Constellation Series

The forces that run our cosmos interest me: the insides of clouds and storms; the nerve impulses colliding in our brains at 200mph or thed growth of patterns in a petrie dish. I can imagine how these forces may cause molecules to jostle and change at the micro level and I imagine the movement of constellations at the macro level. They hover in space and their energy compels progressin, explosion and growth patterns. The dots can represent the unseen world of throbbing particles and minute life forms seen in microscopes.

The journey starts from a single point and continues without conscious plan. The mmove into color masses that coalesce and disintegrate like flocks of birds in murmuration. They can run in long strings like beads and curl like snails. They can puff up and rumble and dribble into nothing. Each small dot is individual as it swarms with its fellows and navigate by some impulse of its own choosing. The can resemble groups of molecules captured for a fleetin momentthen fading out of sight likefireflies or stars at dawn.

The Tenor of Clouds

Clouds are an ongoing theme that I return to again and again. It could be that living in Oregon for the bigger share of my life and witnessing cloud banks, fog, drizzle and downpours for months on end have given me an edge into the semi-translucent quality of those illusive things. I have walked into them while hiking, walked under them along the Colummbia River, watched them roll in and bump into the Cascade Range and then drop snow up high and rain on me.

I have been under them when they were gray and raining with mist and blurred edges and halos. The end of a showere meant the landscape would be washed clean with the air shimmering and surfaces drenched with color from sunlight. The idea of luminous color and airy surfaces have stayed with me.


Paula Overbay’s recent work harnesses the point to create marvelous forms of complexity and nuance.

Beginning with a single point she creates complex fields referencing clouds, spores and nuclear explosion. Her abstracted works, imbued with intellect, seem to reference fractals and needlepoint, cloud nebulae and electrons as they flip between microscope and telescope perspective. Her current constellation series is reminiscent of a mash up of Australian dream-time drawings and particle physics.

Overbay’s simple point, applied with the specificity of a dot printer, builds form and volume. Her technique accumulates these points with a gestural structure, with dotted lines eddying into a unresolved vortex in the smaller pieces.

Harnessing color in the dots that are, most often, 1/32 of an inch wide, Overbay plays with atmosphere. Thousands of marks accrete into form. Her numinous pale orange and yellow dots float on a textured gray paper, reminiscent of a dawn cloud in the desert. In one large works, she lets a single red dot fly solo, launched from an exquisite string of relatives. Other works place a turquoise dot within a red dot, creating optical frisson and a type of rococo minimalism.

Occasionally, Overbay’s accumulation process results in recognizable form, from an unraveling nightshirt or undersea creature. These works are witty, but distract from the artist’s discovery of the page. An artist of possibility, Overbay’s best works are a journey, starting without knowing the end, guided by her lodestone of color and space. Whatever her process or subject, Overbay’s works on paper show a presence of mind and focused inquiry harnessed to impressive and contemplative technique. This is an artist of curiosity and passion examining the tenor of clouds.

March 2011 Studio Visit Helen Lessick, Public Art Collections Manager Los Angeles CA

Discovery of the Page

A dozen pieces can be in play at any one time, some laying
dormant for a year until the solution occurs. Perhaps the next element appears from a quick unguarded glance or upon waking.

Even working within the confines of one dot at a time
and a piece of paper, the end result is still a surprise.
Premeditation is impossible and undesirable. In
order to produce dot after dot I must be constantlyalert as in meditation while on stilts or meditation
while driving.

The formal goal is transitions: from mass to line; from
line to patterns, and patterns returning to mass.
Slowly a composition is built.


At the MacDowell Colony in 1994 I noticed a huge lunar moth unfurling slowly on my studio wall. I watched it for a long time, admiring its wings and spots. It was as big as my palm. Not until much later did I recognize its influence in abstract patterns, translucent color and the ideas of impermanence and change.

My search for the current series of "Constellations began at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest IL. with a blank paper in front of me as I turned away from my paintings. I had answered all the questions that I had posed for the paintings and found only boredom in continuing.

There were no interruptions for days on end as I sweated through the first nascent Constellation pieces, staring out the window; going for walks. I am extremely grateful for the months that the Ragdale Foundation granted to me to develop and produce this series.

Luminous Color

Long ago, when I was five and lived in Carver Oregon it was popular to use a rectangle cut glass lidded container on the dinner table. It was always filled with some type of jello. Through the cut glass it looked shimmery and alive, especially the red. It was the depth and intensity that was appealing as the light passed through.

Later on that year I was invited to a friend's home for dinner. On their table was an opaque round bowl of jello which was the incorrect receptacle from my point of view. It did not show off any of its qualities. Then on my way home I realized a concept: it meant that anything could go into anything and change shape and color.

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