Eve gets a makeover by artist Roberta Paul

Chris Bergeron

Shame on you, Eve! Now leave the Garden!

Artist Roberta Paul deflates those Old Testament judgments in her intriguing exhibit "Shame" at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University.

Challenging ingrained notions of shame, the Newtonville artist gives Eve a cultural makeover by contrasting Masaccio's famous 1427 painting "The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden" with her own gentler contemporary vision.

"How did Eve get such a bad rep," Paul wondered. "How come the woman always gets blamed?"

Subtitled "Work by Roberta Paul," it runs through Jan. 29 at the Research Center at 515 South St., Waltham.

Introducing her show, she reminds visitors, "When viewed through a modern lens, every story assumes a contemporary relevance and sparks conversation about the place of shame in society."

The current show "Shame" incorporates several works from Paul's earlier series "Creation: Science" which juxtaposed reworked images of a despairing Adam and Eve with her abstract views of stars blinking against the vast night sky.

"I'd like to start a dialogue where visitors ask, 'Where does shame get started?"' she said. "As an artist, it's very exciting to see different works through a lot of different lens."

While ancient theologians traditionally blamed Eve, and her sisters to come, for mankind's expulsion from paradise, Paul recasts the couple into the heavens as, in her words, "seekers of knowledge, forever crossing new horizons."

Throughout the exhibit, her gouache paintings soften the harshness but not the condemnation found in Masaccio's frightening fresco from the Brancacci Chapel in Florence.

Anguished and utterly exposed, Eve is portrayed, in Paul's words, as the "original femme fatale" whose actions precipitated the "downfall of mankind."

Rather than answers, she embeds Masaccio's stern view of women's role in the Fall of Man into soothing, starry constellations of her own devising that raise new questions.

Born in Monticello, N.Y., Paul earned a bachelor's degree in art from Skidmore College and a master's in fine art from the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks. Since 1980, she's held 20 solo shows and participated in more than 60 group shows.

Paul will also be showing other works in "icons and altars," an exhibit which opens Nov. 13 at the New Art Centre in Newton.

Examination of some of Paul's recent exhibits casts light on some of the recurring images which play an important role in "Shame."

In a 2002 show titled "Time & Tiers" at the Allston Skirt Factory Gallery, she painted several images of drooping clock faces reminiscent of Salvador Dali. She explained they derived from pictures of clocks drawn by her father who was suffering from a neurological brain disorder.

From a drawing her father made of an American flag, Paul took the stars and recast them into constellations as homages to her parents' memories.

In a painting titled "Self-Portrait with Stars," Paul trades places with Eve, perhaps in an act of feminist sisterhood, and seems to be exhaling a micro-cosmos of stars.

Referring to the painting she told the exhibit's curator Lisa Lynch, "I was reclaiming the role of women, changing it from temptress, sinner and owner to giver of life."


The Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University is at 515 South St., in the Epstein Building, south of the main entrance to the campus across from the Brandeis-Roberts commuter rail stop.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment. Closed Dec. 24-Jan. 4.

Admission is free.

For information, call 781-736-8102 or visit