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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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It Lead Three Lives


Water Under the Bridge, which will be shown at Avance Gallery, is the third and final iteration of a painting that has lived three lives.

                    
                             Water Under the Bridge, acrylic, 36 x 24"

All of my paintings start out as nothing but a plain white canvas and then evolve into something different. But in order to complete this one, I had to bury its first two lives under layers of new paint. Like former FBI Director James Comey, I feel slightly nauseated about this coverup and I miss the two inner beauties.  But they are, well, water under the bridge.

Water Under the Bridge began simply enough as one of a series of nude studies I was painting from life models. I called this group Shy Nudes. The series was exhibited at Fort Lauderdale's Fat Village, where Shy Nude #2 enjoyed its heyday as part of a Fat Village monthly Art Walk. I called them “shy” because I painted parts of their anatomy as flowers. I did this in an attempt to illustrate (literally)
the unity of humanity and nature.

The painting's second life was as Two Bucks (one human, one deer), which  embodied a further exploration of my belief in the essential harmony between humanity and nature. That life was ephemeral because I soon became more interested in the water and its possibilities than the two bucks. You can see both of these now-hidden beauties below.

               
                                           Shy Nude #2                                                                                 Two Bucks

It is this capricious, uncharted evolution and resolution of a painting that intrigues me. The discovery is thrilling! Can you imagine starting on a project with no notion of what the end will bring or what it will look like? Or even if you start with an embryonic idea, the finished work often turns out to be something completely different from what you originally contemplated. And then, even after it is finished, it evolves into something else and then morphs into something else again!

Many artists have painted over images for reasons ranging from lack of funds for a new canvas, discouragement, to change of vision–even Picasso! Yes, even his masterpiece Blue Room had two lives: t
he first, a hidden occupant just below the surface paint. You can see him here. If not for infrared technology, he would never have been seen again.

This transformative process of discovery is part of the thrill that I experience time and time again, here, there and elsewhere. That, by the way, is the title of my upcoming solo exhibition opening on August 25th at The Good News Gallery in Woodbury, CT. This will be my third show at this lovely setting. But we can...


Cross that bridge when we come to it,

Saturday, July 1, 2017

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.





Elsewhere

 
Elsewhere, cropped, acrylic on linen, 30 x 24 inchesxxxxxxxxx

As an artist, I am always on the move. Whenever I am working on a painting, I am thinking about the next painting and then the next painting after that. I want to be elsewhere.

However, this dropped me into a time and location warp: when I am in the here and now, it is impossible for me to be elsewhere as well. The problem is that when I get to elsewhere, I am there, so I can't be elsewhere. So the only way to be elsewhere is not to be there. All the while I was painting Elsewhere in order to be there, show it to you, my viewer, and to clarify it for myself, I had to think of my next elsewhere, which is my next painting. I was therefore not elsewhere while painting Elsewhere; I was only elsewhere when I was not painting it–while working on my previous painting and thinking about my subsequent painting (both elsewhere and Elsewhere).

While in this state of painting flux, I always had you in mind. I took you with me. That’s what painters do. Every one of you is right there with me in the middle of this canvas in the land of Elsewhere, or what was elsewhere before and after I painted it. Wherever it is, I’m always glad to have you with me. We’ve got to stick together–here and  there and…elsewhere!



Alice's Aura

 Alices Aura, 40 x 36 inches


MY STUDIO IS ON THE SECOND FLOOR at Foxglove. Mr. Depingo rarely ventures up there, so he doesn't really know what I'm painting at any given moment. I have ideal lighting in the studio, four skylights and two walls of casement windows facing north and south. When I'm almost finished with a painting, I want to see what it looks like in different lighting, so I bring it downstairs.

Last night, after Mr. Depingo, who is naturally skittish, had already gone to sleep, I brought my current work, Alice's Aura, downstairs. I had just finished watching Local Color, a movie about the relationship between two artists. Because most of my intellectual and emotional life is devoted to art, if I am not painting myself, I watch others paint. This film inspired me to study my own painting, so I brought Alice downstairs and propped her up on the wicker love seat on the porch.

