The 230th Day of the Year
When I first moved to Manhattan, now three decades and counting ago, I was stunned by the surprises it held. Any given week might bring a series of random events and meetings that made me a different person than I had been before, someone more in touch with a larger world. I have had to spend more time inside than outside in the last year. Sometimes I forget the power of these accidental and beneficial collisions.
Paul Mutimear is a magician in his own right and on his own terms — artist, photographer, musician, and by self-definition “The Color Guy.” I met Paul a few years back when I zipped into the Janovic Plaza paint store on Lexington and 64th. Painting walls is instantly therapeutic and a fairly inexpensive way to escape your surroundings. Feeling trapped that day, I decided to paint a room. Much to my delight I met Paul who is not someone who is pushing paint toward the next customer. Everything about him has artistry to it. Paul captivated me — his manner, dress, humor, and vocal refusal to be intimidated by my insistence I had the right color. (I did not and not listening to him caused the need for a quick return trip!) We began to talk about creative pursuits and what he calls his improvised life. He told me a few things about his wife, the artist Katherine Bowling, and their life together. I was hooked. Occasionally I drop into the store and we pick up where we left off the last time.
Procrastinating (not writing) earlier this summer I decided to “moth” my closets thoroughly before I packed up the winter clothes. We notice moths mostly for what they leave behind… holes in the clothes we love. I grew quickly weary of the task. Without any consideration of its ramifications, I decided my main room was too dark. One long wall had to change its color-costume … immediately. I went to Janovic and there was Paul. I was fresh from the moth-killing chore and Paul told me about his published book of extraordinary photographs … of moths! Paul’s Moths are not to be killed but instead appreciated for all their transcendent and iridescent living and flying beauty. His photographs and understanding of these critters made rethink words such as: insects, pests, and bugs.
The collision that brought us into one another’s lives happened for no other reason except the Muses provide random joys. Ours made me once again savour “the treats along the way” Manhattan still provides.
We are excited and pleased to welcome Paul Mutimear as our guest on From This Terrace. I hope all of you will enjoy your time with him as much as I do. Please note he has a show up for the next two weeks, if you’re anywhere in the area – all details are included below. Since the gallery is out of the city, Paul has given us a preview for those who won’t be able to attend. It’s his most recent print of a June bug. Here’s what he says:
“It’s called ‘June’ which is the name of the bug, the June bug, so named because it only seems to appear in the month of June. Their evolution is a mystery to me, as they seem completely ill conceived. They have big fat bodies and fly as if completely out of control for the entire duration of their flight, which lasts an average of 1.5 seconds before they crash into something, and fall to ground and if they land on their backs they seem completely incapable of righting themselves.
When I shot this picture I had three of them stuck to me from random collisions. I’ve decided that this picture is an accidental tribute to the legendary photographer O. Winston Link who set up incredibly elaborate shots, with only once chance to get everything right, most famously, the express train passing a drive-in movie. My shot captures the wild flight path of the June bug just as a car passes in the background, leaving the streaks of red taillights. The difference is that mine was completely accidental and a million to one coincidence, especially as cars pass here at night at an average frequency of one every ten minutes! Sometimes you get lucky.”
If you are now bitten by Paul’s work, as we are here on From This Terrace, please read on and learn more about his vision and the journey to finding his creative path. I find I can’t look at any of his photographs without seeing something new in each one, each time.
An improvised life by Paul Mutimear:
Basically, I have had a strange and under-achieving sort of career, having been blessed with an abundance of creativity, but, growing up, I had little encouragement. It was also the 60’s and I had little interest in a traditional “career”. I studied mechanical engineering because I liked making things and thought it would be interesting (it wasn’t) and became a musician and recording engineer before coming to America with a rock and roll band.
I had always been interested in photography as another creative outlet but never had the patience (or memory) to learn film-based photographic technique and only got into photography seriously when digital cameras of sufficient quality finally became affordable. My favorite part of playing music is improvisation, partly because I am untrained in music too. Digital photography gave me the instant feedback that I needed to improvise — waiting 2 weeks for a film to be processed only to find out I had used the wrong settings didn’t work for me! It would have been akin to playing a guitar solo with a 2-week delay before I could hear what I’d done! These photos are the direct result of the newfound ability to improvise with a camera. The freedom that unlimited shooting and instant feedback enabled was breathtaking and as soon as I had a camera good enough, these photographs came quite quickly.
Incidentally, my music career had a little boost about 4 years ago when I was able to write, record, and produce my own solo CD (with a lot of help from great engineer and producer, Allen Farmelo). I made it under the pseudonym Paul Britten and it’s called “Life and Death (Part 1)”.
My accidental career as a colorist follows a similar pattern, as again, I have no formal training. When Janovic offered me the job, disillusioned with 15 years as a specialty-painting contractor with ever-increasing overheads and diminishing job satisfaction, I improvised. Every customer is different and I was soon able to find my way by treating every person as an individual and improvising to their personal requirements. Feeling that I should study a little color theory, I discovered that it basically reinforced what I had already learned intuitively from my practical experience in color mixing and application. I already had the advantage of extensive experience in paint application and in dealing with clients but the biggest key to my success was probably just having an English accent!”
Like the moths drawn to the light, Susan, the Stone Sage Lion and I are drawn to this imaginative artist and how he re-envisions life-on-the-wing. I am beginning to wonder how the mothproofing will go next year….
In the meantime, I intend to enjoy the gifts of Paul’s lens.
Good-bye for now from all of us on From This Terrace. See you soon!!
©Alida Brill 2011 From This Terrace
For an actual look at the man behind the mystery of moths and a few words about color, which after all, brought me to him: here is a link to a featured piece that appeared in The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/13/nyregion/13experience.html
Paul is represented by master printers and print publishers Oehme Graphics of Colorado. He has just returned from working there on the new series.
The book Solid Air is available at: www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2038594
See more of Paul’s photography at:
You can obtain limited edition archival prints of these images by contacting Paul directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
You will find his music on www.paulbritten.com
Here are details about Paul’s upcoming show:
It’s about a 3 hour drive from NYC (so City residents who can’t make it are forgiven). For those who saw Paul’s last show there, there will be some new moth pictures but also a lot of other photography, video and his first series of etchings made with master printer Sue Oehme in Colorado.
Opening Saturday August 20th 5pm — 7pm. The show is up for 2 weeks and Paul will also be at the gallery Sun 21st, Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th from about noon until 5pm.
If you are unfamiliar with the location, here are some clues:
Address: Wayout Gallery, 5046 Delaware Turnpike, Rensselaerville, NY 12147.