I would love to inspire a movement where art was used for its true healing powers. I would love if my art could heal all people from some sort of ailment or personal suffering, indefinitely. I believe that art has transformative properties in which the viewer is moved and there is a shift inside. Being a victim of Traumatic Brain Injury, I have disabilities and challenges that I deal with everyday. My ADHD and dyslexia are channeled through freely creating art. Ultimately. I wish all people would be freed from judgement and labels. Those that they have of themselves and others, after viewing a collection of my art.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Christopher Conticelli who is an Italian-American artist based in New York City. With an inherent curiosity of abstract art, juxtaposed with an appreciation for the satiric literal, Paul pushes limits and discards labels. This rebellious feeling is intended to be absorbed by the viewer of each piece. His goal with each work is to invoke feelings of independence and pride in those who come to see his art. Paul Christopher has exhibited worldwide and his works are in collections at Sojourn, Selena Rosa and Vero on the Upper East Side NYC. Some of Paul’s recent exhibits include Cube Art Fair in Brussels, Scope at Art Basel Miami, Zaha Hadid’s latest development project in Chelsea NYC as well as Dreams a LALA Land group exhibition in Los Angeles. Most recently, Paul Christopher collaborated with Joel Warren and created a painting for Saks Fifth Avenue’s The Salon Project.
Thank you so much for joining us. What is your “backstory”?
The backstory to my art and poetry is…L I F E.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been creating, and those are my two most consistent forms. Fascinated with color and texture. I find things in my everyday that ignite a noteworthy moment. Whether I actually get a chance to touch something or I dream about what it feels like, if it gets my attention and sparks curiosity, a mental note dissecting the hue and its variation comes to play.
Since I was a child I questioned love. Truthfully I saw the world as very broken and I poured my heart out on my sleeve, hoping to save others. For myself, my pain and my love, and all the in between, came to life through my creations. I found peace and tranquility in this place of solitude, to escape my feelings and let the art be fueled by all the energy trapped inside.
There has been a significant amount of trauma throughout my life. My middle brother, Matthew, who I always looked up to more than anyone in my life was in a tragic accident and died when I was 15 years old.
I for sure ran from my identity in many ways. Confused and curious about my sexuality since about 4 or 5 years old. Over the years, my love and exploration of fashion and beauty, felt safer if it was expressed in ways less visible or “known” to others.
Art had always been my escape because it did not need to be explained, nor did my poetry. But for me, I felt healed and enjoyed the beauty of creating something new and unique and beautiful.
Though art had always felt nourishing to my soul, it wasn’t until the last three or four years, that I’ve had the courage to share it with the world. When I was 19 years old, I had been a pedestrian hit by a drunk driver in Mexico and after flat-lining twice, placed in a medically induced coma for three weeks until I stabilized. A great deal of my personal recovery came from journaling and poetry writing as well as charcoal sketches. Painting was reignited and found its way back to my life after I left an abusive relationship I had been hiding for nearly three years, out of embarrassment and manipulation and fear. Art saved me again and I got lost in my creations. I was shattered and didn’t feel human for quite awhile, but the power of creating helped me to channel my pain daily into something colorful and positive. Soon after, I built my first website publicly showing some of my works. Within months I had been offered $1000 for one of my smallest paintings (10x10) without marketing anything for sale! It felt AMAZING! I am humbled to say the same couple has purchased three of my paintings to date.
Beyond any of the heavy emotions I may have felt at the time of creating, the process was a stress relief, and happy, loving thoughts in the end. To this day, I aim to save people with the love and emotion I pour into my art.
When you first started out did you always want to be an artist?
To be honest, I didn’t really think of myself as an artist, or wanting to be one. I felt compelled to be a scholar. I understood I was gifted at a young age. My family nicknamed me the “brainchild.”
