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Public Affairs

Professor's show blends 'redneck' and rococo

September 8, 2004

Image of Mullins' painting "Bed of Roses"Assistant Professor of Art Paul Mullins describes his style as a coupling of the "highest of the high with the lowest of the low." Farm animals, the male physique and muscle cars are the subjects of his acrylic paintings and graphite drawings, rendered with the accuracy and precision of a master artist.

Mullins, whose upcoming show at Heather Marx Gallery in San Francisco has been described as "a witty and luscious send-up of what it means to be a man" by art critic Alison Bing, was born and raised in the Appalachian hills of West Virginia. He drew consistently throughout his childhood and adolescence, honing his skills until he was satisfied with the results. Much of the imagery in his work derives from his childhood there.

"I use pigs and goats and stuff, but in a romantic way. Think pulpy book cover. But instead of a Fabio type and a maiden, it's pigs and goats, sort of a tip of the hat to Appalachia," Mullins said. "It's baroque from an art historical standpoint, because there's lots of stuff going on, and rococo because of the palette, which is sugary and muted and pale."

Photo of Paul MullinsThe show, called "Golden Countenance," includes several six-foot square acrylic paintings and a collection of smaller drawings that "wed trailer culture with the high falutin' stuff." Mullins portrays "that really sort of low-class, not even blue collar but, trailer culture, drawn really elegantly, classically, even if it is some flabby, redneck jerk."

Mullins, who earned a master of fine arts degree at Ohio University, has taught various levels of painting and drawing at SFSU for the last three years. He also created a course called "The human image" which focuses on the impact of popular culture on figurative art.

Before moving to San Francisco, Mullins lived in Chicago, where he worked in a wallpaper factory and walked dogs for a living while teaching part time at a few different schools.

"I tell my students I had a lot of soul-destroying day jobs. Those were the do-whatever-you-got-to-do-to-get-by days," said the 34-year-old Mullins, who started painting as a sophomore at Marshall University in West Virginia.

"Art supplies for me as a kid were markers and cheap materials. So, when I had my first painting class I was like, 'This is it.' But I was awful at it," he said.

For Mullins, learning to use the new medium was as challenging as learning to draw had been for him as a child. He describes his endeavor to paint as ongoing and overwhelming.

"You can't solve all your problems at once, you solve the immediate ones that face you, so you can move on to the next one, and it's still like that," Mullins said. "Painting is still a very humbling thing."

"Golden Countenance" will be on display Sept. 9-Oct. 9 at the Heather Marx Gallery located at 77 Geary St. on the second floor. An opening reception will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9. Admission is free.

-- Student Writer Elizabeth Davis with Matt Itelson


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Last modified September 8, 2004 by University Communications