Susan's "subject matter, context and medium...present a coherent artistic vision"
John Torreano, Clinical Professor of Studio Art, NYU

"Great stuff. Love your work."
Seymour Chwast

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Portrait of A Wildflower


Wildflower, acrylic on linen, 30 x 24 inches, cropped x













WILDFLOWER IS AT ONE WITH NATURE.  Serpentine armrests  provide comfort and support as they frame and embrace her. A forked tongue wraps around her wrist, fashioning itself into a bracelet.  A butterfly sits atop her head as beautiful as any chapeau and even extends its veins onto her face as a decorative and symbiotic veil.  Wildflower's braids defy gravity, twisting and twirling gracefully through the air. Perhaps they take their cue from the snakes.  Wildflower is  botanically correct with  her pale pink decolletage of field roses. One hundred year old pressed wildflowersviolets, adorn her neck.

She is beautiful, independent, prolific and  grows freely on her own Still, nobody wants her in their garden; they say she is uncultured.  I don't know why.

She's  a natural beauty.





Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Slow Ride


From my book of illustrated poems, Jellyfish Hash xxxxxxxxxx


































MY MOUNT this post's a tortoise
Believed it would be fun
'Twas better in concept
Than the actual run.

His shell was rough and scratchy
Softened only by my bum
The pace so slow–he crept! I slept
And wished I'd brought some rum.

Should I modify my bluntness?
For when the ride was done
We beat a snail–no disrespect
 Arrivederci hon!





Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Socialite



ALONE
And introverted Hermit the Crab
Pondered his life on the beach––found it drab
One day as his pincers skittered along
He spied a beauty in shimmering thong.

Whined Hermit,"Permit me to blab my gab"
Misguidedly added, "Your claws look fab"
Frightened, the girl quickly shied away
He got angry and stammered, " st-st-st-stay!

Sure I'm a crab with pincers that stab
But inside my shell, it's as big as a cab"
She shrieked, "Get away!" gave a hell of a yell
With that he stuffed her under his  shell.

He crab-walked further on down the beach
Grabbing up all the girls within reach
Now he's ebullient, no longer up tight
Indeed, he's a veritable socialite.


+

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Man Under My Bed

The Man Under my Bed, acrylic on linen, 30 x 24 inchesXXXXXXXXXXX

MOST GOOD PAINTERS strive to create work that causes them and their viewers to experience a strong rush of emotion. Painting one of my childhood fears worked as such a catharsis for me.

As a child, I had a downright frightening imagination. The subject of the painting above, The Man Under My Bed, in fact lived (I believed at the time) under my bed. Despite all the pretty pink bedding and lacy pillows on the top of my bed, there was a threatening, dark, evil abyss beneath.  My own childhood yin and yang.

I firmly believed that if I were to get into my bed the normal way, i.e. walking up to it and climbing in, The Man underneath would reach out, grab me by my ankle and pull me under. I knew that if he caught me, I would have to live out the rest of my life under my bed with a monster
in that cramped, dark, coffin-shaped space.

Fortunately, I devised a way to insulate myself from that horrible fate.  It involved some acrobatics.  Much to my mother's amazement, every night I would stand a yard away from my bed and take a flying leap onto the bed to stay out of The Man's reach. I exited the bed in the same way, standing on the edge of the bed and jumping in one giant three-foot long leap over the danger zone.

When I started this painting, I didn't realize I was painting my old under-bed nemesis until I completed his face and he started smirking out at me from the painting. I had thwarted his kidnapping approach, so now he was trying to get me under the bed with what passed for him as come hither looks, wine from his brain and flowers. If I had started out painting a non-specific mythical half-man/half-beast with ram's horns, I ended up painting The Man Under my Bed.

Now that I am an adult (chronologically at least), I realize that The Man Under My Bed doesn't really exist– or at least he doesn't live under my bed. To the great relief of my husband, I can now enter and exit my bed by walking up to it and climbing under the covers. After painting the above, though, I am now concerned that The Man has simply relocated himself. I therefore exercise extreme caution when I walk past my flower beds.

Ever seen a gardener do flying leaps to enter and leave her garden?

CHEERS!





Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Origins of Language

On Taunton Pond, acrylic on linen, 18 by 24 inches

TOMADDOW I will know the word for water
is not and never was g'ning-g'ning.
That's just a song the pipes sing.

But I like the spoonerism U Nork.
I don't really want to say New York
Tomaddow.

When I'm angry at mom who dozed
I will not tell her I am closed–closed
because I wanted cake for heaven's sake.
The word for cake's menum.
It's really not so dumb–the word menum.
The superlative's menumeneeeee
menumenummenumeneeeeeeeeee!
saved for chocolate and coined by me.

Tomaddow I'll not mark time by sleeps.
Instead, I'll count with days and weeks
In fact, I shall not even say tomaddow
tomorrow.

Dear, dear, dear, dear, dear
I have no idea–it is simply so unclear
why I would want to talk so drear
tomaddow.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

An Artist Thing


An Artist's Thing, pen and ink on paper, digital color























YOU MIGHT NOT THINK SO, but painting is a lot like cleaning. In painting you start with a surface (the canvas), apply media to it, swirl it around a bit, and then polish it with glazes. By doing this, you are changing and improving the surface of the canvas. After you complete your work, there is an image on it. It is now pleasing to look at. In cleaning, you also start with surfaces–say a window. You squirt some Windex on it, swirl it around, and polish with a dry cloth. You have altered its surface so that it has a high sheen and you can see your reflection in it –that's an image.

