Feathered Hopes and Intriguing Dreams  
Paintings by Pamela Wilson

The Sun Is A Thief    Oil on Canvas, 60" x 30"

Pamela Wilson’s paintings are otherworldly, dreamlike, haunting.  Known for her figurative oils, she also works in a number of other media, including photography, printmaking, film, and assemblage. She is currently preparing new work for a November solo exhibition at Sarah Bain Gallery, Anaheim, but graciously made time to answer our questions about her work. 

Mark Reep: Studying your work, it seems likely you enjoy working with your models, their costumes and props as much as you do creating the paintings themselves. You hold an MFA in painting, photography and printmaking; do you photograph your models yourself, and if so, could you talk a little about that part of your process?

Pamela Wilson:  The planning of paintings is an elaborate project for me, and so very enjoyable. I let my intuition be my guide as I settle into a new world. I usually begin with some idea that comes to me through my personal experience, and my daily 'pleasure reading'. I then spend time antique shopping, waiting for the next object(s) to 'speak' to me. I must see and smell and touch an object or piece of clothing that will become the impetus for a painting, or series. I love antiques because I like to take things out of the modern context and marry 'odd ends' together to render a timeless piece- more dreamlike. Old objects house talkative ghosts. And then I pick a model and a location- both as important as the object, requiring much scouting. The photos never look in the end like they did in my head, but it’s always wonderful when it comes together! And then I paint from my photographs, and edit as I go. I usually paint more than one painting from a shoot, as I’m never satisfied with just one.

White Elephants                                            Oil on Canvas, 60" x 48"

MR: Most of your paintings are fairly large, with a great deal of detail. What’s your routine and process like, and how much time do you spend creating an average painting?

PW: I usually work on several paintings at the same time. I work several hours, until I’ve done all I can in one sitting, and then move to another. I revisit several times, and it usually takes me a few weeks to complete a painting.

Half Forgotten Dream                                                            Oil on Canvas, 12" x 12"

MR: Your artist’s statement speaks about your desire to create compelling narratives; your titles are integral to this, and another element that sets your work apart. Do some titles become apparent as a painting nears completion, do you begin working to bring to life a narrative or title you have in mind, or both?  And, perversely- Will we ever see a Pamela Wilson painting entitled 'Untitled XIV', etc.? 

PW: I think there is one painting that is entitled 'Untitled'. Just the one. I resisted fiercely in graduate school this requirement to explain my work in a paragraph next to it. I always felt keenly that art is a different language, that it is actually 'between language,' if you will, and that if one needed to explain it - one might as well write an essay on the subject, and forget the art. But I always loved titles, strangely. They started as a clue... and have become an added piece of the art. They are like poetry for me, and another way in which to express myself, and add depth to the piece. The piece always tells me what the title is as I am working on it; somewhere in the process, it comes to me.

Dolor In A Red Hat                                                                  Oil on Canvas, 12" x 12"

Humans have always told stories as a way of entertainment for each other; we edify ourselves and others when we share our experience… or contrive one. We love to see ourselves reflected, as a comfort, and a reminder that we are not alone. A compelling narrative is one that draws one in, and moves one in a rich and meaningful way. I can think of nothing more satisfying than being moved by art. I wish for nothing more in life than to be taken on a wild ride, and to flnd myself... in the work of others.  The absurdities never end, and the constant ups and downs of life strangely reassure us that we are truly alive. Art is imperative for our general well-being.

Glutton                                                         Oil on Canvas, 20" x 16"

MR: We’ve all seen figural work that’s technically impressive but somehow listless; yours is consistently high-energy, rich with personality and emotional content, intriguing, dreamlike, haunting. What inspires you most, keeps the work fresh for you?

PW: I am most inspired by the work of others- juxtaposed with my own particular way of walking. Music, literature, painting, film… all very integral to my own work. I have made short films, made laborious lithography, painted photographs, constructed assemblage, and I love it all! I live my art. I am always 'working'- feeling, looking, seeing. I am human, and always in the throes of it. I feel pain, isolation, regret, pride, and delight. I am perplexed by human behavior most of the time, and saddled with intriguing dreams. I love my lifelong exploration of our 'condition', and I can think of nothing more like luck... than doing what I love every day.

Antechamber Of Regret                                Oil on Canvas, 42" x 21"

I read a definition of art recently as the thing we create because we want to see it in the world, and it doesn’t already exist. I think this is what I do. 'Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul…' (Dickinson). We all have that.

Crestfallen Interlopers                                                       Oil on Canvas, 60" x 36"

Pamela Wilson received her MFA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she was awarded a Regents Fellowship and the Abrams Project Grant. She is Mentor Faculty at the Laguna Collage of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, CA, as part of the MFA Program.  She has exhibited consistently since 1992 in galleries in New York, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, California, and Santa Fe. She is currently represented by Sarah Bain Gallery, Anaheim, CA (solo exhibition, November 2010), and Evoke Contemporary Gallery, Santa Fe, NM (solo exhibition, September 2011). For more, visit her website.  


  1. Love the interview, love your work, love how you can paint anything…really well. I'm looking at the amazing lace dress right now and admire you for making it so real.


  2. I posted your painting on Women Painting Women, it's great to hear your thoughts behind your process, thanks for the interview!

  3. Phenomenal talent. "I always felt keenly that art is a different language, that it is actually 'between language,' if you will, and that if one needed to explain it - one might as well write an essay on the subject, and forget the art" - exactly.

    Thanks so much for this, Mark and Pamela.

  4. A truly eloquent and intelligent sharing of an amazing talent. Your paintings illustrate your brilliance-your thoughtful commentary confirms it!

  5. Amazing technique in a 'Felliniesque' conception (nothing wrong in using film as inspiration), unfortunately the photographic origin often overtakes the image, robbing it of some -in some cases all - 'paint' magic.
    John de la Vega