Paul Villinski has created studio and large-scale artworks for more than three decades. Villinski was born in York, Maine, USA, in 1960, son of an Air Force navigator. He has lived and worked in New York City since 1982. A scenic route through the educational system included stops at Phillips Exeter Academy and the Massachusetts College of Art, and a BFA with honors from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 1984. He lives with his partner, the painter Amy Park, and their son, Lark, in their studios in Long Island City, NY.
His work has been included in numerous exhibitions nationally, recently including the solo exhibitions “Paul Villinski: Burst” at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, TX and “Passage: A Special Installation,” at the Blanton Museum, University of Texas, Austin. Recent group shows include “Material Transformations” at the Montgomery Museum of Art, Montgomery, AL and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, FL; “Re: Collection,” at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY; “Making Mends,” at the Bellevue Museum of Arts, Bellevue, WA; and “Prospect .1,” an international Biennial in New Orleans, LA. “Emergency Response Studio,” a FEMA trailer transformed into an off-the-grid mobile artist’s studio, was the subject of a solo exhibition at Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, TX; the exhibition also travelled to Ballroom Marfa, in Marfa, TX; Wesleyan University’s Zilkha Gallery, Middletown, CT; and the trailer was featured in the New Museum’s “Festival of Ideas for the New City”, in New York, NY. The Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, VA, is organizing a large-scale solo exhibition of Villinski's work to open in 2017.
I am drawn to humble, yet evocative materials; in this case, crushed beer cans from the streets of New York - every one of them once raised to someone’s lips. My process of “recycling” them into images of butterflies is a quiet physical meditation, a yoga of tin snips and files and fingers. As the butterflies alight on the walls of my studio, they lead into an exploration of formal, painterly issues. Often, they want to gather into a certain shape, or fly off on a particular tangent, and I let them. They function both as marks in these abstract, three-dimensional “paintings,” and as actors in curious narratives. Some pieces develop a quirky, magic-realist quality, as if a strange child has trained the insects to perform some ritual dance we are not usually privy to. Finally, the butterflies operate symbolically, and I try to develop a conceptual unity between materials, process, and imagery: metamorphosing littered beer cans into flocks of butterflies mirrors the act of transformation and rebirth that butterflies symbolize across all cultures.
Butterflies seem impossible. How can these ridiculously delicate creatures, apparently blown about by the merest breath of wind, actually fly many thousands of miles to migrate? How is it that an innate, intergenerational GPS guides them year after year to the same tree? Are we more like them than we suspect, or could we be?