Focus: Suzanne Paul: Later in the Artist’s Career

Digging into an artist’s archive is… well, viagra sale it’s so, so interesting. #nerdalert.

This project has definitely invited more “story time” into my life – and I do love story time.\n\nI continue to scan images and am still coming across some surprising moments and some real characters – artists –  who Suzanne photographed so many years ago. I’m eager to learn more about the shows that Suzanne participated in and what the exhibitions themselves tell us about Houston/Texas art history.

To continue where my last post left off, this project has me while scanning images also reading press articles on Suzanne’s solo exhibitions and organizing postcards and exhibition flyers and catalogues as well.

In the mix of documents Suzanne saved I found this statement from the late Walter Hopps – former director of The Menil Collection – who sat for a portrait session with Suzanne:

“Suzanne Paul should now be recognized as one of the finest photographers to come out of Houston. Her essential medium is black and white photography and her most important subject matter is portraiture. The portraits in this exhibition largely focuses on people associated with the arts of Houston or those who pass through.

Not all photographers are skilled printers of their own work. Paul is a superb printer achieving areas of deep black in line with her instinct for chiaroscuro lighting of the subject.

Having been the subject of one of Paul’s portraits, I have experienced the directness and honesty of her work. She has caught an unidealized view of who I am.” – Walter Hopps

Suzanne Paul, Walter Hopps

An enigmatic portrait of Walter Hopps was included in Being Humana solo exhibition of portraits curated by Clint Willour, then Executive Director Curator at the Galveston Arts Center, for Fotofest in 2001. Being Human collected and presented together over sixty black and white portraits of Houston-based artists, curators, and art patrons photographed by Paul and was one of the largest presentations of her portraiture in the entirety of her career – most of the images never having been shown before. The selection of images in Being Human heavily relates to our project in it’s current phase as we’re prioritizing the images that document our art History and many of the same were included in the Fotofest exhibitions. Too, the work presented was standout and spirited.\n\n Review: Being Human: Portraits by Suzanne Paul, in
Houston Center for Photography’s Spot Magazine, Winter 2002 Issue

“Suzy Paul [had] a remarkable way of capturing the spirit and soul of people with her camera,” wrote Willour. “Her work is truly about being human… Throughout her career, it is her black and white portraiture work that I think has been her greatest strength as an artist. That is why we [focused] on this work. Suzy [captured] people’s humanity, whether it [was] people she [knew] or discovered subjects.”
Among the first artists she photographed were Dick Wray, Julian Schnabel, Terry Allen, and Norman Bloom. Later she photographed artists such as Lucas Johnson, Richard Stout, The Art Guys, David McGee, Michael Tracy, Mel Chin, and Angelbert Metoyer, many of whom were featured in Being Human and subsequent exhibitions A Moment in Houston and Proof. Alongside the artists in the collection of photography we are working with are Houston curators and patrons such as James Harithas, Walter Hopps, Hiram Butler, Alfred Glassell, Alison de Lima Greene, and Edward Mayo. Being Human was an important contribution to Houston’s history, documenting a significant period of time in the development of Houston’s art community and the two most recent exhibitions of Paul’s work, mentioned above, continue that dedication to this documentation.
 SUZANNE PAUL: PROOF exhibition catalogue title page,
presented and published by Deborah Colton Gallery in the 2016 FotoFest Biennial
From the Proof curatorial statement:
“The collection of photographic negatives, slides, prints and related memorabilia from this work, 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. Emerging as a study of the present through the past, Proof surveys this body of documentary photography and portraiture, highlighting the artist’s extraordinary talent in capturing unfiltered impressions of her subjects, while offering an intimate glimpse into her creative praxis.
The multi-entendre title of the exhibition assumes its designation, in the first place, from the presentation of ten selected enlargements of the artist’s proof sheets from the chemical darkroom. The contact proofs expose in revealing ways the artist’s process of portrait-making, editing, and darkroom printing while demonstrating the gifted manner in which Paul was able to relate to her subjects.”
“The Legacy of the Lady with the Leica,” by Catherine Anspon, excerpt from the Proof exhibition catalogue

Recontextualizing Suzanne Paul’s photography of Houston arts and artists, Proof actively acknowledged the recognizable talent of key figures that represent the arts in Houston in the national and international arenas. In reviewing this selection from this artist’s photo archive, it becomes very clear that there are hidden gems, many never before seen, to share across generations. We find left to us a treasure of brilliant images, an invaluable resource for our community that testifies to the artistic climate that has emerged and evolved in the city since the creative boom of the 1970s — preserved for us by one of its most dedicated participants.

Suzanne Paul, “The Art Guys, (1999), excerpt from the Proof catalogue


Content originally published by Theresa Escobedo, here, on 11.18.16

Focus: Suzanne Paul: Later in the Artist’s Career