INSIDE Chico State
0 December 13, 2001
Volume 32 Number 8
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico




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Evolution of an Artist

Warthog by P. Feldhaus

Warthog by P. Feldhaus

“Artists never retire,” proclaimed Professor Emeritus Paul Feldhaus in his downtown Chico studio.

Certainly he has no intention of doing so, despite his struggle since 1989 with Parkinson’s disease, which has forced him to switch from printmaking to painting. Undaunted by no longer having the muscle control or strength to do the woodcuts and engravings for which he has won international acclaim, the 75-year-old artist is now working in opaque watercolors or gouache, with bold colors and broad strokes.

“I’ve been working in an abstract mode for some time now,” Feldhaus said. “I have a strong print going right now. It’s a self-portrait in a way—it touches a part of myself I didn’t know about until I started it.”

Other recent works are influenced by the things he sees around Chico on his walks from his home in Mansion Park to his Second Street studio. One 1999 transparent watercolor was inspired by the transformation of the Bank of America building into Chevys Restaurant. “I took advantage of the shapes created by the wrapping of the building,” he explained. “It’s a great surrealistic piece.”

Gallery Feldhaus shows evidence of a lifetime devoted to making art. A casual glance reveals his passion for wildlife and travel—linocuts of ducks and tufted puffins, walrus woodcuts, watercolors of the Yangtze River, and a gouache of the Columbia River Buttes. A well-used copy of Birds of the World sits below a stuffed sandpiper.

painting by P. Feldhaus

“All artists evolve,” Feldhaus said. The print above reflects his latest style: painting in bold colors with broad strokes, while The Woodpeckers, below, is from an earlier, fine-lined and representative woodcut and lithograph period.

painting by P. Feldhaus

Then there are the colorful fish windsock, the antlered deer head, and Feldhaus’s signature stuffed warthog head, inspiration for his famed warthog series. Imagine warthogs in tutus, cubist warthogs, warthogs with nudes, talking warthogs—you get the idea. “Everyone in Chico knew me after the warthog show in the mid-1980s,” Feldhaus said. “The mayor even proclaimed a Warthog Day. People came out of Taylor Hall saying they’d never laughed so hard at an art show.”

An avid ornithologist, Feldhaus has traveled six continents—“mostly to see birds”—with Pat, his wife of 52 years and his self-declared “number 1 fan and publicity agent.” They have explored Africa (Kenya, Egypt, and Algeria), Australia, Asia (China), South America (Ecuador and Brazil), Europe (Spain and England), Canada, Alaska, and most national parks in North America.

“The different places we have been are on my mind’s map,” said Feldhaus, “and my art is like a map of my life, going from one stage to another.”

Feldhaus received his B.F.A. from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1950 and his M.A. from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, in 1952. He started the art department at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, in 1952, teaching art history, drawing, and painting. From 1971 until his retirement in 1991, he taught printmaking at CSU, Chico.

Feldhaus has worked in a multitude of mediums, including felt pen on Mylar, pencil and graphite, linocut, woodblock, watercolor and gouache, acrylic, monotype, sculpture, and photography. His subjects have ranged from landscape and still life to birds and beasts to abstracts, from serious to comic. “I have been criticized for doing so many different things, for my work not hanging together,” he said, “but I wouldn’t have been happy working in the same style for 40 years.”

Exhibitions of Feldhaus’s work have been held in Turkey, Yugoslavia, Germany, and England. His work has appeared in traveling exhibits in many U.S. colleges, universities, and libraries. In 1999, he had a six-month exhibition in Chico’s Municipal Building, and he regularly participates in the annual Chico Art Center Open Studios Tour. In 1995, he received a special award in the Janet Turner National Print Competition for “Special Achievement and Distinguished Service in Printmaking at CSU, Chico.” In 1996, the Chico arts community awarded him an Annie for “Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts.”

Pat and Paul Feldhaus

Pat and Paul Feldhaus make a colorful Chico couple, he with his fisherman’s cap and she with the ever-present flower in her hair.

photo by: Kathleen Mcpartland

For 10 years he has played golf with The Professors, a distinguished emeritus group that includes Jack Windsor, Carl Kumli, Walter Dahlin, and Henry Petersen; he still manages a round once a month or so.

Some of the nine Feldhaus children have pursued artistic careers. Mark, the oldest, is a painter in Port Orford, Oregon. Fred, the youngest, is an art therapist in Grants Pass. Charles is a landscaper and makes pottery. Paula is a floral designer. There are 15 grandchildren. Pat Feldhaus is a free-lance theatre critic and reviews the Oregon Shake-speare Festival, as well as supporting her husband in his work and doing his framing.

“All artists evolve,” Feldhaus mused. Indeed, like Matisse, who turned to creating découpage works of brilliantly colored paper cutouts on canvas when bedridden, and Renoir, who persisted with painting when crippled by arthritis by strapping a brush to his arm, Feldhaus continues to evolve his art style from necessity.

“Where’s the real Paul Feldhaus?” he asked. “They’ll just have to take two or three different styles and make up their own minds.”

Francine Gair


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