Pamela Wilson, Eclectix Interview 17

Pamela Wilson - Eclectix Interview


Pamela Wilson is one of the most incredible painters out there today, we could stare at her images on a slide show endlessly. Strong feisty women, pirate lassies, saucy wenches are all served up on Pamela’s palette. Her colors are smoggy autumns  or the haze after a cannon has gone off – bits of golden brown sunsets that hang in the air. Highlighting just the right side of a cheek or an escaped wisp of hair. Grown women play dress up in Victorian and burlesque, armed with vintage rifles, absinthe and circus tents. The kind of stuff little girls are made of… 


Pamela Wilson, Eclectix Interview


Can you share a little daily routine and process with us? 

I recently read a Chuck Close quote: “Inspiration is for amateurs. The pros just show up for work.” Inspiration and work are both necessary and equal parts of anything worth making.. I guess that’s what I do – show up for work.

On GOOD days- I get some coffee, head directly to the studio at 8:00AM, turn on some Tom Waits, work my fingers to the bone, run five miles on the beach (I live in God’s country- Santa Barbara, CA), eat like a health nut,  pat myself on the back, pat my dogs on the head, and read myself to sleep.

On MOST days, I drag myself to the studio by 10:30AM (twenty-two feet from my back door), turn on some Tom Waits,  stress myself over deadlines yet unmet and paintings that will never be done, scold myself for not being Jeremy Geddes, eat crap because I’m too hungry or lazy to care, virtually ignore my dogs and the laundry, paint until midnight, and stay up even later watching “O Brother Where Art Thou” until I forget my troubles, and fall asleep.


Pamela Wilson, Eclectix Interview


 My favorite art memory from my childhood is …

My Aunt Georgia (93 this year) is an artist, and visited often when I was young- so often that she had a ready-made studio for painting in our basement. I watched her combine several photographs, taken on our many camping trips in the Colorado mountains, to create a large painting. She worked on it every time she visited, and I was enthralled to watch her mix color on the palette and make trees and rocks come to life. It took her months, but I watched every stroke as she worked like I wasn’t there, except for the occasional jokes (my family is full of comedians). She taught me to use a paint brush properly- “Never scrub, always back and forth”- which was a huge deal to me! I was probably seven years old, and knew then that I wanted to be just like her. That painting hung in our Pike’s Peak cabin for decades, and no one knows where it is now. My dad thinks he accidentally sold it with the cabin in 1985…  Tragedy.


Pamela Wilson, Eclectix Interview


I remember that my first disappointment was when I drew the picture for the Art Contest in the TV Guide- I drew it well, took so much time, erased and fixed every part over and over, and was so proud to send it off- finally- I was sure I would win First Prize!! ( I don’t remember the prize- art school? ha) When I never heard from them, I was distraught. My mother told me that it was so good that they probably thought I traced it. I never tried again.


Pamela Wilson, Eclectix Interview


My interest in art/painting started … 

Apparently, at the age of three or four, I drew a table and chairs in perspective, and my family decided immediately that I was an artist. I jumped on the bandwagon and never looked back. I was always drawing, but I hated coloring in coloring books, as I couldn’t stay inside the lines like my big sister (who hogged all the unbroken crayons anyway- because she was convinced that she was the queen of the world). I did try, however, to convince her that she needed to push on the crayon and make the color brighter. She ignored me completely. Her pictures looked so pale to me.


Pamela Wilson, Eclectix Interview


 I am often inspired and motivated by … 

Deadlines. Antique objects- dolls, cages, taxidermied animals, musical instruments, clothing, books, tools, etc.- all have “ghosts,” as well as some places, people,  and dreams. I never know when they will speak to me, but “ghosts” and I have a rapport. I read a lot, and find that the more I put in my brain- the more I get out. I live in extremes- I’m either bored to tears, or highly titillated. My mother used to tell me if I’m bored- it’s my fault. I daydream – always have. Inspiration is an illusive term, hard to describe.

Art is the thing one makes because she wants to see it in the world, and it doesn’t already exist.

