By Mark McNease
Now and then I’m fortunate to share a new Featured Book and immediately want to interview the author. Paul Plumadore’s recent Archive 1957-1974 was one of those times. The book is his memoir of a life in dance that began at age 7 and carried him through an extraordinary series of achievements, including a stint in the internationally renowned Paul Taylor Dance Company in his 20’s. Utilizing photographs from the period, the book “chronicles the joy as well as the agony of the life of a dancer coming-out during the sexual revolution in 1970’s New York City.”
Following are Paul’s answers to ‘6 Questions’, each revealing a remarkable life of accomplishment, setback, grief and renewal. – Mark McNease/Editor
MM: You’ve recently published a book, Archive 1957 – 1974, about your life in dance. Can you tell us about the book and what readers can expect to find in it?
PP: Archive is a memoir that begins at age 7 when I took my first tap lesson and told my mother that same day that I would become a dancer, and ends in the year 1974 after my time with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Those 17 years were filled with determination, excitement and, ultimately, hardship. It is the journey of a wide-eyed country boy who struggled to prove himself and turn himself into an artist through dance.
MM: You were on the faculty of the Dance Department of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts when you were just in your early 20s. You were also a founding member of the NYU Dance Ensemble and you went on to perform with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, as well as presenting your own choreography as Paul Plumadore & Co. What is a career in dance like, and how did this trajectory shape your life?
PP: Those wonderful opportunities more or less fell into my lap. When your focus is directed to a pinpoint and your dedication is without doubt, life brings serendipity. My years in dance shaped everything about my life, both positive and negative. When I left that world, I soon discovered that my training to do anything else was very limited. It was a long time “finding myself” once I chose to move on. A career in dance is one of extremes: the highs of performance and creativity are indescribable and the lows of reality, poverty, and physical pain are equally strong.
PP: I spent many unfulfilling years struggling to survive after I left the dance world. To make ends meet, I found work renovating apartments. It felt as if I was living somebody else’s life. Jim was working in TV production and was equally unhappy with his occupation. While working on a kitchen, my client mentioned they would like to find an antique step-back cupboard. Jim and I shopped around out here in PA and when I showed my client the photo of the piece we found they immediately bought it. A light bulb went off in my head, one thing led to another, and we jumped into the antiques market head first. It was a good fit and we truly enjoyed working with old objects. We graduated quickly from country antiques malls to high-end antiques shows and eventually created a 25,000 sq ft antiques center in Midtown Manhattan called Center44.
MM: You’ve been making collage art since 1975 and were named “Upcoming Illustrator” by Art Direction Magazine in 1976. Please talk about your collage art, how you create it and what inspires it.
PP: Shortly after leaving dance, I made my first collage on a whim while looking through some books from my childhood. I really don’t know what inspired it, but once I made one I was hooked. A friend saw them and suggested I produce some postcards and mail them to various art directors. The campaign worked and I began doing commercial illustrations for book jackets, record covers, etc. While I am proud of some of that work, especially some covers I did for Isaac Asimov, much of it was “hack” work and I felt that I would rather not produce art that was, in my opinion, mediocre. So I simply quit and went back to renovating apartments. When Stanley, my partner at the time, became ill and died of AIDS, I withdrew from the world to grieve and it was then that I began making collages again. That was in the mid-80’s, and from that time on I’ve only made the art that I choose to make. As you can imagine, many of those earliest pieces are dark and disturbing, but were therapeutic for me. A few of those works became the trigger for my book Brain Storm, which I am currently preparing for publication on Amazon. It is only in the last two years that I have “come out of the closet” as an independent artist and begun sharing my work with the public. I work with 19th and 20th Century printed matter which I hand-cut with scalpel knives and assemble with acid-free glues. You can see many examples of my work at paulplumadore.com.
MM: You and Jim have a self-designed house on the Delaware River. How did that come about, both choosing the area and designing your own house?
PP: Stanley, who I mentioned above, and I fell in love with a piece of property on the Delaware River while vacationing in the area in the early 80’s. While the land was lovely, the house was just a small bungalow. After Stan’s death, I was involved in a grueling and lengthy court battle with his family (a scenario all too typical of the AIDS epidemic). When the legal matters were finally resolved after two decades, Jim and I decided it was time to create a real home for ourselves where we could retire when it came time to leave New York City. Designing just comes naturally to me and the hands-on experience of creating our new house was one of the great pleasures of our lives.