Paul Cunningham began his career with figurative works. He painted cowboys, cowgirls and scenes of western life. Then, in the 1980’s, he noticed a slight tremor in his hands. The shake intensified, and it affected not only his ability to paint, but everything else in his life as well. Doctors diagnosed Cunningham with a central tremor, and as the condition worsened he limited what he would do in public and adjusted his art to what his body would allow him to create.
Cunningham’s outlook brightened considerably last year when he attended a seminar on deep brain stimulation. He was shown results in patients with similar conditions, and scheduled the surgery for himself. In the fall he had the first of two procedures, and the second only a couple months ago.
Almost immediately Cunningham noticed a change. He was able to draw a straight line again, and realized that the detailed work of his past was once more within grasp. His newest pieces, a series of florals, portray perfectly the improvement that the surgeries had on his life and abilities as an artist.
“I paint what I like, but I also want viewers to get a sense of warmth and joy from my art,” says Cunningham. “I want to make people happy with my art, and flowers are a good way to do that.”
The suggestion to paint flowers came from Susan Freilicher, whom he had hired as a coach and consultant to help him after the procedures. He liked the subject and agreed, going to work researching his subject. He visited botanic gardens, bought fresh stems and referred to a handful of images on the internet. He looked at the details, colors and angles, and then started to merge the abstract style that his collectors have loved with the details that his hands would once more let him paint.
The results are both abstract and literal, the fine details of the flowers perfectly framed by the backgrounds that are Cunningham’s signature style. The artist envisions that these are only the start of what he can do. He foresees people, horses and just about anything else playing counterpoint to his abstracts in the future, all while maintaining the rich colors and resin coatings that his collectors love.
“Many of the recognizable elements that identify my pieces will remain, they will just be more intricate.”
Come see the new works of Paul Cunningham for yourself.