Paula Mandel's work is on display at
By Pheralyn Dove
WASHINGTON - Like her paintings, Paula Mandel is animated,
colorful, expressive. On a recent day, for instance, her clothing was a
blend of wearable art that transformed Mandel into a walking palette of
purple, fuchsia and mauve.
Even her conversation about her life as a professional
psychologist-turned-artist, wife and mother seemed filled with excitement,
passion and sensitivity.
All Mandel's worlds converge on her vibrant, richly textured
canvases in a surrealistic fashion. Her oversize oil paintings and
mixed-media pieces, currently on view Germantown Academy's Arts Center,
give the viewer a sense of dream sequences and fantasy. Portraiture is a
dominant factor, and an emphasis on family and womanhood is also apparent.
Mandel, who lives in Whitemarch, has contributed 14 pieces to the
"Paula Mandel's work is very interesting because it shows the evolutionary
process of a woman with a family. She sorts out roles and relationships
that represents the different stages that a woman goes through. That's why
I relate to the work,: said Joan Harrington, director of the arts center's
gallery and a primary-school art teacher at Germantown Academy.
Harrington said the school's art gaculty oversawa the selection
process at the gallery, which annually present five professional shows,
three student shows and a faculty art show. After a review of slides of
the submissions, there is a vote. Harrington said Mandel's selection was a
unanimous decision by the art faculty's six members.
These pieces show that I think life is a balance," Mandel
said. "I consciously spend a lot of time and energy trying to make
things flow together. But I try not to get obsessed with any one thing, although
I give my all to whatever it is I'm involved in at the time, whether it's
my art, or my children or my husband.
"My art is much stronger now because I'm a mother and a wife
than it was when I was a younger adult," said Mandel, 42.
Paula Mandel poses with
"A Wrinkle in Time." Her artwork shows "that I think life is
a balance," she says.
Originally from the Mount Airy
section of Philadelphia, Mandel graduate with a double degree in psychology
and a fine arts from Temple University and spent a semester abroad studying
in Rome under the auspices of Temple University's Tyler School of Art. As a psychologist,
she work primarily as a play therapist.
Four years ago, Mandel, a found member of the Artforms Gallery
Manayunk, became a full-time artist. Since that time, her work has appeared
in juried exhibitions at the Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill, at the
Paley Design Center at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, and
at the Carol Schwartz Gallery in Chestnut Hill. Mandel said that Germantown
Academy exhibition was particularly special because her two teenagers -
Lauren, 12, and Michael, 15, were students there.
Though most of Mandel's pieces in the show are huge oil paintings,
there are some smaller offerings, such as a series of three mixed works. Looking
Forward, Dancing Personae and Who Am I With When I',m Alone? are
studies in a woman's duality. Each painting combines a black-and-white
graphite and charcoal realistic figure juxtaposed against a colorful
masklike surrealistic representation of a person done in watercolor, pencil,
color pencil and pastel.
"These paintings," Mandel said, "are an examination
of the internal versus the external self and how we put on exterior
characteristics for our public world and save certain other
characteristics for our inner worlds. And often, these worlds are quite
One of her larger oil paintings, Cantata, an oil on linen,
represents the next progressive step from the series of the three smaller
works, said Mandel, who typically spends three or four months on each
large canvas. Cantata portrays a woman sitting at a mirror with
three different heads that symbolically represent three sides of her
personality. Consistent with Mandel's style, the painting is a lively
blend of bright, neon colors with overlapping glazes and rich
textures and designs.
Other works in the show portray her children and her husband. A number
of them demonstrate her devotion to her extended family, a evidenced in
the painting Four Generations, a realistic depiction of her
daughter and her grandmother.
"I really love having people in each of my paintings,"
Mandel said. "That's where my nurturance comes from - from talking
and relating to people."