“If you don’t have a voice, you don’t have a choice,” said artist Paul Goodnight in a recent interview with ABC News. Goodnight lost his voice, literally, after serving two years in the Vietnam War. He couldn’t speak, so he drew and painted. “That was my way of communicating,” he said.
Once he got over a serious speech impediment, Goodnight continued on his creative path, and today, he is a much-celebrated artist whose work hangs in the Smithsonian Institution and whose collectors include Spike Lee, Lionel Richie, Morgan Freeman, and Steve Harvey. He created posters for the Olympic Games which are now featured at the official Olympic Museum. His work can be seen in films (“Ghost,” “Gone Baby Gone”) and TV (“Seinfeld,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”), and he has exhibited all over the world.
Luckily, we on the Vineyard don’t have to travel to distant points to view Goodnight’s work. Since the 1980s, Zita Cousens of Cousen Rose Gallery has represented the Boston-based artist, and he continues to be one of her most popular artists.
“His work is very powerful,” says Cousens. “I think he captures the human energy on canvas.”
At an opening of a solo show of Goodnight’s work in pastels, oils, and mixed media, a large crowd gathered to view a series of often very large paintings and meet the artist, clad in his signature paint-splattered overalls (in this case, his “formal” pair, in honor of the occasion).
Goodnight’s work is figurative in nature — capturing the human form in its infinite varieties with a distinctive style that combines human forms with abstract or design elements.
On his website, Goodnight writes, “My art reflects a collection of sensuous colors, often revealing mysterious, hidden forms. I seek to blend the line between abstraction and representation, with a focus on human form. Here is where passion and humanity may resonate.”
The artist’s paintings are brimming with life and energy, capturing not just the human form but the spirit as well. There’s joy, there’s pride, there’s power, there’s humanity. According to the artist, some of his work is political in nature, while some simply captures the beauty in the world.
Goodnight is personable and down-to-earth. At the opening he spent time in the courtyard, clearly enjoying the opportunity to meet with visitors and chat about art.
“Art has allowed me to travel around the world, to meet these different people, and to give back,” said Goodnight. “I’ve been able to use this as my voice.”
“My work is not my own,” he added. “My work belongs to whoever has it. It’s our gift to give, not our gift to keep.”
Paul Goodnight’s paintings will hang at the Cousen Rose Gallery through the end of the month.