Suzanne Paul: A Beacon of Houston Art History

Suzanne Paul, discount  born and bred in Houston, mind holds a unique place in the history of the city’s art community.

That isn’t what defines her though; it’s the passion and tenacity with which she pursued her photography and in so doing, promoted the practice as an art – not just a craft. Perhaps with her gift for seeing, she knew her works would one day live to tell a story of Houston; as museum director Jim Harithas puts it, she “chronicled the life of the art community in Houston as it developed.”

With faith and an incredible gift of foresight, Paul entrusted her life-long works to be preserved and cared for by Deborah Colton Gallery before losing her battle to breast cancer in 2005. Her daughter, Mercedes Paul, Mallard survives Paul.

“It means so much to me that Deborah Colton Gallery has preserved these archives and prepared 11 years for this exhibition. Growing up her work would be everywhere…from film hanging to dry, to prints being put in the middle of books to flatten out. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed this until she passed away. I am so happy this work can be seen in this format. This is something that has never been done before and it shows her process in picking images to print. Some people would pick different images than others on the proof sheet, but all of the work is meaningful, and important to the art community of Houston,” says Mercedes Paul in regards to her mother’s exhibition.

Paul’s life began in 1945, but her passion for photography started when she was just a child, in 1954 when she was given a Brownie box camera. She would graduate from the University of Houston in 1976, leaving her mark as a woman in pusuit of success – an earnest product of UH. She later studied at the San Francisco Art Institute which influenced her taste for the creative life.

At the launch of her career, Paul became the first woman to have a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston and for the museum documented artists and exhibitions with her camera. She was never one to miss a happening – as her archive tells it.

Her works consistently capture the essence of people and what can only be described as “spirit”. Some of the subjects of her shapshots and portraits include our recent mayor, Anise Parker, playwright Edward Albee, Andy Warhol and artists working in Houston and her contemporaries – Julian Schnaibel, James Surls, and Susan Plum, to name a few.

“Suzanne Paul left us with a compelling visual documentation of our City’s art history and in doing so, of humanity itself.” – Deborah Colton, Houston.

With the sixteenth iteration of the FotoFest International Biennial days now up and running, it seems a most apt time to look once more into the treasure of, now-historic, imagery Suzanne left – especially considering that she participated in each FotoFest Biennial until her passing.

A small, but impactful sampling of this gift of photography will be presented in the current solo FotoFest exhibition at Deborah Colton Gallery, entitled PROOF.

“The collection of photographic negatives, slides, prints and related memorabilia, left in the possession and care of Deborah Colton Gallery at the artist’s’ passing in 2005, now exists as evidence and affirmation of the health, vitality, and creative vigor of Houston’s alternative arts community from its early years to its present state. PROOF surveys this body of documentary photography and portraiture, highlighting the artist’s extraordinary talent in capturing unfiltered impressions of her subjects, and offers an intimate glimpse into the artist’s creative praxis, “ Theresa Escobedo

We hope to share Suzanne’s gift with those who knew her well and with a new generation of viewers with this exhibition, and we hope to see her work garner the attention and respect that it deserves.

Suzanne Paul: A Beacon of Houston Art History