I Create Birmingham: Paul Cordes Wilm

“Everyone has their own niche, and you have to find you own unique way in to presenting your art, not just in to the art world, but to the world.”

Paul Cordes Wilm
Occupation:Visual Artist

1. How do you find yourself best preparing for an art show like Moss Rock?
For every show, I like to have a different theme or focus. Moss Rock is pretty easy because it has a built in theme – nature and the environment, using reusable materials. It’s cool to be the featured artist for that because 90% of my art is recycled stuff anyway. I paint on found wood and I use a lot of junk mail and old house paint.


2. How has your art changed over the past years?
I try to address different issues in a lot of my work. I have a show at Lowe Mill in Huntsville right now that narrates the fact that everyone is on their phones. All of the people in the pieces look kind of vintage – which is similar to my stuff anyway. But in this way, it makes you look at what’s going on, as if that was an era that came and went – you see what we are doing in a different light. I like focusing on social issues, but I don’t want to do it all the time. Sometimes it touches people in a good way, and sometimes it opens a can of worms and people want to turn away from it. I like that, but I don’t want to be that kind of person all the time. The animal heads are something that everyone can enjoy.


3. How have you evolved as an artist over the past years?
The “Love is Love” piece I did was something that everyone could identify with. But a lot of people turned away. All of my art comes from my point of view, but then it is up to your attitude to make what you will of it. That’s what I want to achieve universally. Whether people like it or not, at least people get it. I was surprised at how many people want to wear this piece on a shirt or have it on a bumper sticker. My art is very open to interpretation. I want people to see it in their own way. I know what I put in to it; I want them to take home what they put in to it.


4. You’re a pretty influential artist in Birmingham. Are there any other artists that influence your work?
People have sort of labeled me as Folk Pop. And I can definitely see that – using the dashes, and found wood, and imagery. I get a lot from folk artists, and not just southern Alabama. I like Reverend Howard Finster. I like Mose T a lot. I actually met him. He taught me a few of his techniques. In some way I envy children’s art. I try to hark back to when I didn’t have a solid idea of what I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to be afraid to explore. I do that a lot in notebooks – just putting pen to paper. A lot of people say I remind them of Andy Warhol. I’m definitely influenced by Pop Art. I like abstract expressionists like Robert Rauschenberg. I love collage. I’ll collage and paint in a sort of abstract way knowing that I am going to put an image over that. It’s fun to see what happens to stays in the image and what gets painted out – sort of a reverse coloring book.


5. What programs or services could exist to help support artists in Birmingham?
One thing that I appreciate is Birmingham Art Crawl. It is so great for younger and blooming artists. If they don’t have a place to show, they can at least show at Art Crawl. It gives them a platform and outlet for emerging artists. I didn’t have that when I moved to Birmingham in 1998. I wish more programs existed like that.


6. Do you have any advice for high school/college students looking towards a career in art?
I tell people to be prepared and ready to show anywhere. I’m a “veteran” and I still have shows in coffee shops and restaurants. Have an open mind and be willing to have a show anywhere – even if it was at someone’s house. It’s not like you can have a resume and just jump in to the art world. It’s different for everyone. So be prepared to be flexible. Everyone has their own niche, and you have to find you own unique way in to presenting your art, not just in to the art world, but to the world. I don’t aim to have my art in museums and galleries. I consider myself a “working-class” artist. I want to appeal to anyone. I want people to afford my art. I don’t want to deprive people of something that they actually want to put on their walls.