Paul Flack is best known as one of the leaders of the Who Ha Da-Da movement of contemporary American folk artists. (But he's a Yankee and despite his 30 year residency in the South he still talks funny.) His art fuses urban, suburban and rural influences and combines them with spiritual overtones to create images that are approachable, whimsical and promise possibility in spite of challenging circumstances. His work is a mash up of Warhol and Howard Finster. Flack’s artistic style entirely reflects his mosaic-like life story.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Paul Flack moved with his family to Levittown, Long Island, - America’s first subdivision. Throughout his youth, Paul was attracted to drawing and painting, but his parents didn’t encourage his talents and so he put any such interests aside. From his modest home on a 60’ x 100’ plot of land, he dreamed of life beyond the city. As a child, he never missed an episode of “Modern Farmer,” at 6 AM Saturday morning – a homage to life the way it was supposed to be...life on the the farm in black and white. However he may have had rural daydreams, but it wasn't until he was 14 years old before he first experienced a cow in 3-D. It wasn’t until he was 18 that he finally escaped suburbia and broke out to the “country.” Eventually he made it to the environs of Upstate New York where he lived on a 300-acre farm west of Schenectady.
As the 70’s were winding down, the South caught Flack’s attention. He soon found a home on what was then the outskirts of Atlanta. There, Flack’s career path wandered from international teaching, to marketing, sales, public relations and technology. In spite of his many successes, his professional experience proved less than fulfilling. In the meantime, suburban sprawl began to overtake his neighborhood and he longed for the untainted, pure American ideals that seemed to be fading from his view.
In the early 1990s, Flack attended a folk art exhibition for the first time. Folk Fest in Atlanta is billed as the world’s largest folk art show & sale, hosting 90 galleries & dealers from around the nation specializing in folk art. There he was introduced to the art of Robyn "The Beaver" Beverland. Flack was deeply impressed by what he viewed as “the unobstructed, pure, soul-bearing communion between the art and artist” that Beverland's art represented. He was equally inspired by the work of other visionary artists whose work was displayed – most notably, Reverend Howard Finster, who had risen to global fame through his art. Flack perceived a level of “truth” in these artists and their work that was not present in other aspects of his life. A potent combination of a deteriorating environment in his Atlanta community at the hands of real estate developers and severe personal health problems forced Flack to reexamine the “truth” in his own world. In an effort to come to grips with his new reality, he picked up discarded pieces of wood left in the wake of his new subdivision neighbors. Recalling his Folk Fest experience, Flack decided to try painting - something he had turned his back on thirty years before. He painted on the scraps of wood in an effort to reconcile his feelings. His messages were up lifting subjects (often angels) whimsical characters and colorful inturpretations of what he knew "folk art" to be.
In addition being attracted to the visceral organic expression of self-taught folk art, Flack grew tp become enamored with graffiti and street art - artists expressing themselves within their immediate enviroments One of the most admirable characteristics of street or graffiti artists is their intention to put work where it can be seen and enjoyed which unfortunately, also makes it vulnerable and highly temporary at best. Folk artists shared a tradition of using familiar materials to enhance expressions of everyday images and icons, much in keeping with Warhol’s vision regarding the context of commonplace objects viewed as special . Each form in its own way won his heart with vitality, spontaneity and a general disregard for “the rules.” His vision became to bring the verve and excitement of these forms indoors.
Paul Flack’s artwork is in the permanent collection of the Hurn Museum in Savannah and the Gumtree Museum in Tupelo. His creations have received many awards on the art festival circuit are included in many corporate and private art collections throughout the U.S.
Flack calls his preferred method of painting – Neo Fresco. He starts with a wood frame, and applies several coats of Venetian plaster that is later stained to resemble weathered stucco. Using water-soluble graphite, airbrush, stencil, acrylic and even found objects he creates scenes and images derived from images found on the internet or captured digitally. His vision is to bring organic living works from outside indoors is completed by sealing the pieces with resin; thereby creating a permanence that juxtaposes its source in the fleeting world of digital images.