All my life I have been going for the image. I am told that when I was a toddler, I would have a fit if I got even one nano-sized spot of chocolate ice cream on my dress. I would scream and beat my little fists on the floor until my mother changed my dress. She apparently didn't understand why a little girl would care so much about a slightly soiled dress. She did not yet know that I would be an artist. Artists go for the image.

Detail of Susan the Immaculate, pen, ink on paper, digital color

A few years later, Mrs. Gordon, our housekeeper would yell at my brother and sister because their rooms were habitually littered with empty soda bottles, half-eaten tuna sandwiches, dirty underwear and the odoriferous remnants of chemistry experiments gone bad. (They did not grow up to be artists.) She would tell them, "Look at Susie's room. Everything is so neat and clean in there. All I have to do in there is pull up the bed covers." You can imagine how this endeared me to my siblings. But that really was all Mrs. Gordon had to do. My room was the precursor to my canvas.

As a teenager, I took so many baths (I am now down to a maximum of two a day) that my father began calling me "Susan the Immaculate"–and we weren't even Catholic. I was just going for the freshly-scrubbed image. My parents still didn't know that I would become an artist and neither did I. I just thought that I would be really clean.

Perhaps I went too far when I was straightening up the upstairs bedrooms in my parents' house. My father once had one of his surgeon buddies sleep over at the house. They both left their false teeth on their respective bedside tables. I didn't like the way that looked so I put their dentures in the bathroom cabinet. It was pretty funny the next morning seeing two world famous surgeons searching around, grumbling "Where'd we put our teeth!" (Actually, it sounded like "derew ew tup ruo hteet!")

When I got my first apartment, my friends knew that they were not permitted to leave their hand bags on the floor. I explained to them that it was tantamount to taking a handful of red paint and hurling it at one of my paintings. Neither the handbag nor the paint belonged. They were not part of the composition. If the handbags were pretty enough, my guests could put them on the hall table.  But if left on the floor or ugly, their handbags would be whisked away, or "hidden" as my husband now calls this behavior, not to be seen again until their departure. My smarter friends always chose a apretty bag when coming to visit and asked, "Is this pretty enough for the table?"

 Susan the Immaculate, pen, ink on paper, digital color

In graduate school at NYU, although I had a near-perfect GPA, not one professor ever commented favorably on my paintings. Professor Humphreys said "Wow!" once, but that's because it was a nude (who looked remarkably like me) with butterflies coming out of her stomach. However, at the beginning of every studio painting class, when my fellow students were running out to buy a canvas, or were out of cerulean blue, or in the most egregious cases forgot that it was a studio day altogether and did not bring their brushes and paints, I was always highly complimented. Numerous professors asked their classes "Why can't you be more organized. Look at Ms. McLaughlin. She has her paints all mixed because she keeps them all in air-tight jars so they don't dry out, her canvas is already sized and primed, she's researched her subject and she is blocking in her paint rough already. And you are first going out to the art supply store?" I know this sounds more like kindergarten than grad school, but it really happened. One of my fellow students, with paint dripping all over her, once announced that she had tried and failed to imagine me with even one spot of paint on myself. A practicing psychiatrist who for some reason was auditing one of my studio classes declared me "pathologically neat."

One day shortly after I graduated, I was surprised by none other than the head of NYU's painting program himself. He came upon me as I was exiting my personal studio at the school. After not making a single comment about my work the entire year, he said to me, "There are some mighty exciting paintings in that studio of yours." Before I could even thank him, he followed with, "Would you mind getting them out of there along with your easel and paints. I've got two students coming in tomorrow from Japan and I need the studio for them." He didn't really like my paintings, he didn't even like my organizational skills, he just liked my leaving!

To this day I cannot start painting until everything in my studio is clean, shiny and perfectly arranged. I would be more concerned about what might appear to be the manifestations of obsessive–compulsion disorder, had I not read a biography of Willem de Kooning. Luckily, I had learned that every Saturday morning, the great artist would strip the wood floors in his studio, and clean and polish them himself. He thought it very important that his floors shine. Before he could start reflecting on his canvas, he wanted to see his reflection in his floors.

It must be an artist thing.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Air Drawing



Jennifer, Blush and eyebrow pencil  on open matchbook cover, 3x 1"





Bouquet, pencil, berries,emon juice and grass on napkin, 5 x 5inches

Bouquet No.2, pencil, berries, lemon juice and grass on napkin, 5 x 5inches





















EVERYTHING AROUND ME  at Foxglove Cottage is so beautiful that when I look at things,  my fingers start twitching with mock drawing. This is similar to playing air guitar, so  I call it air drawing. Unfortunately, the seemingly purposeless movement of my hands is a dead ringer for the movements caused by the nervous disorder, St. Vitus Dance. My twitchy air-drawing fingers remind me of the James Brown song, "I Got Ants in my Pants (And I Want to Dance)."The only difference is that I got ants on my hands and I want to draw.

I felt better about this condition after I read Chaim Potok's novel "My name Is Asher Lev." It happened to the eponymous painter Asher Lev as well. Perhaps it is a common artist's affliction. Sometimes the purposeless hand and finger movement is gentler and less obtrusive, for example, if I am air drawing an outline of a subject. Invariably, though, it crescendos into feverish, frantic back-and-forth motion because I eventually have to air shade within the air outline that I have just  air drawn. At this stage, I am compelled to  find some implements with which to convert the air drawings into actual drawings. So, I  use whatever materials are on hand.

