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A painter reclaims her place in the art world

Pam Glick

LEVEL UP: Pam Glick in her studio at Buffalo’s Tri-Main Center. Photo: Douglas Levere

By Sally Jarzab

“The only way to be successful is to make your own work. And the more you’re put into a mold, the farther away you get from being yourself.”
Pam Glick

Inside the Buffalo studio of artist/MFA student Pam Glick, paintings are everywhere—in stacks against the walls, in piles on the floor. Where there are not paintings, there are drawings, heaped onto tabletops, tucked into drawers.

“I am pretty prolific,” she acknowledges. Call it prolific, call it ambitious, call it compulsive—this artist is on fire. And the world is taking note. Glick’s work is being shown in tony galleries, applauded by top critics and purchased by major players. No one is more surprised by the attention than Glick herself.

A Buffalonian, she left the area in the 1970s to attend the Rhode Island School of Design, studying for a year in Rome, then moved to Manhattan and dove head-first into the art scene. “I got something like four shows the first year I lived in New York. I thought, ‘Oh, this is easy!’” she says, laughing.

Glick’s star continued to rise, but in the mid- 1990s she decided to settle down in Vermont with her then-husband, also an artist, to raise their two sons. For the next couple of decades, she taught some, and “made things,” but the focus was on family. “That was my choice. I’m not that good at multitasking,” she says.

Then her marriage ended, and with her sons about grown, the time became right for rebirth.

“I wondered, ‘Can I afford to move back to New York?’” she recalls. It was one of her sons who suggested Buffalo, where Glick’s mother and other family members live. “Once I got here, there was this crazy feeling of freedom. I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I can paint again!’”

And so she has, picking right up on the success she enjoyed decades ago. Since relocating in 2014, she has shown new work across the country and abroad, including a solo show at White Columns, the trendsetting alternative art space in downtown Manhattan, in 2016. “Matthew Higgs, the curator at White Columns, saw my work on Instagram and flew to Buffalo to visit my studio,” she says. “My artist friends in New York were green with envy. He’s like the pope of the art world.” Last winter, she was nominated for two prestigious national prizes, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Prize and the Joan Mitchell Prize, “a huge honor.”

A prominent theme in much of Glick’s work is one that, like Glick herself, is both local and transcendent: Niagara Falls. The cascades are visited and revisited in an ongoing series of works comprising more than 50 pieces, each titled “Niagara USA Canada.” She says the geometry of the Falls fascinates her, as well as their placement and power. Although Glick isn’t thinking in political terms while she creates, the connections to current events are unavoidable, she says. “I think if you pick large subjects—like borders, a sense of place—it’s more likely to bleed into other areas and into people’s lives.”

The terms Glick uses to classify her work—abstract, conceptual, neo-expressionist—place her in a camp with such artists as Julian Schnabel and Jean-Michel Basquiat (her work was, in fact, exhibited alongside Basquiat’s at a group show decades ago). But any allegiance to art-theory taxonomy starts and ends there.

“The only way to be successful is to make your own work. And the more you’re put into a mold, the farther away you get from being yourself,” she says. “There’s just nothing theoretical about that.”

Glick is in the final stage of the MFA in studio art program at UB, a venture she took on so she could teach. Yet even as an accomplished artist, she has been greatly enriched by the graduate school experience and reports that she has finally found her stride.

“Part of it is luck,” she says. “Part of it is knowing you have some tiny little thing that no one else has.” And part of it, she adds, is loving what you do.

“Honestly,” she says, standing in her studio surrounded by her work, “I just cannot wait to get here every day.”

My Bold Moment

“When I was separated, living in the guesthouse on our farm in Vermont, I told myself, ‘I’m going to paint myself out of this thing.’ I just dedicated myself to my work, believing everything would work out—which was incredibly naïve, but it actually did.”
—Pam Glick