07.15.23 Artists,Events,Press

‘Paula Wilson: Toward the Sky’s Back Door’, new and recent work by acclaimed New Mexico–based artist

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‘Paula Wilson: Toward the Sky’s Back Door’, new and recent work by acclaimed New Mexico–based artist


Paula Wilson, Elders, 2021. Ink, watercolor, colored pencil, acrylic, and oil on paper, muslin, and canvas, 91 x 83 inches, collection of Chris and Catherine Clifford.


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY.– The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College is opening today Paula Wilson: Toward the Sky’s Back Door, a new exhibition featuring the work of renowned multimedia artist Paula Wilson.

Wilson, who was born in Chicago and lives and works in Carrizozo, New Mexico (population: 971), has gained international recognition for work that spans painting, printmaking, collage, and video. Art critic Barry Schwabsky has called her an artist with “a decidedly unconventional mind.” The New Yorker says, “her everyday artistic existence is inextricable from the rhythms of the natural world.” Artsy hailed her for “figurative paintings [that] unpack the legacy of the Black diaspora. Her majestic, brightly colored paintings feature a variety of textures via ink, fabric, and paper that are collaged together on unstretched canvas. Wilson literally places history onto the bodies of her subjects.”

Toward the Sky’s Back Door presents paintings, prints, collages, sculpture, dress, and videos from the past 15 years, including new work to be shown for the first time, such as a monumental, 20-foot-tall figure and site-specific work that will cover a gallery wall. Wilson’s approach challenges the separations between art and everyday living as she uses the same techniques to make art for viewing and art for function, like wood-slat painted and printed “rugs.” Often biographically oriented, her work investigates the polarities of human life, including her own identity as a biracial Black woman and her experiences living in both major metropolises and the small desert railroad town of Carrizozo. A reverence for all living things and a rigorous investigation into cross-cultural histories permeates the work.

“All of us are thrilled to present this exciting survey of Paula Wilson’s extraordinary work,” Dayton Director Ian Berry said. “Her work encourages us to embrace art as a way to connect us to the world around us. We hope that visitors will leave the exhibition with a new appreciation for the power of art to break down boundaries and bring us closer together.”

Wilson’s unconventional approach will also include the installation of a newly constructed swing in the gallery, made with her frequent collaborator and husband, Mike Lagg. Visitors will be invited to swing while viewing Wilson’s artwork all around them, offering a joyful new perspective on art viewing.

The opening of the exhibition coincides with the museum’s annual community open house, called Frances Day after the museum’s namesake, on July 15. To mark the occasion, Wilson will give a gallery talk and engage visitors of all ages in an art-making project beginning at 2 pm.

Paula Wilson: Toward the Sky’s Back Door is organized by Tang Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara, in collaboration with the artist.


Paula Wilson

Paula Wilson (b. 1975, Chicago) is an artist whose work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally and is in the permanent collections of The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Albuquerque Museum, the New York Public Library, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Tang Teaching Museum, among others. Wilson earned her BFA from Washington University in St. Louis and MFA from Columbia University in New York. She is the cofounder of the artist-run organizations Carrizozo Artist-in-Residency and MoMAZoZo.

Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College
Paula Wilson: Toward the Sky’s Back Door
July 15th, 2023 – December 30th, 2023


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