I am very fond of these urgent little drawings that I do on found paper with found implements–poor cousins to the careful, thoughtful drawings that I do in my well equipped studio.. They are urgent and uninhibited and that's what makes them fresh. Speaking of fresh, Matisse and Picasso both used to draw and paint using bodily fluids and products for pigment. Ugh! I draw the line there (pun intended). But I have used pigments derived from berry juice, grass, dirt, lemons, tea and makeup on matchbook covers or napkins, or even bare fingers on fogged-up windows. In a perhaps futile attempt to appear normal, I have to give my quivering hands some purpose, something with which to draw and something upon which to draw. It's either that or I will be carted off to the nearest neurologist quicker than you can say,"I got ants on my hands and I want to draw!"

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Lovebirds, the Owl and the Alligator


Lovebirds, watercolor on paper, 8 x 11 inches
ONCE THERE WAS a handsome but not so smart young lovebird named Igno. He was content in his life, because he loved Oriole, a fluffy, colorful french songbird who sang sweetly to him every day. She loved him, too. He carried her with him everywhere in a gilded Hermes cage. Upon viewing these two lovebirds, the creatures of Foxglove would ask, " Igno, can't Oriole fly?" "Yes," Igno would reply, "she can, but thank God she doesn't have to." All laughed merrily. Oriole really didn't mind the cage because she was cagey and liked to be with Igno. "It's Hermes for chirp's sake!" she chirped.
                                                
Igno's and Oriole's best friend in all of Foxglove was a wise old owl. He accompanied them everywhere. The three of them were very happy. Sadly, one day the wise old owl sauteed his last mouse, hooted his last hoot, fell ill, and died. Igno and Oriole did everything they could to save him, but, alas, they could not. It was time for the wise old owl to cross peacefully over to the Other Side. He did so with grace and dignity, imparting wisdom upon them as he took his leave. "Never admire an alligator's teeth in the sun," he told them.

Alligator,  watercolor on paper 8 x 11 inches






















Igno and Oriole were contemplating the loss of their beloved Owl down by the lake one sunny afternoon when an alligator swam right up to them. Paradise lost. The alligator said, her pendulous pink tongue darting in and out between glittering white teeth, "Igno (and, of course, Oriole), my name is Minious and Owl and I were soulmates. I loved him so much, I never even tried to eat him. I won't try to eat you either because you loved Owl. That makes us soulmates." Igno, admiring the alligator's teeth, became blinded by the glare of the sun off of them, lost sight of Oriole and agreed enthusiastically. He was so addled by the glare, he thought that was just what he needed–a sharp-toothed predator to fill the void created by the demise of his beloved friend Owl. The alligator further confused Igno by keeping her smile fixed at a 45 degree angle to the sun for maximum reflection.

Oriole, winging it, warbled a warning into Igno's warped ear. "Minious is green, for chirp's sake, green, chirp chirp–green with envy." "Owl warned us about admiring an alligator's teeth in the sun," she warbled on. Igno said, "Oriole, you're spoiling my fun." She flew away still warbling, but her warning did not register on Igno. It was too late. The reflection from the alligator's teeth had blinded Igno to the truth, causing infidelity, mood swings, poor judgment and danger to him and his loved ones.

Minious allowed Igno to ride around on her slimy, green back so long as he kept on admiring her teeth. They were, indeed, soulmates now. Together, Igno and Minious became one–Ignominious. One cloudy day, Igno finally realized that he really had nothing in common with the uncommonly common alligator and indeed didn't even like her at all. Without the glare of the sun, he came to his senses, realized he loved only Oriole and told Minious he was leaving to look for Oriole. First, he was nearly drowned by large, soggy alligator tears. Then a blinding smile appeared on Minious's face as her big teeth caught the last rays of the setting sun peeking out from the clouds. Unfortunately for Igno, at that very moment a big hunger came over Minious as he leaned in to get a better view of her teeth. She lost control of her appetite, made Igno into a fillet of soulmate, and downed it in one bite. Then she burped, polished her teeth and waddled off, her sated belly dragging through the mud, looking for a new soulmate.

The only good that came of this ignominious affair was that Igno now resides on the Other Side and is having fun again with his old pal, Owl (even if Owl has replaced "hoots" with "told-ya-so's.") They both miss Oriole and are awaiting her arrival. But they know that it will not be anytime soon because Oriole is too smart to admire an alligator's teeth in the sun. She knows that– ...

Alligators make better shoes than soulmates.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Visitors, Wanted and Unwanted



Blue Shutters,  acrylic on linen, 36 x 24 inchesXXXXXXXXXXXX

THE FLOWERS  at Foxglove are very similar to my friends in that they visit us in the spring and summer. My popularity greatly increases during those seasons because we live right on a lake. The flowers, like my friends, stay for a bit while I enjoy their beauty. But after a brief stay, they depart. Although I miss them, I do not despair because I know they will return the following year.

