| July 29, 2013 | Culture
Self portrait by Paul Gerben.
An exciting new art collection by New York artist Paul Gerben can be found at The Chefs Club by FOOD & WINE restaurant (315 E. Dean St. 970-429-9581). With more than 20 years experience as a fine artist, photographer, and designer, Gerben celebrates pop culture and brings unique mixed media images to life. A student of NYC’s Pratt University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, his creativity envelops a unique aesthetic that explores distressed textures. The Chefs Club exhibition showcases a collection of celebrity portraits, including The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Ghandi, Marilyn Monroe, and more. We recently caught up with Gerben to hear firsthand of his inspiration.
The Chefs Club exhibition focuses on your celebrity and influencer portraits. Who was your very first portrait?
PAUL GERBEN: My first few celebrity portraits were of my favorite icons, like The Beatles, Bono, and Bob Marley. I grew up listening to their music, so I’ve always been really inspired by their music and writing. They all have a certain substance and character that you just don't find in today’s commercial music industry.
Your mixed media compositions reflect the raw energy of urban landscapes. How do you achieve this?
PG: I lived in lower Manhattan for 20 years and worked as a photographer shooting fashion and celebrity portraits. However, I enjoyed photographing distressed textures more then any other form of photography. I remember having a moment as a kid walking the streets of New York and just being enamored; I knew I had to live there one day and experience it all. Throughout my life, I have found so much pleasure in capturing these images. Sometimes I notice eroded paint and rust, or a wall collaged by torn paper from old fliers mixed with graffiti and grit, and I think to myself ‘that’s so beautiful looking’—probably only to me. I started to make art pieces from these unique textures because I saw the beauty no one else did. I knew that if I didn't capture them immediately with my camera, they would likely be painted over, or erased by the rain, wind, or sun, over time.
You've handled several high-profile branding campaigns. What do you think makes a brand pop visually?
PG: For a brand to really stand out in today’s competitive marketplace, it has to have its own distinct look and feel--one that is memorable, like Apple, FedEx, or Tiffany & Co. It has to be a leader in its branding materials, and that starts from the logo and continues throughout the website, advertising campaign, and packaging. Every item the public is shown has to have its own visual language in order for a brand to truly stand apart. Consistency, simplicity, and great design in every element are key to a successful image.
Texture plays a predominant role in your work. How is your approach to texture unique?
PG: The beauty of textures from erosion is that no two are the same, and they are constantly changing and evolving. That’s how I want my artwork to be throughout my entire career—constantly changing and evolving. I never want any piece of mine to look like another, and I really strive to experiment with every piece I make. Whether it’s a celebrity, a custom portrait, or an abstract piece of art, it has to evoke a feeling and texture that is all its own.
Why is it important to celebrate—and manipulate—pop culture?
PG: Pop culture is something we can all associate with and relate to. For me, it’s the fond memories of playing my first Beatles record when I was a kid. Or my mother’s love of Marilyn Monroe movies. Seeing Bono and U2 performing at Madison Square Garden or watching Mike Tyson become the youngest world champion. Pop culture gives us a connection to our past and present.