Alice Bisgood, my late Aunt Oddie, was the model for this life-sized painting. I prefer painting someone I know rather than a professional model. Doing so adds depth to the portrait because of the non-formal dimension the model's personality brings to the painting. Even when I am painting a portrait, I am painting shapes, not facial features or anatomy. The fact that I knew Alice makes the painting of her more challenging because in addition to rendering her shapes accurately, I have to take into consideration the intangible quality of her personality. After studying Alice to determine what needed to be done to complete the painting, I left her on the love seat and went to bed.

In the middle of the night, Mr. Depingo was awakened by our dog, Bella, who barked to be let out. In that indeterminate space between dream and wake, he passed through the kitchen, and viewed my painting in the dim porch light. Startled, he jumped because he thought there was a strange woman sitting in our porch. I am glad he didn't try to stab her with a kitchen knife.

As a figurative painter with a formalist bent, like Edouard Manet, the father of modern painting long before me, I am more concerned with shapes and paint–its flow and the patterns and marks it makes. I know that they are the content of a painting more so than any model or subject matter. I know better than to try to paint my subjects literally or "realistically" although I have been accused of doing so. I explain to my accusers it is not even possible to paint realistically because my subjects are three-dimensional and my canvases are two-dimensional. So to even approach the look of reality, I or any other painter has to distort the subject severely when translating from a three- dimensional subject in a two-dimensional format.

Still, the image of Alice was "real" enough to scare Mr. Depingo. What does it mean that Mr. Depingo was startled when he saw the painting? Of course, it took him by surprise, but it also means that my painting techniques worked and Alice's significant form, true inner nature, or aura, if you will, rather than her mere outward appearance, emanated from the painting.

The painter's own aura can be sensed in a work as well. If you look at Willem de Kooning's Women paintings, you will sense de Kooning's aura immediately and strongly. The first time I saw one of these paintings in person, my heart raced, I hyperventilated and nearly fainted right on the floor of the Whitney Museum. The spirit of de Kooning lived on and emanated from the paintings. It seemed as if he were right there with me. It was overwhelming.

Because my use of paint captured Alice's spirit, the painting has a strong emotional pull. I am proud that this painting caused the visceral reaction that it did. It probably means that I am a competent  painter ...or...perhaps...

Mr. Depingo is a big baby.

Paint on,
Depingo

PS. The philosopher Walter Benjamin asserted in his famous treatise The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction that with the advent of mechanical reproduction, the aura of a work is diminished. I believe that you cannot experience the painting's aura by viewing it in digital form either. This in turn means that you're just going to have to come to Out of the Blue at the Avance Gallery (July 9th  opening) if you want to really experience Alice's Aura.






Friday, June 2, 2017

Uncatchable


Uncatchable, detail, mixed media on linen, 36 x 24" (click image  to enlarge)xxxXXXxXXXXx


UNCATCHABLE is one of the "guests" attending my Garden Party, a body of work containing 15 or so paintings exploring the theme of harmony between  humanity and nature. While working on these paintings, I did not know I was painting a garden party. Upon completion, though, observing the finished paintings leaning against my studio wall, I knew just where I was–at a garden party among my “guests.” And who doesn’t like a party!

Despite its theme, Uncatchable, is translucent rather than transparent, raising many questions. For starters:  Is the model morphing into a butterfly since her forearms are comprised of emerging butterflies and she has a winged insect adorning her face?  Is the butterfly a mask or is it part of her face? The butterfly's thorax looks remarkably like a human  nose. Is she in danger of being caught in the nets of the lepidopterists behind her? Is that what's causing "butterflies in the stomach"? Or does her composure and confidence tell us that she is immune to being caught? Or, perhaps in a broader sense she is a stand-in for feminism.

As to the question of why she sports caterpillars as garters? I can answer that...

so her stockings don't fall down!


Friday, May 12, 2017

Waiting for the Comedy

My shoes? Bernie Madoff with them.

PEOPLE ALWAYS ASK ME
how I got to be funny. The truth is, I don't really know. Because I like the out-of-control, exhilarating feeling and sound of laughter, I have always tried to do, say or draw things to elicit it. I could never even fall in love with someone unless he provoked me to laugh. But other than that, I have no notion of where funniness actually comes from or what causes certain people to have it while others do not. We all actually have a funny bone. The only thing funny about the funny bone, though, is that it's not a bone at all. It's a nerve–the ulna nerve–and that weird sensation you feel when you bump your elbow against something is the ulna hitting up against the elecrenon. So it might cause you to feel funny, but not to be funny.