The perfect blooms of pieris japonica are one of the first to visit me in spring. The sight of its pendulous, clustered creamy flowers peeking over the deck warms my heart and quickly gives me winter amnesia. Then, as if to distract me from pieris, forsythia arrives, bright-yellow and sending its wild flowered shoots skyward. This is an unruly sight, but truly electrifying. Indeed, with its shoots standing on end, the shrubs look like they are being electrocuted. We never prune our forsythia. The part that does not stand straight up tumbles over an eight-foot row of trellises between lake and land and down the other side above a narrow path, creating a golden passageway between land and lake. At the lakefront, forsythia arches over and down our seawall, painting the lake yellow.
I enjoy all this yellow but it makes me feel hot. I need a breeze now. Luckily for me, the lilacs, with their twenty-foot high fluffy heads of foliage, start producing their fragrant lavender and white panicles. The extra weight causes these extremely tall shrubs to sway, fanning me with perfumed breezes off the lake.

Just when I am feeling soothed by the lilacs, the riot of the rhododendron explodes. I am accosted by mound after mound of rhododendron flowers, their long trusses in brilliant shades of orange, scarlet, hot pink and white seemingly mocking me as a painter. They scream "We can paint better than you." They are right. These loud, brightly colored shrubs can paint a better picture than any artist . Even the forsythia looks pale by comparison, so it slowly fades away. I am braver than the forsythia; I stay put and use the rhododendron for inspiration.

Sometimes, we have a guest that I really don't want. Her name is multiflora rose. Her rambling, arching canes rise directly from a crack in some boulders beside our cottage. I greet her every year with mixed feelings. On the one hand I admire her tenacity and in-bloom beauty. But on the other, she is uninvited, ubiquitous and invasive. I hate to be violent, but soon I must start pulling her out by her roots.
I hope I never have to do that to any of my human guests.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Coming Out

 
Lady of the House, acrylic on linen, 24 x 18 inches



Happy New Year, with all the new beginnings that will unfold over the next 12 months. I am excited to have been invited to start mine off exhibiting  in Art Fort Lauderdale later this month.

Looking back at the year that just ended, I finally did it! I came out! I am now officially a “deb," a debutante presented to art-loving society all over the world. My cotillion took place at Spectrum Miami during Art Basel Week last month, where I and my paintings danced 'til dawn for five days while being introduced to collectors at the extraordinary art-filled ball...er…that is…booth of Irreversible Projects under the nurturing eye of our curator and mentor, Noor Blazekovic.

The literal meaning in French of the word debutante is ”female beginner.” Americans adapted the word to mean a young lady entering high society for the first time. However, I believe the word can also be applied to my painting career. At one time I thought my beginning was when I earned a Master of Arts in Studio Art from New York University in 1995. But I was mistaken. My debut is now. My new work has just begun.


       
At Spectrum/ Art Basel, Miami with my paintings
                                                              

Lady of the House and Moon's Day Off are  special paintings for me because they so clearly embody my overall artistic thesis: harmony between humanity and nature. Lady (see large detail above is a vignette of a corner of Foxglove, my century-old cottage in Newtown, CT. When I first arrived at Foxglove 20 years ago, I thought that because I am a human being, I was the lady of the house. However, from observing the bustling, nesting and nurturing animal and avian goings-on around the cottage, I discovered that I am far from the only one. In fact, there are many ladies of the house. For instance, the doe who leaves her fawn in the safe haven of my garden while she forages for food in the woods; the barn owl who studies us in our habitat from our terrace railing as if we are the creatures in a zoo, not her; or the spider who quietly spins a web in my gardening hat (while I am wearing it!) as if it were her own personal manifest destiny. I hope she doesn’t raise a family there! But if she does, I must remember that we are all in this together, more similar than different.


                             
Foxglove  Day Journal, pen and ink.

More than 82,000 people from all over the world attended Art Basel Miami Beach and its associated events last month. I am delighted to announce that one of them (perhaps a lady of the house herself) purchased both of my paintings to bring home with her because…

Cotillions are fun, but home is where the art is.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Castle in the Sky

Detail - Castle in the Sky, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24 inches (click to enlarge) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
                    
MY GARDEN PARTY paintings have been  very well received up and down the East Coast. Well, why not? Who doesn’t like a party? After Garden Party’s debut at the Westfield Broward Gallery in Plantation, FL, Madame Garden Party was invited to be in the 75th Regional Exhibition at the Arnot Museum (NY) for the entire summer. Alice's Aura  from the group was exhibited at the Treat Gallery, NYC. and Castle in the Sky (above)  was shown at Manhattan Arts International Gallery as part of The Healing Power of Art exhibition and earned an Award of Excellence from  Renee Phillips, the gallery director.

I started painting Garden Party as just that: an outdoor party on a blanket on top of the earth’s soil where the guests' concerns did not extend beyond getting the last deviled egg, keeping dirt off the devil’s food cake and their clothing, and holding the local wildlife at bay. However as the series progressed, it became apparent to me that the work was so much more. Castle in the Sky depicts an evolved world where total harmony exists between humanity and nature. In fact, the two worlds have melted into one. Stylistically, society and its products (the girl, the castle and the chair) and the environment (the birds, sky, beach and water) have merged into one natural, utopian democracy. In this alternative airborne world, you can view the earth as we know it in snippets on the right side of the canvas. It’s between the girl’s torso and elbow and to the right of her thigh.

In all the Garden Party paintings, while technically painting a picnic, conceptually I found that I was exploring societal and environmental concerns by combining fantasy and reality. I used microscopic details to provide playful suggestions of a better, healthier world. This beautiful symbiosis is my "castle in the sky." Unlike the usual connotations that phrase carries, I believe it is perfectly achievable if we listen when the earth speaks to us.

