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  • Victoria Hood, Founder


Updated: 4 days ago

Founder Victoria Hood Takes an Inside Look at the Oklahoma Born & Sharon, CT Based

Artist’s Creative Life Journey

Portrait of John Paul Philippe by Theo Coulombe

During the recent opening of artist John Paul Philippe’s newest exhibition at Standard Space gallery, LOW SUNS, guests were enamored by the sunshine-inspired works. Philippe’s popularity in the special corner of Northwestern CT was exemplified by the size of the opening reception’s buzzing crowd and the 48 wine glasses I personally hand-washed. I was first introduced to Philippe through Standard Space’s owner Theo Coulombe and former associate director Camille Roccanova over three years ago for a collaboration with the neighboring Troutbeck hotel. Since then, I have too become a fan of Philippe’s soft-spoken manor and southern charm, his stories of adventures across England and Japan, and his wabi-sabi aesthetic and outlook on life.

To learn about his journey to becoming an artist and to understand better what inspires his work, I ventured to his bucolic property in Sharon, CT to ask questions while drinking lemonade on his porch.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

It began when Tulsa based artist and art critic, Jay O'Meilia, walked by a window display I did for a shop in the small town that I grew up in. He spoke with my mother and encouraged her to have my work entered in the Tulsa State Fair. I was only seven years old and to my surprise I won some prizes. It was the first time my artwork was validated by someone who was not in my family and it made me believe that I could pursue a career as an artist. My mother knew I was artist before I could talk. For example, she would pour M&M’s out onto my highchair’s tray for me but rather than eat them I would arrange them by colors and into patterns. To this day I still don’t like to eat M&M’s.

John Paul Philippe's Studio by Theo Coulombe

Following high school, did you go directly to art school?

We didn’t have a formal art education in the public schools, but I was always encouraged to pursue my art. Once I got to university, however, it was time to get a real career and I took a lot of pre-med classes. After two years of spinning my wheels in pre-med, I secretly began taking art electives. I finally formerly got into the art program at University of Oklahoma and to placate my parents I got degrees in both Visual Communication (Graphic Design and Advertising), as well as Fine Arts.

What did you do after school?

Worked for a year in advertising and then I left the office and went off to find a way to be an artist. When I look back I love that period during my life I was so happy but I was so poor. I would often eat popcorn and drink water to feel like I ate some food. I was also living in a goat shed.

John Paul Philippe's Property in Sharon, CT by Theo Coulombe

Would you say you have a thing for sheds?

I do have a thing about sheds. As I boy we had an abandoned shed in our backyard which I turned into a little palace for myself. Bullies would sometimes pull the drapes down and trash it and I would have to start all over again.

Fast forward a few decades and you find yourself living in New York and working for Barney’s. How did that happen?

Paul Morris introduced me to a friend who worked in the display department of Barney’s. Using Paul’s polaroid camera, I took pictures of rearranged items on his shelves thinking that I would get a job in rearranging merchandise. The next day I went for my interview and Simon Doonan approached to say how funny my presentation was and if I would like to do a mural. The 2ft-by-2ft mural was in a small outlet store and it was my trial.

From there on I began working a lot more for them. I was never told that I couldn’t do anything. It was a unique job where nobody ever interfered or asked what I was going to do. Simon was a great boss. I got terribly spoiled.

Was your first trip to Japan because of Barney’s?

John Paul Philippe's Sketches by Theo Coulombe

I was always trying to get to Japan but I could never figure out how to do it. It was serendipitous that they would send me there. I’ve been interested in Japan ever since I can remember, and when you are in Oklahoma it seems so terribly far way and impossible. The fact I was in a situation I could go in the best possible way: not as a tourist but as an artisan working with other artists and makers.

John Paul Philippe in his Studio by Theo Coulombe

You moved to Sharon about ten years ago. How did leaving NYC and moving to the countryside affect you and your art?

I fortunately found my home here while I was still working for Barney’s. As the company began to dissolve, I was able to rearrange my life and move here full time. Since then, I have had time to work on my own various projects, like my art, renovating the barns, and gardening.

What is the inspiration for your new show, LOW SUNS, at Standard Space?

I wanted it to be a departure from my previous work of the past five years. I felt I need to push myself more. I am using a different color palette, for example. I am no longer using what I call murky, frozen mud colors but instead a clear yellow. I wanted to cheer myself up a little bit and look to the sun rather than go down a gloomy road. Behind the prettiness there is still a barricade, a sense of keeping the other way, the bad elements of the outer world away.

John Paul Philippe's LOW SUNS is on show at Standard Space until June, 30th. Standard Space is located 147 Main Street, Sharon, CT 06069. For all inquiries, please email

Follow John Paul Philippe @johnpaulphilippe

Follow Standard Space @standard_space

Follow Pamplemousse PR @pamplemoussepr

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