by Paula Berg Owen
Kristin Wigley-Fleming Fine Arts Gallery, Center for the Arts
February 17 - April 6, 2011
There will be a Gallery Reception on Monday, February 21, 2011 from 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. All are welcome.
Paula S. (Berg) Owen was born in 1948 in Iowa City, Iowa, but grew up in Decorah, Iowa, where her father was a professor at Luther College. She earned her BA in art and political science from Luther College in 1970, a master’s degree in art education from Moorhead State University in 1978, and an MFA in painting and printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1985. Paula has been president of the Southwest Schools of Arts (SSA) in San Antonio, Texas since 1996. The school is a recognized national leader in arts education that provides classes and workshops to over 4000 children and adults each year. During Paula’s presidency at SSA, the school has grown significantly through the addition of a major San Antonio gallery space, a printmaking studio, and a new papermaking studio. In 2013 the school will begin to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. SSA also hosts outstanding exhibitions by artists of regional and national significance. Over 225,000 people visit the school each year for its wide variety of exhibits, lectures, events, and classes, and 40,000 more people are reached through numerous off-site activities such as the Mobile Arts Program that annually sends art teachers to over 60 schools and service agencies.
Prior to her work at the Southwest School of Arts, Paula held various positions in business and education, including director of the Visual Art Center of Richmond, Virginia from 1985-1996. She has curated over 60 exhibitions and organized numerous regional and national conferences. She has also served on several panels, including the Bush Foundation in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the Barnett Symposium at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio; and the Visual Arts Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts. She has served as a judge and juror for several organizations and events, including the Philadelphia Craft Show in Pennsylvania; the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, also in Philadelphia; and the Smithsonian Craft Show in Washington, DC. She has been honored by the Ford Salute to Education in San Antonio, Texas; chaired the Cultural Alliance of San Antonio; and served as project director for the “Women and the Craft Arts” National Conference at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. Her participation on national boards includes the Hand Workshop Art Center and the Santa Reparata International School of Art. She has written for the New Art Examiner, Metalsmith, Artpapers, and American Ceramics, and her book of essays, Objects and Meaning, New Perspectives on Art and Craft, co-authored with Anna Fariello, was published in 2003 by Scarecrow Press. In addition to her numerous administrative art duties, she is an accomplished studio artist.
In 1995, Paula received a Distinguished Service Award from Luther College.
"Because my father, Warren Berg, was a professor at Luther for over 40 years, most of my childhood is fused with Luther College campus life. My family even lived on campus in Campus House for several years. As a little girl I haunted the library, the chemistry lab, the radio station, and faculty offices. I watched the old gymnasium burn down and most of the new buildings under construction. We ran our sleds down Sunnyside hill, ate in the boarding club, collected pop bottles under the bleachers, played on the gymnastics equipment, and, of course, attended every social, athletic, and ceremonial event. Our home was filled with art and music, foreign students, friends, activity, while the immutable radiance of the Oneota Valley enveloped it all.
Artists cannot help but search for the sublime, and in my case the quest may also be propelled by that idyllic childhood. We live in an era, however, in which the fractured, often incoherent realities that confront us, make the search challenging. Reconciliation of our multiple realities – not to mention deeper perception of them – is illusive. In my studio, however, I attempt to reclaim the possibility through the process of painting. While not a cognitive process, it is instead the interiorizing of my mind and body as I work, waiting to transcend both.
I have come to think that this attempt reflects in part my upbringing in Decorah. When one’s formative years are regulated by but also enhanced by the powerful rhythms of nature and culture, it is not surprising that the enormous forces inherent in both be central to my aspirations.
For me, both in and out of the studio, the sublime is sometimes found in the equilibrium that can emerge from chaos. According to chaos theorists, the notion of the “strange attractor” describes the complex and elegant patterns that emerge from non-linear, dynamic systems.” Observable in the formal properties of my paintings, which reflect the symbiosis between incongruent forms or references, my paintings also convey the process of reconciling my own multiple realities.
Moreover, the concept of the “strange attractor” articulates my memories of and fascination with the lyrical patterns in nature – dust motes in morning sunlight, blowing snow, swarms of insects, spiraling leaves, schools of fish, rippling water, migrating birds. The paintings are characterized by these patterns as well by a sense of equilibrium emerging from richly textured layers."
-Paula Berg Owen