I am not the first artist to dream of a Castle in the Sky. The master Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki designed his own floating world in an anime also entitled Castle in the Sky. Miyazaki said that he does not want to push any message on moviegoers; he just wants them to be happy after seeing his movies. I feel the same about my viewers. Still, I need to conclude this newsletter with a quote from the master:

"The earth speaks to all of us, and if we listen, we can understand."


Shhhh…listen.




Friday, November 24, 2017

Moon's Day Off

Detail Good Day Moon, acrylic on linen, 24 x 18"



  I THINK MY PERSONAL MOON  is in alignment with the universe. I have been invited to exhibit my most recent paintings with Irreversible Projects at Spectrum Miami 201(Booth 307) during Art Week in Miami. Everyone else under the moon will be in Miami during Art Week.

And speaking of the moon, in case you ever wondered where the moon goes when he is off duty…he goes home. Just like you and I do.
                      
In Good Day Moon, one of two paintings I created for Spectrum Miami, Mr. Moon is pictured chilling at home, relaxing among his pets and flowers, and about to partake of his breakfast–coffee and a croissant with jam. He loves the way croissants taste, but he loves their shape even more because it reminds him of his own form when he is waxing or waning into his quarter–moon self.  As you can see, his home is quite like ours in all but one respect–it lacks a roof.

It’s kind of spooky how my paintings sometimes design themselves. At those moments I feel that I am merely a laborer following the guidance of some mystical art director. For instance, I had no idea when I started painting the interior background that it would become home to the moon. I was merely making a complimentary-colored backdrop for a bouquet. During the early stages of a painting, my decisions are mostly compositional. So when it came to painting the ceiling, I decided that I would leave the room open to the sky for no reason other than that the blues and whites of the sky would make a pretty backdrop for the flowers in the foreground.

To strengthen the geometry of the composition, I repeated the circle created by the lamp, although I had no idea what it would end up being.  So for most of the time I was working on the painting Mr. Moon was just a penciled-in circle. When it occurred to me that the circle should be the moon (there’s that mystical art director again) his home was already architecturally designed specifically for his needs. Of course the man in the moon would have no ceiling on his house. He wouldn’t use a door to enter either. He’d just drop down from the dawn sky and rise up again into the twilight when he had to return to work.


See you soon, under the light of the silvery moon!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Tingling Elbows

Susan and Alice's Aura at NSU Art Museum of Ft. Lauderdale, FL.




































THIS IS THE FIRST TIME  I exhibited  my work in a museum. I was invited by NSU Art Museum's director  Bonnie Clearwater when I was a painting student at the museum. She loved and chose Alice's Aura  even though her assistant had selected another painting for the show.  The museum staff told me that Ms. Clearwater labeled me a cross between Frida Kahlo and Alice Neel.

At the time of my exhibit, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were showing in the museum's main gallery. You know, your elbows tingle when you are rubbing them against the masters. I hope some of their greatness wore off on me! You can buy my work or prints of it here. My paintings are still cheaper than Kalho's or Neal's, at least until I get a few more museum exhibits under my belt.

Here's a better look at Alice's Aura . She was recently shown in the Treat Gallery, NYC.


Alice's Aura, acrylic on linen, 40 x 30 inches

A Letter to my Canvas

Golden Lady, acrylic on linen, 60 x 36 inches


DEAR CANVAS,

I am work,
you are art.
Together we are work of art.
An implement used in your bidding
with no brain, no train of thought,
voraciously I suck in colors all day long
and stuff myself
with starry shapes from the night
hoarding them to spew forth
like detritus out of flu's belly
when creativity beckons.

As you glut yourself
with my sensual shapes and color,
I watch them seep into your empty whiteness
until you are saturated– with me! You laugh
as you are tickled by my brushes,
sable soft hair masagiing
my spirit into you nebulous soul.
I love and hate you, vacuous sponge
screaming for my cadmium red––my blood!
Selfless hands continue love's labor
giving you everything you want
to the detriment of all else.
We need each other more than ever now,
urgently our transaction is consummated and
We are one: work of art.

But then you leave me,
alone.
Just like all the others before you,
proud and independent
sychophants gawking.
You alone are work of art
And I am nothing without you.

I could join the others
but colors and shapes collide
inside my throbbing head
in their eagerness to be born.
I must help them,
let them out.
I am work.

Yours,

Susan

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Now and forever



NOW AND FOREVER, ART AND LIFE are so intermingled as to be indistinguishable. And so, for me anyway, are art and words...I hope, dear readers, that you do not think me an exhibitionist for showing off the burlesque of my skeleton in the name of art. Rather, I prefer to be thought of as an explorer of the physical world. To facilitate such exploration, I always try to put words to my art and art to my words. In this case I could think of no better way to draw the phrase now and forever than to juxtapose the "now" of my living flesh and being with the "forever" of my bones in the above split image.

I have not, as some have long suspected, taken leave of my senses or become morbidly depressed. I have wanted to do this drawing for a long time, but have been afraid that I would be hauled off to an asylum (if there are any left)–unless Halloween were impending when, for some reason, darkness prevails and skeletons become acceptable as a scary form of ersatz art.

