With its worn appearance, the work of Kevin Paulsen could be easily mistaken for that of early American muralists, specifically Rufus Porter. In colonial times, wealthy American citizens hired artists to emulate the upscale wallpaper commonly found in Europe. Porter was perhaps the most famous of these muralists, who would attempt to re-create the European interior decoration with little direction.
“They would just offhandedly do these things,” says Paulsen. “However, some of them were gorgeous.”
Most of these murals went undocumented and are difficult to find. Paulsen was so intrigued with them that he spent a few years searching for them throughout New England.
Two particular qualities of these works fascinated Paulsen. The worn, dry look engendered by the passage of time is part of the aesthetic. “The decay softens the works, giving them a beauty they probably didn’t initially have,” says Paulsen. The unpremeditated approach also gives the murals an unexpected abstract element.
Paulsen uses techniques to create the illusion of age in his own work. By constraining the method and deciding to use a limited number of colors and techniques, Paulsen discovered things that couldn’t be found if planning was more stringent. Porter’s influence on Paulsen is most evident in this aspect.
“I don’t really plan the murals. I just approach them and do them,” he says.
This piece is scattered with symbols that are loosely based on Dante’s Inferno, with the elements of the early American muralists firmly in mind.
Paulsen is a Kingston resident whose work was featured at last month’s Cafe Chrongram salon.