Paula Nees

Photo credit: Caroline Kraus
Photo credit: Caroline Kraus

The Residue of Work

tea dyed canvas with pigments, rust, shellac, polymers and oil paint

60” x 84” x 2”


Photo credit: Caroline Kraus
Photo credit: Caroline Kraus

Picking Out Gems

mica flakes, glass beads and graphite on rust dyed textiles

98” x 86” x 3”




Paula Nees received her Master of Fine Arts degree in 1977 from the University of California, Davis. Her work has been included in exhibitions including the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial Exhibition and the Chicago Art Institute and is also part of numerous corporate collections including the Security Pacific Bank of California, the State Office Building of Wisconsin in Madison, and JDS Incorporated of Columbus, Ohio.

After moving to Columbus, Ohio in 1992, Nees has exhibited throughout the region and has been active in the Columbus art community serving on committees for the Ohio Art League and currently with CAW (Creative Arts of Women). As an instructor at Otterbein University in Westerville, Nees taught drawing, painting, color design, and global art history. With an interest in global arts Nees has expanded her current studio work to include hand dyed papers and textiles using materials acquired from travels to India.



Statement for The Residue of Work

The source for this work comes from images, journals and memories from a trip to India’s Rajasthan state. This area is known for its production of handmade and dyed fabrics such as the village of Bagru where I witnessed the process of creating these fabrics. However, one of the more lasting impressions came from viewing interiors and surfaces of workshops and courtyards occupied by working artisans.

I remember one such courtyard that consisted of two men standing in a large vat of water. Taking newly dyed fabric the men dipped it into the water and then flung it over their heads spraying the walls of the work area. The fabric would hit the stone landing splattering every surface with a residue of dye. How many times did they do this in a day? In a month? The walls were a record of this action, built up over the years – perhaps decades – and left a web of colored streaks.

My painting, “The Residue of Work”, began with a traditional approach to using paint with the addition of non-traditional materials such as tea stained canvas. Using liquid rust along with dry pigments mixed with polymer mediums I wanted to emulate some of the surfaces of this environment. The spattered silhouette evokes a now faint memory of a worker. The experience of this trip introduced me to the process of dyeing and led me to incorporate that as a method to begin works in ground colors that have depth and grit.



Statement for Picking Out Gems

The imagery I used in “Picking Out Gems” combines my interest in workshop interiors of India with a focus on the people I met while traveling through New Delhi and Jaipur. While visiting sites and workshops I met individuals such as indigo dyers, painters, jewelers, potters, taxi and rickshaw drivers, yoga instructors and shop vendors.

The workers and crafts people I met represent the remnants of a past class of artisans who in many respects are now marginalized due to industrialization. They work with their hands using materials that in most cases are humble, however the skills they possess are extraordinary. These are the same skills responsible for the amazing works of architecture, textiles, paintings and monumental ceramics throughout India’s history. Their talents are now used today to fuel a market for small items in the global market.

The combinations of materials I chose to work with are in some cases the leftovers of substances (i.e. steel reduced to rust) as well as damaged table clothes. Glass beads and mica flakes were used to embellish the linear figures and create a distilled portrait of these individuals. The sparkle and flash of these materials are associated with prestigious items for veneration and contrasts with the more industrial rust and graphite.