I have no idea why our skeletal systems would be considered frightening. They are merely struts which enable our bodies to stand upright. Without a skeleton we would look like jellyfish minus the tentacles–just a tangle of gooey organs thumping around, loosely held together by a thin enclosure  of skin in a not-so-neat little wriggling blob. Now that would be scary!

I once viewed  my own skeleton during a visit to a radiologist who was assessing the damage an art- related injury had caused me. I had suddenly become unable to move my head, neck or arms after turning in an assignment to the New York Law Journal.  My doctor sent me to a radiologist who asked me if I had been in a car accident. Apparently every tendon in my neck and shoulders was torn. I wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention to him because I was fascinated  by the hundred or so x-rays hanging round us as if they were art.  I was amazed when I recognized my own among them as I had previously thought all skeletons looked pretty much the same.  But mine, in fact, was a dead (oops, poor choice of words) ringer for me.

Oh, the accident...it was not vehicular at all but spilled-ink-ular. While finishing up a drawing and happily anticipating the couple of hours of sleep I would get, my formerly careful cat and faithful studio assistant, Muse, knocked over my bottle of ink, ruining my drawing. I was beyond miffed, so  I slammed my fist with all my might into the drawing board, giving new meaning to the expression back to the drawing board. And then, in fact, I went back to the drawing board. Because, no matter what, art prevails.

Today my tendons have healed,  and I still stand gloriously upright thanks to my skeleton, but I realize there will come a time when I will no longer be alive.

Life is now. Only art is forever. so I...

paint on!







Got a Bone in my Leg

Got a Bone in my Leg, digital painting


Bone Jour,

I'M SITTING IN MY PORCH drinking coffee out of a bone china coffee cup and thinking about bones. And, yes, bone china is actually made from bones. This moderately creepy component of china has inspired me to post some thoughts on bones. But wait a minute, I have to get a sweater first, because I'm chilled to the bone from the cool, early morning air. I know a lot about bones. I became familiar with them at an early age. My father was an orthopedic surgeon–yeah, an old sawbones.

Make no bones about it, bones have done a lot for me. In addition to their more prosaic raisons d' etre of supporting my body, allowing me to walk upright and protecting my brain (moderately successfully), while I was growing up my bones helped me in any number of ways:

As any not-so proper doctor's daughter would have done, I viewed a lot of scandalous, X-rated photos when snooping around in my father's medical library.

Because my father was the team's doctor, I often sat in a box seat right behind the New York Giants' dugout. In addition to watching players break their bones at close range, I got to talk to Willie Mays, Hank Sauer and Bobby Thomson. They waved to us when returning to the dugout and sent us home with autographed balls and gloves.


My wishes would be granted if, while breaking the wishbone at dinner with my brother, Tommy, I got the long end. Bones also have their downside. I have a bone to pick over what we had to do as kids if we wanted our mothers to be safe from fractures. Remember hopping around avoiding cracks on the sidewalk so you wouldn't "Step on a crack, break your mother's back"? Nice! And the equally nice retort reminding us that bones break, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me."

Despite the breakage factor, boney though I was, I led an enchanted life.

For instance, when I went to visit my father at the hospital, I thought he was some kind of ghostly deity. He wore a long white coat which billowed out and fluttered behind him when he walked and sparkled when it caught the light. He was generally followed by a group of ghostlets in shorter white coats who stuck very close while listening attentively to his every humerus (pun intended) word. Soon the ghost and ghostlets became one–an amorphous, shifting form propelled down the hospital corridors above a flurry of locomotion created by the 16 or so shiny, loafer-clad feet beneath it.

I knew when I was going to get the brushoff. It was when we arrived at my father's office in the hospital. The brass nameplate next to the door read "Head Ghost." Actually it read "Harrison McLaughlin, M.D.," but I couldn't yet read then. Too busy floating around the hospital to enter, my father would stick his head in the office and say "Mrs. Graham, would you mind Suzie while the boys (those were the short-coated, adhered ghostlets) and I go take care of another one of these critters?" The "critters" apparently were the patients who were either waiting to get their bones sawed or those who had already had their bones sawed and were recuperating in various, slings, braces, and plaster casts, while hung from the ceiling in traction. I felt terribly sorry for all those critters because once they were seen by my father and his boys, they never walked again–they "ambulated."

I loved hanging out in the Head Ghost's office. A complete human skeleton hung from what looked like a meat hook in the ceiling. At first I thought it spooky, but then I made friends with it and danced with those merry, dangling bones in our private, ether-scented ballroom to the rhythmic clickety-clack of Mrs. Graham's typewriter. There was also a skull on the desk with whom I had many in depth conversations about, well, bones and other important matters (such as what had happened to the skull's teeth and what's it like to be dead) crucial to a 4-year old, while waiting for my ghost––I mean my father–to return.


When visiting my grandfather, Papa Bisgood, bones came up frequently. I would constantly invite Papa to come out and do things with me. Once in a while he would, but usually he said that he could not. When I asked him why, he never gave any reason other than "I've got a bone in my leg." Year's later I recounted Papa's excuse to my husband, and to this day he declines invitations with "I'd love to, but I've got a bone in my leg." It works; people just don't question such a regret.

