June 2-8, 1998

The Colonial photo -BOB RAINES

Paula Mandel of Conshohocken is displaying her artwork at ArtForms Gallery Manayunk through July 12. She is a founding member of the gallery, a nonprofit, artist-managed cooperative of 29 members, which she says offers a "built-in support system."

Conshy woman readies for show

By Betsy Gilliland
The Colonial Staff

  Each subtle detail of Paula Mandel's work seems to harbor a hidden meaning - even though the artist is not always consciously aware of the symbolic features that emerge as she paints.
  "So much comes out that I don't realize," the Conshohocken resident says.
  She is acutely aware, however, of the concept behind her 15-piece, oil and mixed media exhibition "Relationships: Past, Present and Future," on display at ArtForms Gallery Manayunk through July 12.
  "We all come from family, we all have relationships; we all have our communities to celebrate," she explains.
  Bright colors, movement, design and patterns characterize Mandel's paintings. Drawn to magical, whimsical qualities, the 40-something artist draws on her personal experience to portray the relationships in her own life and link them to the experiences of other women. Graduating summa cum laude from Temple University with degrees in art and psychology, Mandel combines her interests to feature another common denominator in her work.  "Each of my pieces has people," she notes. "I use people as a vehicle for expressing ideas."
  One of her works for which her mother posed, an oil on linen entitled "Eminence," portrays a mature woman. Blurring the beginnings and ending of the images, the woman's rich blue gown blends into the violet-accented sky. Closer scrutiny of the background reveals a scattering of colorful handprints symbolizing how a woman reaches out and touches other lives.
  "I wanted to do a piece about an older, revered woman," Mandel explains. "Our society doesn't revere elders like others. While "Eminence" portrays a single individual, "Reflection," an oil on linen displayed in the window of the gallery, illustrates a  couple's evolvement into a family. A reflection of a couple romantically dancing in a stream mirrors the image of a man and

a woman on the bank. With arms and legs extended like the branches of a tree, the man and woman support their offspring - a girl, a boy and an infant. Boldly colored dots, squiggly lines, intricately-patterned dresses and the portrayal of a body of water - another recurring feature in her work - define Mandel's style. The reflections of the man and the woman in the water are opposite the couple on the bank, a detail of which Mandel was unaware until others pointed it out to her. The reversed reflections reveal that every has a female side and every female has a male side, Mandel says.
  "I can think one thing," she observes. "Someone else sees something else."
Although she typically works on one painting and two or three drawings simultaneously, Mandel worked on this series for five years. Her exhibition includes ink on metal plate, mixed media monoprints as well. Drawn with ink, the prints also feature watercolors, gouache, and prisma color pencils.
  Upon her graduation from Temple, Mandel worked with hospitalized children for eight years. Once the started her own family, however, she returned to her painting. A founding member of ArtForms Gallery Manayunk, she began working in a studio in Manayunk about seven years ago. The gallery, a nonprofit, artist-managed cooperative of 29 members, offers a "built-in support system".
  "We critique each other's work and give each other ideas," says Mandel.
  During Mandel's exhibition the gallery will also host two free concerts. Singer/Songwriter Rick Sandler will perform 5 to 7 p.m., July 9, and Rich Rudin, jazz pianist and composer, will perform 3 to 5 p.m. July 12.
  ArtForms Gallery Manayunk is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and non to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.