Desdemona for Celia by Hilton is a multifaceted collaboration between artist Celia Paul and Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer Hilton Als. A concise selection of drawings and paintings by Paul are illustrated. In addition, both Als and Paul have contributed previously unpublished texts and a personal selection of photographs to the publication, which is borne out of a creative conversation inspired in part by Verdi’s opera Otello.
Invited to curate an exhibition at Gallery Met, New York relating to the Metropolitan Opera’s recent production of Otello (on view from September 2015 – January 2016) Als was immediately drawn to Paul’s delicate and moving explorations of people and landscape. While Paul doesn’t work explicitly from literary sources, the human desires and failings Desdemona’s story expresses resonate in her haunting depictions of women and water.
In Desdemona for Celia by Hilton, Als reflects on Paul’s paintings and drawings in new texts that are equally incisive and poetic, touching on love, jealousy and social conflict. The expansive dialogue that has evolved between the two is further reflected in a nuanced selection of material comprising Paul’s autobiographical writings and work by photographers Judy Linn, Darryl Turner, Rivkah Gevinson and Steven Kupfer. The publication also features a previously unpublished portrait of Paul by the late photographer and picture editor Bruce Bernard.
The publication of Desdemona for Celia by Hilton coincides with an exhibition of new works by Paul at Victoria Miro Mayfair (16 September – 23 October 2016). Titled Desdemona for Hilton by Celia to celebrate the continuing conversation between Paul and Als, the show features new seascapes and portraits in which a sense of mortality coexists with the consoling beauty of nature and the flow of time that connects us all.