A hard worker and being Obsessive Compulsive, I saw myself more as a businessman and dreamt of walking in New York City with a briefcase. I dreamt of designing my own home though from the ground-up, as an architect. I would take the Sunday newspaper, go to the real estate section and circle the homes I loved. I would then sketch out my dream home with all my favorite elements from all the circled residences. The ones I painted and colored were purely imaginative.
What are the top three adjectives or words to describe you and your art, as one in the same?
Love. Passion. Resilience.
What differentiates you as an artist today and is there anything you have wanted to do as an artist that you haven’t yet? If so, what and why?
No two artists are alike. Much of my art is based on personal experiences. I’m pretty raw when I go to the canvas. Each painting is unique and holds its own place with substance. Though they’re abstract, there is a touch of realism. I think most artists stick to a style they’re best at, or most comfortable expressing, whereas I have no clue when I start creating where the creative flow will take me and how it will be expressed with each new creation.
I love to play with different mediums. My style is always evolving.
Something I really want to do is explore my new collection, Complexities, on a much larger scale. This collection is comprised of a collection of individual paintings which tell a story when pieced together, almost like a puzzle. I recently completed a commissioned painting with nearly 100 of them for a collector in NYC. I would love to do an entire wall of a few hundred, floor to ceiling, for a new development or a museum installation!
Can you give more insight to your poetry, if you’re comfortable sharing?
Poetry is my art in words. Many times while in a creative flow, I will be painting and words or phrases appear like bubbles in my mind. I feel compelled to grab my journal or sometimes inscribe in the art what these words are without stopping to think about the hidden meaning to them. Other times, when I am not working on a canvas, but dealing with an emotionally challenging or stimulating moment, poetry will spill out of me like a waterfall. In minutes I might write two or three poems, and I feel incredibly relieved after. It’s like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders!
Do you share all of your poetry? How can we find it?
No. I share a verse from the poems. Sometimes just a few words. I don’t want to sway any viewers of my art by my poetry. They just get a hint. I do give the full poem to the collector of the painting. The poetry doesn’t serve necessarily as the meaning of the painting, but it gives the collector and I an opportunity to connect in a sacred sort of way — that shares the emotions I personally was facing at the time of its creation. It’s another piece of my heart that I prefer to keep private. At least for now.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?
I draw inspiration from all things in life and the emotion sparked within me. The good, the bad, the ugly, the magical, the dreamy, and beyond.
I find a ton of inspiration on the streets of Manhattan, from the fashion diversity to the street graffiti and sidewalk chalk, to beautiful walks through the parks and spouting fountains. I find clouds and the sky to be fascinating and take pictures of them almost daily! Like a person, they change rapidly and are unpredictable; both are so moody; it’s like they too are in constant conversation!
Being that I painted ceramics for a number of years as a child, I still find a ton of inspiration from ceramic ware and tile work in places such as Italy, Portugal and Mexico. For design, I love the architecture of buildings and bridges as well as the vibrancy in the strokes of Asian language (I love the delicacy crossed with the boldness in the characters and how each symbol is more than a single word).
Also, being a total foodie, I love to see how intricate and beautiful (even when simple) food presentations can be. Naturally, I gravitate to the richness in color and texture.
Each painting really has different influences infused by different inspirations. Color(s), and texture, like you want to feel or taste, or mostly BE a part of the painting. It’s not a still moment like a photograph. So the story stems from various moments. A recent painting I created was inspired by all the time spent — in the mirror. The message behind the painting is about loving oneself.
I am a divergent thinker. When I am painting, I am always open minded. I am willing to take on new risks and challenge my painting repertoire.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
When I showed in Brussels a few years ago, a couple who purchased from my newest collection shared that in about 30 years of collecting art, this was the first painting they would purchase and both fell in love with it the first time they saw it.
The painting is titled BROTHER and was influenced very much by my deceased brother, Matthew. When I shared the backstory with the couple, the man started to tear up as he told me his brother died at a young age too. It gave us both chills and warmth.
