Paula Schubatis is a Detroit-based artist, as well as purveyor of all things bright and glittery.
Schubatis explores urban landscapes through woven textiles, paint, and found materials, using material remnants of the past to manipulate the tactile experience of the present, in an attempt to “assert connections to the past by strengthening links to the present”, and blur the distinction between art and artifact.
Her process breaks down spaces into modular components, and reassembles them into monolithic structures, using her own contrived systems of hierarchy, informed by such institutions as philosophy, nature, science, and theology. These permutations of space attempt to relate to the world through the unique way they inhabit each space they are in, but often find themselves awkwardly alienated.
She describes herself as 'captivated' by the interactions of colors and forms, and has an intimate and fluid understanding of their dynamic relationships.
Schubatis is currently the Art Teacher at Detroit Communiy High School.
CONVERSATIONS WITH THE ARTIST
What is currently your favorite:
Website: sidsavage.com, its where I buy used car dealer pennants to weave with.
Work of Art: This question changes a lot, but right now Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. We’re going to make a Spiral Jetty inspired installation next month at the school I teach at.
Piece of advice: “The world isn't waiting for your next masterpiece.”
What one item would you grab if your house were on fire?
Do you collect anything?
I used to work as a baggage handler for Delta. Part of my job was to pick up any foreign object debris (FOD for short) from the tarmac, which included broken suitcase wheels, bag tags, glasses, and anything else imaginable. I began to save all of the old broken suitcase wheels and make things out of them. Now, I collect FOD from the side of the road; hub caps, rear view mirrors, mufflers, and any other unidentifiable rusty metal objects, both to make art out of, and as a service to the motorists of Detroit. I’ve always felt the compulsion to make things out of the things which other people reject.
Was there an artist you admired that inspired you to be an artist yourself?
I’m very inspired by Mike Kelley. I’ve always admired his work in that it plays with social relations and dynamics, but still maintains its integrity in terms of aesthetically being a work of art, fluidly through many different types of mediums.
Is there a particular local artist whose work you admire?
Silvio Barile, the owner, and curator of the Italian American Historical Museum. I am most inspired by outsider artists, people who see themselves outside of the realm of contemporary art, who’s motive to make things comes from a place of necessity, and blur the line between art and artifact. Silvio came to American as a refugee after World War II. He opened a pizzeria in Redford, which over time he filled with memorabilia, artifacts, and his own sculptures with to teach people about Italian culture. Eventually, he amassed such a collection, that the city no longer permitted him to run it as a restaurant, and he now operates his former pizzeria as a museum.
What themes do you tend to pursue in your work?
I make things to understand the world, and to relate to people. My work seeks to create an experience reliant on the participation of the spectator, so as to create a common experience which we can have together. I break down formal systems and interactions of colors, and shapes, as an analogy to the philosophical institutions which govern the universe. I am trained as a fiber artist and painter, however I also work in sculpture, performance, installation, and education. Its important not to feel limited by one concept, or style, and to let your ideas take whatever shape they want.
Where are you finding inspiration for those themes these days?
I am a high school art teacher at Detroit Community High School, and I am very inspired by the transpedagogial interactions within my educational community. Education is a performance, installation, and social sculpture in and of itself.
Is there a single habit that you strongly believe contributes to your success as an artist?
The compulsory need to make and to understand things, and the enthusiasm to share my findings with others.
How do you feel about the art market / scene in Detroit? Have you seen a shift in the last few years?
Detroit is a great place to be as a young artist. While the commercial art market here is not as big, nor probably will ever be, in the traditional sense, as many of the cities considered to be Meccas of the art world, Detroit has a very different and new type of art market, one which promotes social entrepreneurship. Art is evolving into something entirely new here; it is not about the relationship between the artist being dependent the collector, but rather the artist being dependent on the participatory action and exchange of the audience. Art and life are being intermixed in new and meaningful ways here like never before.
What are you looking forward to most about the upcoming exhibition: Echoes?
I mainly exhibit more experimental installation work in Detroit, so I am looking forward to showing more traditional woven work which I feel comes from my roots as a maker.
How does your work fit into that title?
The body of work I’m exhibiting combines esoteric sentiments with universally tangible elements of color and texture, displayed in woven fiber, sculpture, and installation. Echoes from the past bind to the undreamt dreams of the future to create the present.