Somerville artist Pauline Lim walked into the Sherman Cafe with a very focused stare and joined me at my usual table. She told me that she just finished meditating in preparation for our interview. After wiping the few remaining crumbs of my luscious oatmeal scone from my table ( A staple of my morning for years now), we began to talk about her work and life as an artist.
Lim has for many years lived in the Brickbottom building, an artist residence outside Union Square. Lim said she graduated from Harvard University in 1988 and moved into the Brickbottom, but left for awhile returning yet again again in 2004. She adores living in Somerville stating: “ I love the upscale and downscale; it is scrappier than Cambridge but just as cultured– a lot of super smart people live here, but Somerville has less the arrogant professorial types.”
Living at the Brickbottom has been a great experience Lim told me. There are many group activities such as meditation, book discussion, annual barbecues, etc… Lim smiled: ” It is like we are all playmates–surrounded by family. There is a high tolerance for kookiness. We are a bunch of misfits in a way. We are all aware of the false images society puts out about who is a winner and who is not.”
Lim told me that one of her early influences were comics, like Archie and Richie Rich,that she read as a child. And in fact she brings a very comic aspect to her work. At Harvard, where she studied art there was a big emphasis on abstraction. But Lim always liked the realism of comics, and the skill that is brought to the genre.
Lim is very upfront about having a long struggle with the Black Dogs of depression as Winston Churchill once characterized it. Lim reflected: ” Being an artist was one step above committing suicide.” She was pressured by her Korean family to achieve success as a doctor or something along those lines. This and other emotional baggage haunted this artist for decades.
Lim made a trip to Europe years ago and came under the influence of the majestic cathedrals she visited. She was also brought up attending a High Anglican church–all this lead to her interest in medieval religious art. Her paintings explore these serious themes, but she also infuses them with these semi-comical characters giving her work a very quirky appeal.
Lim said much of her work is self-focused and even a cursory look at her work reveals titles like: ” I am making my way through life.” or “The dream from which I can not wake” would indicate this sensibility. Lim said she is not sure if this intense self-focus is good or bad. She stated: ” It doesn’t bring you happiness.” But the artist said that after years of struggling with inner demons she is getting to a much better place with her life and art. She left our meeting with an engaging smile. There are many stories in the Paris of New England–this has been one of them.