My next encounter with bones occurred when I had an art-related accident (that's another post) and severed several of the tendons in my neck and shoulders. My doctor sent me to a radiologist for an X-ray of my head and torso. I entered the radiologist's office after the x-rays were taken, and noticed that literally hundreds of other x-rays were hanging on the office walls–sort of like art. Until then, I had always thought that skeletons were generic and would look pretty much alike. However, I was stunned and a little bit frightened to see that mine looked exactly like me. I could pick "me" out instantaneously–perhaps because my bones are petite and my face doesn't have much integument. I stared at the dark, empty eye sockets in that roentgenogram and my eyes itched to be cradled in them. Those bones claimed me. The skull, clavicle, sternum and all 24 ribs, some sort of grim, ersatz chorus, sang to me, "Yes, we are thee ! This is what you'll be sooner than you think."
For a while, I took solace in the fact that my bones will be around for a long time after the rest of me goes organic and returns to the earth. But they will not last forever. When I die, I will not have to say goodbye to them right away. Depending on soil conditions, it may take hundreds of years before they disintegrate and become one with the universe. But when they do, it's...

Bone voyage!

Paint on,
Depingo


Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Peacock Moon


Peacock Moon, acrylic on linen, 30 x 20 inches


 I TRY TO CREATE a feeling of stillness in my paintings.  I want the paintings to visually suggest a lull, a sense of portent, slowing a moment right down to its core of frozen energy. I do this because I know that each viewer will bring a different set of life experience to the art, and this enables them to be able to come up with a totally different “story” than the artist’s.


That said, the curator of my recent summer exhibition asked me to write the “story” behind each of my paintings and posted these mini-essays next to the paintings. She felt this would help viewers to engage with the art and that the artist’s “story” at least would give the viewer a platform from which to depart.


Above is the art, and here is the way it came about: I have always been enamored of an antique white garden bench which I have had forever. The bench sings a song to me with its swirling G-clef motif on the seat and rambling flowered vines on the back. I wanted to paint those delightful patterns. I then added a couple of birds to give the painting a little bit of color. In order to balance the composition, and for mystery, I added a bride and groom in their wedding finery rowing in a boat in the moonlight.
 

But here’s the “story” behind the art:

P. Koch and his bride, Henrietta, whom he called “Hen,” embarked on their new forever life. It didn’t turn out exactly as planned, however, because they got caught under the spell of the Peacock Moon. This moon was so exquisitely beautiful that Hen became enchanted and felli n love with it. This infuriated P. In an attempt to make himself more desirable than the moon, P. donned all of the jewelry he had brought on board to bestow upon his bride. When he finished, Hen told him he was indeed more dazzling than the moon and that she would love him forever.

As if in answer to Hen’s sentiment, the jilted moon started pelting them with jewels that were bigger and brighter than either of them had ever seen. P. quickly gathered and fastened the gems to his tuxedo tails to insure Henrietta’s continued love. The boat, now heavy with the extra weight of the moon jewels, sunk quickly.

Just as P. approached the bottom of the river, his bejeweled tails magically turned into colorful feathers which buoyed him up to the surface. Henrietta grabbed onto the feathers and together they floated downriver in the reflected colors of the Peacock Moon. Finally, they landed on an island with a single bench, where they remained for eternity.

P. Koch had become exquisitely beautiful but couldn’t do much anymore. With all the added weight, he moved slowly and awkwardly. He also lost his power of speech and instead had an ugly squawk for a voice. The formerly lovely Henrietta curiously started sprouting brown feathers all over. She had taken on all the colors of the Peacock Moon as they mixed together in her reflection in the river. Alone her colors were brilliant, but when mixed, they turned a muddy brown. And so did she.

As it became clear to the two of them that this was to be their forever life, and that there was no going back to their former existence, there was but one thing left to do. P. made a nameplate and hung it on their new home–the  bench.  It read: “Peacock and Peahen forever.”

Artists have long been inspired by peacocks. Here’s a painting done in 1683 by the Dutch artist Melchior d’ Hondecoeter. I could look at this one…
 

Forever,                                                        

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Legend of Appel and Falleisha


Detail - Waterfall, Acrylic on Board, 36 x 24 inchesXXXXX



































  
APPEL ALWAYS LEFT THE FACTORY for his lunch. He canned applesauce there. It was a bus man's affair of sorts–his lunch––because he always took an apple with him. He had discovered the perfect spot to enjoy lunch. He did not wish to spend his lunch at the factory with his fellow caners. After all, he was with them all day, every day, anyway. It was just a hop, skip and a jump from the factory to the secluded site where he could escape the harrowing noise of the factory.

Had there not been a waterfall, he would still have heard the factory noises, but the waterfall drowned all that completely out. He felt at home and sometimes thought he wanted to stay in that spot by the waterfall forever. No chance of that! At the end of lunch, back to the factory he went.

Appel loved the waterfall so much, he would sit there gazing upon it for his entire lunch hour. He was transfixed by its cool whiteness and purity. Indeed, he would not even eat his lunch because he wanted to give back to the waterfall all the beauty and pleasure it gave him. So, every day just before he had to return to work at the factory, he would stand up, and whisper, "for you my dear Fall" and drop his apple into the rushing swell. It made quite a splash. Had he not been such a practical, well- balanced young man, he might have even thought that it made the waterfall happy and that the resultant splashes were laughter. He stayed there for a few moments, watching the water play with the apple until it disappeared into its mighty current. As always, he wished he could stay there forever. Alas, he was rooted in reality; he would go back.