I was and still am very honored!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Life in Plastic, my next exhibition which will take place on Thursday, October 17, 2019 from 6:30–9:30pm as part of Chelsea ArtWalk at 508 West 26th Street Suite #315 in NYC
For this exhibition I am exposing layers of my soul. The ones I’ve peeled back to unveil myself as an emerging artist in the international fine art world. Through my travels in my life, and around the globe, I will bring you through a three room segment curated from the start of a majority of my life, which I call a LIFE IN PLASTIC. My most recent collection, Complexities, with single study paintings will also be featured, as this is the collection that has brought me worldwide recognition in a short period of time.
I recently placed some art at Saks Fifth Avenue. The Salon Project by Joel Warren opened in Spring of this year. Joel had seen a painting of mine that he really liked and the poetic verse that accompanied it. Adding a shared message “Beauty is Art,” I Inscribed the verse on the sides of the painting, so it now reads Beauty is the murderer. Lips are our weapons. Beauty is art. ‘Til truth do us part.
Joel and I have discussed possible art in the other salons, which is very exciting!
I am creating custom art for my family’s gelateria shoppes in Italy (Gelateria Pasqualetti) and San Francisco (Gio Gelati). I’ve been visiting Italy since I was 5 years old and a well educated gelato-affecionado. I am very excited to be part of their growth, working closely with my aunt Patrizia Pasqualetti to tell their journey through my art!
The first location is at 1998 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123.
My collaboration with Breakups to Makeup will go live soon and some of the bags will be sold at my exhibition on October 17th. Similar to how painting and poetry were the art that saved me, makeup was the art form that saved the founder, upon ending a toxic relationship. The collaboration has original artwork on the bags. Each is unique and one-of-a-kind.
If you could collaborate with any artist of the past, who would it be?
I love so many! If I had to choose ONE, it would be Picasso. I’ve been most fascinated by his journey and the different studies he had in his career. The variety is incredible! I’m looking forward to visiting the Picasso museum in Barcelona this Fall, in fact!
The evolution of Picasso’s work really amazes and interests me; I would love to ask him about the changes in his style, especially since much of his work was influenced by his own life and experiences, similar to mine.
And if you could choose one living artist, who would that be and why?
Ashley Longshore. I love her style; and humor! I see her work as extremely expressive and fearless! I met Ashley when she launched her collaboration with Bergdorfs and I’ve seen her career blossom beautifully. She’s radical and raunchy and refreshing — all in one! That’s ART to me. I also have yet to publicly show the side of me that relates to Ashley. Although I have a very playful personality, I tend to have a more reserved demeanor, at least initially, so I may be perceived serious a majority of the time. My art and poetry still serve as healing my past pains and trauma. I look forward to sharing my playful side in the future!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. There is no such thing as perfection.
There is so much emotion in me and poured into my art that it becomes difficult to walk away from. One painting in particular, I got carried away with and after trying some new techniques of layering and peeling off the layers, I tore a hole into the canvas. I still have a visual in my mind and loved that piece so much!
2. Take every criticism as a compliment.
I think I do this more and more, but at times I’ve focused too heavily on someone’s opinion and have questioned something as simple as my color palette. One of my favorite paintings, Blue Who, many perceive as dark or scary, but for me it isn’t in the least bit. I’m happy I didn’t change the painting, but instead I value the diversity in style others see in my work and how it evokes a range of emotions.
3. Be prepared for questions about you and your art.
Believe it or not, I was a very shy child. I didn’t trust others and was skeptical of their energy and intentions. Today, I am still the same person, but more extroverted. Though I am guarded, I no longer see people’s curiosity and questions as an intrusion or invasion of privacy, but rather a compliment that they have an interest in getting to know the layers of Paul.
4. Be fearless.
My brother Matthew’s motto in life was always NO FEAR. In my early years, I would concentrate too heavily on perfection; whatever that meant to me each time because there really is no such thing. I carry my brother’s message with my every time I am creating in order to challenge my growth in new dimensions.
I fall in love with so many stages of my paintings, but in order to let the creation fully live, I must not get married to any one layer in particular until it feels finished and ready for signature.
