Paul Glenn was born and raised in northern New Jersey. Throughout childhood, Judaism was an important part of his daily life. In his early twenties, he embraced being an openly gay man, which came into direct conflict with his family, community and religion. He had to build a new model of religion, faith and prayer that wasn’t contrary to his spiritual beliefs.
As a gay man, he accepts he is of God and does not want to be regarded by others as God’s reject. He is motivated to create work, which reminds the world that gay people enjoy and thrive as practitioners of a spiritual faith.
This motivation has led him to reflect upon many other faiths for guidance. Paul’s inspiration is drawn from images ranging from Giotto’s painted cathedrals, to Islamic mosque tiles, Buddhist sculptures, Balinese textiles, Hebrew texts, Christian mausoleums and ancient Indian textiles and ceramics. His influences are from artists like Sol Lewitt, Agnes Martin, Ad Rienhardt, Vija Celmins and Mark Grotjahn.
He received his BA with honors from Brandeis University in 1989 and his MFA with honors from Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. His RISD thesis, entitled Graduate Thesis Exhibition 1994, was pivotal in his artistic journey to reconcile his own religious faith. In this thesis, his series of scroll works explored notions of spirituality through the Jewish Torah teachings.
Paul developed a ritualistic behavior in his studio during his time at RISD that carries into his current work. In his studio, he began to process with repetitive markings the daily emotions and thoughts from his adolescence. He contextualized as scroll from The Torah the markings that he made on the rosin paper, thus connecting the markings to his Jewish faith.
Works such as “Mutating Virus” and “Running from the Virus” were in direct response to then current climate of AIDS that was killing thousands of gay people. For him as an adolescent, coming out of the closest meant that he too would be seen as a victim of AIDS. Other works from his thesis such as “Bed Sheet” and “Piles of Dead Gay Men” spoke to these topics.
A personal Mecca brought him from RISD to Manhattan where he embarked on deep personal and artistic growth. After many years of living in Manhattan, Paul returned to the studio to continue his investigations of drawing and painting. His relocation to San Francisco in 2011 has allowed him to continue his studio practice in the heart of the Mission district at Workspace Studios.