Paula Nees was born and raised in Middleton, Wisconsin and began her work as an artist while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received her BFA in 1973. She went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts degree in 1977 from the University of California, Davis. Her work has been included in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Chicago Art Institute, the Madison Art Center in Wisconsin, and the Butler Art Institute in Ohio. Her paintings and drawings are part of numerous corporate collections in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, and California.
After moving to Columbus, Ohio in 1992, Nees was active in the art community and exhibited throughout the region. She was an instructor at Otterbein University, Westerville, Ohio from 1993 to 2014, where she taught studio courses and global art history. Travel has influenced much of her work. Her current studio activities build on these experience as she creates works incorporating materials acquired from trips to India and Mexico.
In July of 2017, Paula Nees along with her husband, Joe Wheaton, moved to Oregon where they live and work in east Portland surrounded by Douglas fir and cedar trees. Exploring the diverse Oregon terrain has influenced her subject matter, which currently is devoted to animal life and the natural habitat. Using natural dyes and pigments her work emphasizes the fragility of the natural world.