A CONVERSATION WITH PAULA ZAMMIT
Paula Zammit was profiled on the series Detroit Performs. See an in depth look into her work and process here.
Q and A with Paula about her exhibition Mixed Palette
Name: Paula Zammit
Years in Detroit: Aside from a handful of years in St. Louis, all my 55 years.
Working as an artist: “seriously working”- 4
Preferred Medium: oil paint and encaustic
What is currently your favorite:
Website: thisiscolossal.com - always something fun and new
Work of Art:
ATRABILIARIOS (Defiant) by Doris Salcedo - I will never forget how jarred I was by this piece at the DIA. That was the first time I really understood that art doesn’t need to be aesthetically pleasing. It will always be in my top 5.
Piece of advice: Learn how to laugh at yourself. Nobody died.
Do you collect anything? Dust and dog hair. Since immersing myself in my art, my home has greatly suffered.
Was there an artist you admired that inspired you to be an artist yourself?
ONE?!! These questions are killing me. There are so many I could list right here. Maybe Mary Cassatt. Her use of color drew me in, but I always thought it really took a lot of gumption, the way she inserted herself in a man’s world. Women artists were not highly revered back then and she just thought, “Damnit, I’m doing this!”. She made them notice and respect her. I guess I experienced similar feelings, going to CCS in my late forties and thinking that I didn’t fit in because of my age.
Is there a particular local artist whose work you admire?
Sarah Wagner. Not only is her work incredible, her work ethic and attention to detail is mind-blowing. I see so much work these days where there is so little care applied. UGH.
What themes do you tend to pursue in your work?
In my abstract work: organic growth, biological function, revealment, fluidity In my figurative work: gestural, body language, sophisticated sexuality In my senior year at CCS, I was privileged to have a critique with Walter Hood from L.A. I had no figurative work in my studio at the time, only abstract - completely nonrepresentational. He looked at it and the first thing out of his mouth was, “I think you really love the human figure”. I thought that was very perceptive and I have been very cognizant of that ever since.
Where are you finding inspiration lately?
Just about anywhere. The key is slowing down enough to notice. Consider things as mundane as the way the dirt might fall into an interesting pattern next to the curb. Detroit is so good for that you know. I can always argue with anyone that knocks this city and says that it has little to offer visually.
Is there a single habit that you strongly believe contributes to your success as an artist?
Get your butt in your studio/ work space even when you don’t feel like it. What’s the quote by Picasso? “Inspiration will find you, but it has to find you working”.
How do you feel about the art market / scene in Detroit? Have you seen a shift in the last few years?
I feel so privileged to be a part of what is going on here right now. It’s electric. It’s palpable. I do know in my travels, people are watching what’s happening here. An elderly docent at the Whitney in NY 4 years ago, pulled me aside when she learned I was from Detroit and excitedly whispered in my ear (as if we were talking about something very secretive), “What is going on there?” Also, I just got back from The Detroiter Show in San Francisco, that I participated in and it was a blast to hear so many people jazzed about our art scene and asking questions.
What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming exhibition?
Truthfully, it’s seeing so many Detroit artist friends and the encouragement we get from each other. There is a lot of camaraderie, alongside the healthy competitiveness.
What one item would you grab if your house were on fire?
My big box of all my old family photos, I like to know where I came from.