Paula Blumenfeld has always been enthusiastic regarding art, and today she is no different. With her many years as an artist and her varied and busy life and artistic experiences, her path towards finding her expressive voice has been, indeed, anything but ordinary.
As a child, Blumenfeld was always drawing, and as time went on, she grew to have more and more passion for the field of art. Her formal training did not begin until, as a married woman, she moved to North Carolina. After taking one year of studio courses at the local university, she was able to “weasel her way into” an MFA program in painting. It was these courses that helped to provide her with the necessary technical skills upon which to build a career.
Before her artistic education at the local university, however, Blumenfeld obtained degrees in both English and Hebrew at SUNY Albany, after which she attended Hebrew University for one year. In addition, she holds an MA from Columbia University in International Affairs and Business, as well as the MFA mentioned above from the East Carolina University.
Blumenfeld said that she has been most influenced by 20th-century artists such as Cezanne, Picasso, Diebenkorn, and Alice Neel, from whom she has learned much about color and form. Nowadays, she typically works for six or more hours daily on her paintings, enjoying her time in the studio. “Somehow,” she said, “the hours evaporate when I am working.” Blumenfeld currently works in oils and mixed media and much of her work today involves portraiture. “The portraits on my website were done from live models who pose about two hours at a sitting for three weeks. Then I take the bones of the painting and work from memory. I have done a few portraits that were supplemented by photos,” she explained.
Judaism, too, has influenced Blumenfeld’s artwork. She has done a series of works based on the Holocaust, saying that she needed to express just how much she was affected by the horrors of it. Because Judaism is such a major component of who she is, she also incorporates Hebrew calligraphy into her work and finds inspiration in Jewish texts, oftentimes accepting commissions that are based on Biblical figures and specific prayers.
Her extensive travels have been another source of artistic influence. Having been to Israel and to places such as Wales, Mexico, Africa, Egypt, Morocco, England, Poland, and the Czech Republic—to name just a few!—has “certainly informed and enriched my life and sensibilities in many ways: symbolically, coloristically, [and] experientially.” This sense of travel and adventure has been with her for a very long time. Blumenfeld and her husband had lived for many years in a small town in eastern North Carolina where her husband was involved with a family business. However, because of their love for Israel, the business was sold and they planned to go to a kibbutz for a year or two. At the last minute, they were informed that there was a lack of housing on the kibbutz due to an influx of many new immigrants. She was told by the staff that they could try again the next year, but meanwhile, her husband received an offer from a company in New York, so she said, “off they went on a new adventure.”
The main thing outside of Blumenfeld’s art life has been her family. She has lived in Harrison, NY for 17 years, and has three grown children and, for the five years before he passed away, her father lived with the family as well. All three of her children are artistic in different ways, from acting to playing music to dancing and singing, although none of them are visual artists.
It has been challenging to balance her artwork with her family but, Blumenfeld said, “I have always been fortunate enough to have the support of my husband and a studio space [to work in] at home, which has allowed me to work around everyone’s schedules and needs!” Apart from her family and her art, she also holds a passion for Israel advocacy and is on several boards—including Stand with Us, AIPAC, Westchester Hillels, and the American Jewish Congress.
Blumenfeld will have a painting in a juried show of small works at the Mamaroneck Artists Guild at 126 Larchmont Ave., Larchmont, NY from April 30–May 23, 2015. You can also view her artwork on her website, http://www.paulablumenfeld.com/.