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Paula Gillen

Babies from Heaven, People in Hell

July 8th – August 9th, 2007

Left to Right Breast Bliss, Businessman in Hell, Fashion Designer
All works Ink/Acrylic on paper 2006-2007

Download the catalogue HERE

In this recent series of work, Paula Gillen departs from the medium with which she’s best acquainted—photography—and ventures back into the world of painting, former stomping grounds for the onetime practitioner of graffiti art. Ms. Gillen, who received a BFA from the Maryland Institute in 1978 and an MFA from Chicago’s Art Institute in 1984, participated in the urban culture of both Baltimore and the Windy City, tagging each metropolis with her signature pony-tailed teenybopper, among other things, meanwhile engaging in public performance of various sorts, capturing it all on camera for posterity.

Post graduation Gillen was awarded a Fulbright grant to Malaysia, where she spent a year photographing Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu rituals. After returning to the U.S and settling down in New York City, Gillen began a career in photo research, working for noted publications such as Time, Business Week, and Vanity Fair, eventually taking on an editing position at The New Yorker. Concurrently, Ms. Gillen pursued photography as a form of creative expression, exhibiting her work at fine art galleries and teaching her unique photo-collage techniques at Manhattan’s ICP. Gillen’s digital collages will soon be displayed at The Griffin Museum in Massachusetts.

Having reached numerous pinnacles of success as a photographer, Gillen decided to take on other artistic challenges and, in the process, rediscovered a long-neglected knack for painting. In Babies from Heaven and People in Hell, she revisits her creative roots, cultivating them without erasing all wild abandon. Gillen’s careful yet carefree delivery reads as a sort of outsider art from the inner sanctum.

People in Hell are, needless to say, engaged in a bevy of sins, none of them particularly original, but then that’s obviously the point. To err is human and in capturing her subjects non-judgmentally, an element of forgiveness is implied, vestiges, perhaps, of Gillen’s Catholic upbringing. The undertaking of such a dire topic with equal measures of humor and angst suggests the influence of German Expressionism, as does the murky application of paint, but Gillen’s field is leveled by repeat allusions to the popular graphics of commercial art, alongside references to timeless, priceless treasure.

With a Hell’s–eye view, Gillen reflects on the worldwide favorite pastime of Hollywood stargazing. The glitter-dusted twin orbs of Anna Nicole (which is which?) act as a stand-in for our humbled constellations. One heavenly body serves as well as the next, when wishing upon a star takes on new meaning. Politics are another hot dish on Gillen’s tray. A wide-eyed President George Bush II attempts to comfort a bawling babe amidst the underworld’s ferocious flames. Both would no doubt prefer to be snuggling cozily on daddy’s lap.

In the eons-old debate over which came first—chicken or egg, George Bush or George Bush—Gillen’s cherubim spring into play. These blissful, bouncing newborns might at first appear to stand, rather, lie in opposition to their Hell-ridden counterparts, yet at second glance it becomes quite clear that each reflects a rebirth of the other, all striking milestones in a seemingly endless cycle.

Babies from Heaven emerge, through the usual portal, from a psychedelic primordial ooze, into an assortment of times and places: 14th-century Italy, 18th-century Japan, 20th-century Spain, 21st-century America, bringing with them the wisdom of the ages. How long, one can’t help but wonder, until this knowledge dissipates--minutes, hours, days, weeks, months? Within a year, two at most, it will certainly have vanished, or dwindled to all but naught, to be touched upon later, perhaps, on occasion. Paula Gillen has birthed such an occasion here and now.

Please join us for a cool, refreshing ice cream social on July 8th from 3-7PM in celebration of the opening of Babies from Heaven, People in Hell and the 40th birthday of Abaton Garage founder Lauri Bortz. All guests will receive delightful party favors.

Paula Gillen’s photographs, reprints of early works and current digital collages, will be on display at Sweet Priscilla Café, 530 Jersey Avenue in Jersey City, from July 6th through August 9th. Sweet Priscilla is acting as an annex to Abaton Garage during 2007. The café is open seven days a week and is easily accessible from the Grove Street PATH station. Just walk two blocks west on Christopher Columbus, then make a right on Jersey Avenue. You can take Newark Avenue, if you prefer: Walk the same two blocks west, then make a left.

Directions to Abaton Garage.


From NYC take the Newark-bound PATH train to Journal Square. Taxis are available on Kennedy Boulevard, directly in front of the station. The ride to Abaton Garage takes less than five minutes and costs approximately $7. If you prefer to walk, simply stroll down Kennedy Boulevard about 3/4 of a mile, until you reach Gifford Avenue. Then turn right; 100 is in the middle of the block.

Previous exhibitions 2004

Mark Dagley, June ~ July 2004

Tom Warren, August ~ September 2004

Alix Lambert, September ~ October 2004

Bill Schwarz, October ~ December 2004

Previous exhibitions 2005

Steven Parrino, April 2005

Cora Cohen, May 2005

Paula Gillen, June ~ July 2005

Michael Gentile, July ~ August 2005

Christine Krol & P. G. Six, August ~ September 2005

Amy Wilson, October 2005

James Biederman, October ~ November 2005

Roger Miller, November 20 ~ December 2005

Previous exhibitions 2006

Mark Dagley, May ~ June 2006

Judith Fleishman, June ~ July 2006

HD Martinez, July ~ August 2006

Don Voisine, August ~ September 2006

Sharon Gal, October 8th ~ November 1st 2006

Michael Gentile, November 5th ~ November 30th, 2006

Sibyll Kalff, December 3rd, 2006 ~ January 7th, 2007

Previous exhibitions 2007

Stephanie Campos, May 6th ~ June 1st 2007

Mark Dagley, June 10th ~ July 7th 2007

Please visit the following Abaton Garage artists at their own websites

| Cora Cohen | Mark Dagley | Judith Fleishman | Michael Gentile | Paula Gillen |

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