Artist returns from Thailand to show his many faces

He has not shown his face in local arts venues in nearly three years.

But now Columbus native Paul Neufelder, recently returned from living in Pattaya, Thailand, is showing people the many faces of himself. Well, technically, they’re the abstract, acrylic-squiggled faces of others.

They’re part of the artist’s newest exhibit, “It’s a Face; No, It’s Not a Face” running until year’s end at WellConnect, 237 Washington St. in Columbus.

He completed the pieces before he left for Thailand in 2013, but he found little time to book a show. So now the creations represent the latest expression of his efforts.

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“I am not exactly sure where they came from,” he said of the patterns he labels as “drip (paint) face.”

“Of course, anytime you start sling- ing paint, it’s a little bit similar to the style of (abstract expressionist) Jackson Pollock.”

Neufelder began his art career by learning to paint with a brush held in his mouth a few years after a 1978 diving accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. Although he planned to paint in Thailand, medical challenges there siphoned money he had set aside for art.

He returned to his local studio only recently. He recalled drip-face efforts he first executed some 25 years ago.

“But they were so bad you couldn’t really see the face in any of them,” he said. “They are rendered a lot more realistically today. They’re a lot more open.”

Open is also one way the artist describes the people of Thailand.

He mixed easily with eclectic groups, from Muslims to Buddhist monks. The monks quickly found common ground with him when they asked him to find the Bee Gees’ music online so they could listen to disco with him.

“I’m sure that some of my experiences will be integrated into my work over maybe the next 10 years,” he said.

He loves being back in Columbus, living and working out of what was his home for years on Chestnut Street. But he is a new man, married two years ago to Nat Kub Jay Thanapree, whom he simply calls “Jay.” They are raising 8-year-old daughter, Jenny, together.

“When I landed, I truly felt like I was home,” Neufelder said. “It was weird, but it was a feeling very deep down inside.”

Today, he finds equal measures of comfort and inspiration painting with fellow local artist Steven Newlin.

Newlin, who first met Neufelder in the 1990s, has been teaming with him on pieces ranging from watercolor to ink. He said he is frequently amazed by Neufelder’s determined work ethic and definitely enjoys his latest creations.

“I think it’s fascinating,” Newlin said. “But it’s one of those things that takes you a moment.

“I like watching other people look at them for the first time. There’s a real moment of realization (of a face).”

Neufelder is uncertain what comes next. But he seems content to allow the face of the future to form in slow, deliberate fashion.

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What: Columbus artist Paul Neufelder’s latest exhibit, “It’s a Face: No, It’s Not a Face,” featuring abstract patterns that form a face.

When: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays through year’s end.

Where: WellConnect, 237 Washington St. in Columbus.

Admission: Free.

Information: Paul Neufelder’s Facebook page.