5. Paint your emotions and detach in order to transition and continue on your journey.
In my early years, it was difficult to move beyond the creation and accept a sale. Though it was a compliment of course, I realize I was still processing my emotions and holding myself back rather than bringing life to a new home.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to inspire a movement where art was used for its true healing powers. I would love if my art could heal all people from some sort of ailment or personal suffering, indefinitely.
I believe that art has transformative properties in which the viewer is moved and there is a shift inside. Being a victim of Traumatic Brain Injury, I have disabilities and challenges that I deal with everyday. My ADHD and dyslexia are channeled through freely creating art.
Ultimately. I wish all people would be freed from judgement and labels. Those that they have of themselves and others, after viewing a collection of my art.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Survival and resilience with a zest for life.
Having lost my brother at fifteen years old and four years later nearly losing my life, I’ve always told myself, I’m clearly living for a reason and it’s not to be taken lightly or for granted. I do my best to always push myself to live fearlessly and experience as much as possible. I fill each day with new life; even in my times of disappointment, I ask myself what lessons do I need to learn, process the emotions and keep moving forward.
In my recovery, I was in a wheelchair and visually impaired amongst several other challenges and lost my independence. I fought to regain my strength, physically, emotionally, and mentally, and in the process, rebuilt my confidence and self esteem. I’ve had to repeat this process more than once, but for other reasons such as when I exited a toxic relationship.
Life is filled with new beginnings and I choose to embrace them with a fresh, refined, more mature perspective.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have auctioned artwork in support of Cancer foundations, Latin American countries, impacted by natural disasters, domestic violence and hate crimes, endangered animals with Veterinarian’s International, and LGBTQ support initiatives.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have gained some of my closest friends from past relationships whom I consider to be family. Two in particular, Brenda and Lauren, have helped contribute to my personal and professional growth, encouraging me to unveil Paul Christopher, the identity I had been hiding most of my life.
I shared my writing and poetry with both. Brenda gave me the courage to publicly share my Coming Out story and my views on life before and after my coma. The journey was exciting, but scary to tell my side of the story. Everyone has always asked me if I remember being in a coma, but more on a surface level. Now I really poured my heart out. I also for the first time let a number of people in on my poetry. In this, I shared my views of self discovery and declaration of living an authentic life.
Lauren has been an angel in my life since we met, no doubt! Lauren gave me the courage to reveal my love for fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. For myself and for others! I wrote a column called UNISEXXXY for DIVAliciousBlog challenging societal labels with a creative spin for each post; my vision has been to spread a message of inclusivity and neutrality, in other words: a label stripped of all labels. Working closely with Lauren helped my writing evolve significantly, and as a result, I became more bold and confident in my personal style besides gaining an incredible relationship.
Brenda and Lauren have also encouraged me to continue with my artistic journey and publicly embrace the evolution of my art.
If you have the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment,is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.
Though there are several people who amaze me in the world, one who has always been an inspiration since I was a child is Andrea Bocelli. Growing up with a love for music, I not only fell in love with his vocals, but have always been inspired by his courage and zest for life. Becoming blind at a young age, Andrea Bocelli, still continued his path and graduated as a lawyer, but found his way back to singing and became world renowned. He is a true legend!
Can you explain your signature?
My signature is comprised of my Full Name. The C comes first as my last name is the anchor to my life.
So You’re full name is Paul Christopher Conticelli. How do you prefer others to refer to you?
I don’t have such a preference for one over the others, but it’s been a running joke most of my life. Academically and Professionally, I’ve been Paul Conticelli. Artistically I’ve always seen myself as Paul Christopher. Christopher is the true artist that I hid most of my life.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
My social media handle is @paulchristoph3r.
Though it may be surprising to many, I’m not very active on social media, but soon enough I’ll have posted 100 images on Instagram! I am loving connecting with even more people around the globe too!
Paul Christopher, Inc. — www.paulchristopher.nyc