House of Cat interview

I was recently interviewed by Cat Johnson for her fabulous site, House of Cat (and she asked some great questions!). Be sure to check out the other features too - lots of creative inspiration. Here's a link to check it out: Paul Richmond - Genuine Expressions of Individuality

And here's an excerpt from the interview:

By painting your own story and experiences, you’ve become an activist for understanding and open-mindedness. Can you talk about art as activism and the role it plays in your life?

It’s hard for me to think of myself as an activist because that term conjures images of Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvey Milk in my mind. Yet I know without doubt that the arts have been integral in influencing change throughout history. I certainly aspire to do my part in creating dialogue about important issues, and counteracting generalized prejudices with genuine expressions of my own individuality.

It wasn’t long ago when I strove for just the opposite. As a repressed college student with baggy clothes and a secret fondness for moody art boys, I spent most of my time mimicking what others around me painted. Not surprisingly, gray landscapes and non-objective color studies left me a tad bit uninspired. When I graduated, I formed a mural painting partnership with my talented friend, Melissa Forman. I learned so much from her, both as an artist and as a person. She was the first friend I came out to and she very gently helped me through that complicated process.

One evening, beneath the red glow of the Cher mural she helped me paint on my apartment wall, I started a sketch that would eventually become the painting First Time Out. It explored the turmoil I felt – the simultaneous expansion and contraction – that resulted from my first intentional relationship with another man. I was only out to a few close friends, and I never intended to share this painting with anyone. I kept it hidden beneath my bed and only dragged it out when I was alone in my apartment. I was even scared to show it to Melissa, and when that time came, I remember hiding in the other room while she looked it over. Her reaction that day left me speechless. She loved it and said that I should submit it to a local juried exhibition. I burst out laughing. She might as well have suggested that I strip off my clothes and parade down High Street!
Eventually though, as I continued delving into this area of subject matter (and ran out of space under my bed to hide my work), I started considering Melissa’s idea more seriously. After all, what good would these paintings do anyone collecting dust in my bedroom? I reluctantly brought them out and began showing them in local group exhibitions. The response they received from people of every sexual orientation baffled me. They could actually relate to what I was saying! I had always felt so incredibly alone, yet thanks to these shows, I quickly started to locate myself as a member of a much larger community. It wasn’t long before First Time Out was on the cover of a local magazine with the title “Coming Out on Canvas.” There was no turning back now!

Since then, my work and I have been on parallel journeys of ever-increasing gayness. As I’ve grown more comfortable in my own skin, so too have my compositions. By stripping away the layers that kept me guarded during my childhood, my art has become more intense and revealing as well. What began as art therapy during a transformative period of my life has evolved into an incredible way of sharing my point of view with others, and publicly questioning ideas that disregard the value of individuality.


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