Media Mixologist

East Sac artist uses found objects to create new worlds

By Jessica Laskey
February 2023

When you visit mixed media artist Linda Paris’ website or East Sacramento home studio, you’ll find a treasure trove of work, from collages and paintings to dioramas of found objects. What you won’t find is the artist’s biography.

“My philosophy is I like people to interact with the work. I don’t want a provenance or bio to interfere with that,” Paris says. “It’s the piece that we’re selling, not me.”

Interacting with Paris’ work is like jumping down the rabbit hole into another world.

In her collage “The House of 39th,” a skeleton sits in a school chair in front of a white house while a pair of binoculars stare out from an upstairs window. An airplane flies alongside a hot air balloon while a tall woman in ornate garb stands sentinel on the lawn with a bird on her head. Another woman—dressed decidedly more modern—stares at her.

In “Anomalies and Curiosities of Nature,” a series of miniature dioramas, Paris positions objects such as driftwood, shells, rocks and animal bones she finds on hikes to create scenes of creatures, including the Dwarfus Hippopotamus.
Text on the box tells us these are “usually no larger than a small cat, weighing up to 20 lbs.”

“I’m very much a nature person,” says Paris, who has lived, worked and shown her work in Seattle and Portland. “It brings me joy and peace and curiosity watching animals and birds. I don’t know anything about their world. I’m not in their mind, I’m not instinctual like they are, so I get to make up the story. It becomes delightful and interesting, whereas with humans, I can pretty much predict what they’re thinking.”

The storytelling nature of art has always appealed to Paris. She remembers making up stories to go along with her drawings as a child. The narrative thread continues in her work. “Because I’m not an abstract painter, my pull is different. It’s about creating a visual narrative, and those are endless. The piece has to speak to you,” she says.

Paris loved art from an early age—she bought her first art piece at age 10—but didn’t think it could be her profession. She started college studies in music and English but realized she couldn’t make money, so she turned to teaching, one of the “three or four professions” Paris says were encouraged for women at the time.

She always kept art in her “back pocket.” After starting a family, she began drawing and painting again, teaching piano to pay for art supplies and classes. She earned a master’s degree in painting at Sacramento State. When her employers at Tower Books asked her to become their in-house artist, something clicked.

“At that point I said, that’s it, I’m going after this. This is what I want to do,” Paris says.

Since then, Paris has turned out an impressive oeuvre that has sold all over the country. Working in series, she pushes an idea until she runs out of materials or “the story ends itself,” which has resulted in a fascinating amalgam of work.

Projects include Books as Objects, “a cross between a painting and a thing” that includes original text and imagery. Another is Bird Circles, which depicts real and imagined worlds inhabited by feathered creatures. She works on dioramas, collages incorporating encaustic wax, paper, paint, gold leaf and cloth, and paintings.

“I love the mystery and exploration. It’s like being on an adventure,” Paris says of her process. “There are always rocks in the path and streams to cross, but at the end of the piece or series when you can breathe and your critical eye says ‘enough,’ that’s the joy. There’s always something else around the corner.”

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