Art Basel 2017

I pulled up into the driveway of a private event on ocean drive. Suddenly two men with earpieces emerged. They quickly glanced over my car as they approached the drivers side door. I was driving a black 2018 Chrysler 300. I rent this car while on work trips because of events like this. To my standards its a nice, or at least respectable, car. As I rolled down my window expecting a valet ticket I got a question instead. “Are you an Uber driver?” “No,” I said. “I’m here for Mr. Ford.” “What’s your name sir?” ...”Paul Cooley” The man reached up swiftly with his left hand and pushed his finger into his ear-piece, repeating my name as a guest for Mr. Ford. Without any pause he nodded to the second gentleman. “Right this way sir.” 


During Art Basel week in Miami there is a lot of art to see, events to attend, and a unique energy which changes when you go from Wynwood to South Beach. For the past two years I’ve exhibited new art work and worked very hard during Basel week. Each year the payoff was always in the networking. Whether I sold a lot of art or a little art during Basel, the months that followed were always full. Full of new contacts, exciting new projects, and closing new deals. 


Since I had an opening in NYC just weeks before Basel, I did my networking different this year. Instead of showing art, I viewed art. I attended the Art Basel preview at the convention center. I took meetings with new dealers. I said yes to dinner invitations. I enjoyed a new perspective on Basel and utilized a network I’ve been building for years; in a brand new way. 


My list was as follows:

Art Basel


De La Cruz collection 

The beach (the actual beach not scope lol) 

and painting some walls with my friends!!




Shout out Hiero, Starve, Bulks, and Chnk it is always awesome hanging and painting with you guys.


Shoutout Julian for laying around in the hotel room and talking horology for hours.


Shoutout Stephen Hamilton for doing all the media stuff and for waking up early af.


Shoutout YTC for looking like such a spitting image of Tom Cruz yeesh and for all your hospitality.


Shoutout Party for bombing train tracks in your off-white sneakers and the most ignorant iced out watch I’ve ever seen in person.

A day in the studio

After decompressing from the opening of my new show im slowly getting back into the swing of things. It is important to my art that i continue a regular studio schedule to paint but I spent the last four months making an entire body of work that I was incredibly serious about which was draining.

This week i am not taking anything too serious. I am taking my time. Letting things happen. Inviting friends to the studio. Photographers, creatives, collectors, whoever. Chris flew in from Dallas yesterday and today a few of my close friends i grew up with spent the day as well. It was a great thursday in the studio... filled with laughter, fun, and pizza.

Here are some pictures to document by Stephen Hamilton


Art class with Pauly inside of Skaramongas and Eleonas refugee camps

Today I got to do three Art workshops with kids in the camps. Art class curriculum: Draw whatever you want and we build on it!

I also got to begin painting a wall! We will finish tomorrow and i will teach some of the older kids how to use a spray can by blocking in colors of my sketch.

PS- this was so sketchy don't try this at home.

Speaking the same language

It's weird being here, abroad, doing something so meaningful and not being able to actually take pictures of the kids. All their smiling faces, playing with hoola-hoops and jumping all over us. What we're doing here is magical. We are touched by moments every single day. I want to take pictures of each cute little face and tell their names and stories, but I can't. In the refugee camps just taking a phone or camera out puts up a wall that blocks meaningful connection with these kids. On one hand, its a blessing in disguise. I am forced to be present. To exist simply in that moment. No phone, no pictures, just me and the kids. They are guarded; they have been through a lot already. Being present is not too much to ask of me.


Yesterday I was on equipment duty (standing guard making sure the kids don't steal the hoola-hoops, juggling balls, etc.), while I was at my "post" I was sketching in my sketchbook when this kid came over and motioned to my pen. I handed it over and turned to a clean page, eager to see what he would draw. He proceeded to draw a tic tac toe board. As soon as he finished the last line of it he quickly looked up at me with a beaming smile, locking eyes to see if I understood. This 8 year old boy didn't speak English, but his smile and his energy said it all. He was totally in the moment, just happy, just being a kid. Me and him spoke the same language for the next 30 minutes playing games of tic tac toe in my sketchbook. He won a few games and he also learned some strategy. It was awesome. These are my favorite pages in my sketchbook right now.


Reflecting on the experience i couldn't help but smile.  I handed him that pen and I expected him to draw something. Maybe because i was drawing, maybe because its a "sketch book", but I just assumed he would draw. What he drew was the guidelines for a two person game. He just wanted to play. He's a kid. We played! He doesn't know English but he knows my name now. I am excited to see him tomorrow.

Grow or Go

Before I left on this trip I had started to lose sight of my angst, my darkness. I wrote paragraphs about how hard it was to find inspiration when life was so "good". Approaching week two of my trip I have already found something. Maybe my "good life" wasn't the problem. Maybe I was simply comfortable. 


So far what I have faced here is not merely the darkness of the refugee crisis. It is not just the darkness of politicians in high offices playing political games with people's lives and young children living in camps with very little structure for building life skills. Those things are here and that's why we came, but I have been faced with something else. Something insidious that disguises itself so well, something I can't see. It's something that is inside of me. Its something that tells me to flee when things get uncomfortable. It tells me that "I've had enough", but enough of what? 


I am living in a foreign country with a team of four strangers, working side by side day after day. We are on a mission with no road map. We are a team with many working parts in uncharted territory (metaphorically speaking). I am surrounded by things that are not comfortable to me. In fact nothing here is comfortable; it's all new. 


The darkness inside of me is awake. It is thriving on these moments of "grow or go". In these moments I have a clear choice. I can turn to my spirit, the light inside me, for strength and guidance through un-comfortability. Or I can turn to my ego; my fear based darkness. This darkness treats every foreign uncomfortable situation as an enemy. Attack or run. Hostility and anger are awake in me. It is time to grow, or go. Go back to my comfort zone. Call it quits. Settle for the spiritual growth I have already achieved and choose to go no further. It would be so comfortable! Ah, my bed. The life I have already built. 


Can I overcome my darkness to help change darkness in the world? Can I get to the best version of myself to be an effective and uplifting part of circusaid and all the good we are doing here? I'm not ready to go. Week one in the books. 

Week two I will follow the light! God give me strength!