(I read that somewhere- maybe Tom Robbins..) I think an artist has the luxury of always being open to inspiration.


Pamela Wilson, Eclectix Interview


 If I could spend the day with any artist (dead or alive) it would be …

I would definitely spend the day with Tom Waits. I’m afraid that my circus bum image of him would be spoiled – but I’m willing to take the risk.

And we would….

Our day would involve mucking around Chicago, sans plans or maps, just riding the train, getting lost, picking through junk shops, and hunting/decorating moose heads in bars- where we would bond over Bloody Marys and knock-knock jokes. And we’d probably get matching tattoos- bad monkeys- to honor each other- and our day.


Pamela Wilson, Eclectix Interview


 The tip or art technique (a specific tidbit of craft, advice or mechanical expertise) that has helped me the most is …. 

Rabbit skin glue is king. So is Dancolite.


If I could own one piece of art, out of the world’s collections, it would be …

 That’s easy. Nothing could be better than living with any piece by Robert (& Shana) ParkeHarrison. Preferably a big one. Since the moment I first saw his work in my then   Claire Oliver/ Philadelphia/1997- I was hooked. I am so moved by his concept of the unending need of humans to create and fix regardless of the futility..  It’s like Tom Waits meets Dr. Seuss meets Terry Gilliam meets Sisyphus. The work just has everything.

I’d also like to own, (if I would be allowed two),  one of Anselm Keifer‘s painted photographs that I saw in one of his obscure hand-made photo books, in 1988 at the LA Contemporary, which revealed to me the theretofore unimagined possibility of painting on my own B/W photographs- which became my sole obsession for many years. 


Pamela Wilson, Eclectix Interview


 My favorite piece of my own art is …

Hmm. Off the top of my head- that would have to be a painted b/w photo I did of my son in graduate school- part of a series entitled “Addiction to Small Shames.(below)  There are two of him, standing side by side. It’s a large photo- 4 ft.- and it was such a great experience to make- from the laborious printing of the photo- with the enlarger turned sideways on the floor to get it that -  I had to expose it on a wall- to the first stroke of sticky blood-red paint- the end result and the way it moves me still (it hangs in my bedroom) makes it my favorite.

Because …  It reminds me of what art can do for me- take me into my wreck, delight and hurt me at the same time, and push me to solve problems.


Pamela Wilson - Eclectix Interview


 My ultimate project or fantasy is … 

I am at my very heart an assemblage artist. Random antique/ vintage objects made into little otherworlds, with photo/lightbox aspects and little odd things- like false doors and secret compartments, and whatever else I may add or design, or find arresting. Collecting objects, and working with little tools and brass hardware- the entire process is the ultimate way to spend time. I was so inspired first by the assemblages of Robert Rauschenberg (Untitled, 1954 was THE ONE), and then by Joseph Cornell’s arresting boxes of imagination. I once completed a series of suitcase art wherein each vintage suitcase represented a mental disorder, each recalling a friend or family member who had dealt with, or died from, each specific disorder. It was the most rewarding project. I also did a series of light boxes in antique leaded windows, with these amazing (transparent/manipulated) photographs I took. I want to do more and more and more.


Pamela Wilson, Eclectix Interview


 The last song I chose to listen to was … 

I have been playing “Lemonade,” by CocoRosie, endlessly for a couple of months. I’m weird like that; it takes me there. (“We ate ice cream, in a desert dream…”)


 My favorite word is …

There are so many that I love: darksome, pirouette, drag, interlude, cherry, somnambulist, asylum, reliquary, parricide, infanticide, regicide (all the -cides…)


Pamela Wilson, Eclectix Interview


 I can’t live without …

Tom Waits’ “Frank’s Wild Years.“ My sun/son, Robinson.


It’s not hip, but I really love …

Tomato sandwiches. Watching the film “City of Lost Children” in French. (I don’t understand French.)


LINK: to Pamela’s Website 


Pamela Wilson, Eclectix Interview


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( This entry was  originally posted on 2/16/11 )


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