On one foggy day, Appel was just settling into his spot. He couldn't see very much that day, except for a rainbow which had arched through the misty grey skies to touch the waterfall. But he could feel the waterfall's presence. Suddenly, he had the sensation of being caressed, even loved, although no one was with him. It is just the spray from the falls, he thought prosaically. The fog lifted a bit and as his eyes adjusted to the prevailing light, he was startled to see that he was not alone any more. Much to his amazement and delight, a beautiful girl was sitting cross legged right in front of him. She was incredibly lovely, but so pale he felt that she was in danger of disappearing into the whiteness of the falls. He had not heard her approach over the thunder of the falls, but there she was, right there in front of him.

Appel chuckled to himself because the girl was glistening, totally wet with rivulets of water pouring down her cheeks and forehead, a diaphanous watery veil about her face. Large, sparkling pear-shaped drops of water dangled from her earlobes. He had never seen such gorgeous decoration! She must have walked too close to the Falls, he mused. She didn't say much, but he really didn't care about that. He was thinking out loud that he would love to know her name. She uttered something. He was not sure if the sound was from her lips or if it was one of the rushing, slurping sounds the Falls made. But he knew he heard something - Falleisha ... Yes, Falleisha! And he knew in his heart that was her name, no matter where it came from.

Then he noticed something odd. The girl had a plate in her lap as if she were at a picnic, yet it was empty. He reached into his satchel for his apple and placed it on her plate. She returned the favor and produced, seemingly out of nowhere, a bottle of water and gave it to him. He drank it and noted it was the sweetest, purest, most refreshing water he had ever tasted.

She did not eat her apple right away. Instead, she played with it, throwing it up in the air and catching it, spinning it, twirling it around in and out of the copious waves of her abundant pale blue skirt. She hid it behind her back, then finally rolled it down between her breasts and watched it fall onto her plate. Finally, she threw it into the rushing waters at the bottom of the Falls. They both watched it bob into and out of view in the watery foam. Then, as suddenly as Falleisha had appeared, she was gone. Having no apple to give to the Falls because he had given it to Falleisha, he stuck his face into the spray and quietly announced, "I'll love you forever."

The very next day Appel wore his best shirt to work. It did not matter to him that the guys at the factory teased him about it mercilessly. He wore it because he had a feeling Falleisha would like it. It was the rich brown color of healthy soil with a pattern of branches and leaves all over it. He could hardly wait for the lunch bell to ring. When it finally sounded, he ran as fast as he could to his special spot and awaited the arrival of Falleisha. It seemed to take forever, but she finally appeared. He placed the apple on her plate and at that very moment, the rainbow appeared and clarified what he was doing. He was bestowing youth, beauty, happiness and immortality upon the one he loved, Falleisha. When she gave him the bottle of water, she bestowed upon Appel her snow-white purity for the ages. He drank of the purity and noticed that the branches and leaves of his shirt seemed to be growing, digging into the soil and reaching out over Falleisha. They had also grown roots and were pushing way down into the earth. His soil-colored shirt had turned into actual soil. Observing this, Falleisha started laughing. Water poured off of her, bathing what used to be Apel's human limbs but were now limbs of a tree. His branches were sprouting something red. What were those red things anyway? Then a very familiar scent wafted through the air between his limbs. It was unmistakable. The scent was that of apples.

The rainbow faded away, Falleisha played with her apple a bit, dropped it into the rushing waters and once again watched it disappear. She was never to be seen again-ever! Nor was Appel ever seen again after that fateful day.

Two Hundred Years later ....

In the very same spot near the factory where Appel spent his lunch hours and met Falleisha , the Waterfall is still merrily rushing along. There is an extraordinarily huge, tall apple tree which has taken over pretty much the whole spot. The tree is as healthy today as the day it was seeded because its roots have grown mighty and reached down into the aquifer through which it is nourished and refreshed daily. Every day at precisely 1:45 in the afternoon, - you could set your watch by it - this handsome apple tree drops one apple into the waters of the Falls, where it dances and bobs as if it were flirting, until it is consumed. It is the highlight of the waterfall's day.

After that, things quiet down for the afternoon. The tree lubricates himself from the bottom of its roots to the tips of his highest branches and leaves with the falls' life-sustaining waters. When the wind churns up for the evening and starts whistling through the moist leaves and branches, it seems to be singing, "Falleisha is the apple of Appel's eye." It is said that if you are very quiet and listen carefully you can hear Appel whispering to Falleisha, "I'll love you forever."

                                                                           




Sunday, August 6, 2017

Kitchen People

Niagara, digital painting
 THE WALLS ARE ALIVE! With the sound of people!

 I am constantly amazed by my exploration of the world around me. I have decided to share with my readers an important discovery of mine. To wit: there is  another universe which is  teeming with life existing on my kitchen walls. Though strange, the little beings who live in this universe look  something like you and me and pretty much do similar things.  Since I was certain that people would not believe me, I started documenting this universe by painting its inhabitants.

The above painting, Niagara, is my first documentary painting. What's going on here I am not quite sure, but they are clearly there with a cascade of water behind them. They are just  two of the thousands of people carrying on the activities of their  daily little lives–in my kitchen–while I am making toast. They are similar to us in that they are laughing, singing, kissing, being nosy, having babies, celebrating and more.

Forget about being an artist in good standing in the history of art! After this discovery, I will probably win the Nobel Prize!

More kitchen people below.


Thin Ice, digital painting






Kiss, digital painting

Self Toast, digital painting

Newborn, digital painting



Nosy, digital painting

See! Now you  have seen the proof of their existence.