam so that it was light. I grew up in upstate New York, and the Erie Canal links all the places I spent time including Utica and Herkimer and Albany and Rochester where we visited my cousins last summer and walked along the Canal.
The woman looking at the painting had blond hair and was carrying a black Hermès Kelly bag with the closure unlatched to reveal the tiny golden Hermès logo. She said she was born in Russia and lived in Rochester; she also had homes in the Finger Lakes and on Park Avenue. The salesperson asked, "How do you travel between New York and Rochester?" and the woman said, "My plane." We marveled at the picture some more and she said, "I'm going to buy it." I hope she did.
Downstairs on the sidewalk the store windows along 58th Street featured more paintings by Kevin.
The darkening trees behind me reflected in the windows.
Here is a closer view –
I love this combination of fashion and art, the patterns and colors complementing one another perfectly. On West 58th Street I started breathing deeply which happens when I see something beautiful that really resonates with me.