While recently pondering funniness, I thought back to an anecdote Papa Bisgood told me some years ago about taking his little girls, Oddie and Babe, my aunt and my mother, to the Sag Harbor Cinema (which unfortunately recently burned down.) Every Saturday he would buy each of them a chocolate bar at the concession stand. As soon as the lights dimmed and the newsreel came on the screen, my Auntie Oddie would noisily open her candy and swiftly eat it. But Babe would just sit quietly, watching the newsreel, chocolate bar resting in her lap. Papa would lean over and say to her, "Babe, what's the matter, don't you like your candy bar?" My mother replied that she did, but was waiting for the comedy to start before eating it. Sure enough, as soon as the comedy started, and not a second before, my mother unwrapped her chocolate and commenced eating it. Alternately laughing at Popeye and Olive Oil and eating the chocolate, she made the bar last through the entire comedy.

I would have a really nice way of wrapping up this post if Babe had turned out to be a standup comic, but due to the smattering of journalistic honesty in me, I must tell you that she did not. She became a nurse. How embarrassing–thanks to my mother's non-risible career choice I have no clue as to how I can conclude this ...except...wait a minute...it's coming...

except ... EXCEPT ... that I finally have an answer to that baffling question about the origins of funniness. Yeah, I believe that in my sample of one I have proven beyond a scientific doubt that eating chocolate bars while watching a comedy leads to funniness. If my thesis is correct, you are probably asking yourself right now, "Then, why wasn't your mother funny?" That's easy to explain. Funniness skips a generation. That's why I'm funny! Thanks for having the discipline to wait for the comedy, Mom.

(Note to self) Great, now I have to draw a cartoon funny enough to support my candy bar thesis.

And my advice to you, dear reader, is to eat a chocolate bar while reading it.

PS If you don't think the above cartoon is funny, perhaps my thesis is slightly off and funniness actually skips two generations.


LOL

Sunday, May 7, 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.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Painting in the Deep End of the Gene Pool

Catcher

I love to paint portraits.

In addition to the sheer exhilaration I derive from moving paint around on canvas, it is the best way I know to thoroughly get to know another human being. It's fun and challenging to pose my model and set the right lighting. I study every feature of his face, body and posture. I take into account all of the physiognomy and combine it with intangibles such as personality, intelligence, and background.

While I consider all of these elements that will enable me to discover his true essence, the model subjects his body and being to my artist's gaze. It is an extremely intense and intimate experience for both artist and model because we are both giving something of ourselves to the other. A strong bond forms during the early stages of the painting and the intimacy between painter and model grows deeper as the portrait progresses. At least that's how I feel.

I especially love to paint members of the same family line. It is a fascinating experience from beginning to end of the painting. For example, before I started painting my nephew Madison McLaughlin, I would have thought that "a McLaughlin is a McLaughlin is a McLaughlin." This is not so, because many gene pools contribute to one's appearance. In painting a portrait, the different gene pools vie for attention. It's war between the bloodlines. Which side of the gene pool will win? Which will cancel out the other's features? Which is the stronger contributor to the model? Who, in fact, does Madison look like? The answer is that despite all these contributing genes, Madison looks uniquely like himself. It's my job to find him through exploration with my paints.

Even though I am a reasonably accurate portraitist due to the many years I spent working as an illustrator, when I began the Madison portrait, I might as well have been painting Madison's father. The painting looked much more like his father (my brother) than Madison. I made the necessary corrections –perhaps a slightly squarer jaw, a little longer nose or such– but those changes only made him look more like his brother. After a few more alterations, Madison started looking like a male version of his mother. This simply amazes me because, although I was painting Madison, three other related but uninvited faces had appeared in my painting.

At this point, I said to myself, "Well, it doesn't look like Madison, but at least you're in right gene pool–the deep end of the gene pool maybe, but the right gene pool nonetheless." Counterproductive as it might seem, sometimes I even have to resort to intentional distortions of what I actually see in order to make the painting look more like my model. Finally, I prevailed and Madison emerged from the paint as himself. By the way, that is the most significant difference between artists and non-artists. Most people will say, "I can't draw that." Sometimes I can't either, but I keep trying until I can.

Once I got out of the deep end of the gene pool, I finished the painting with Madison holding a net full of live and healthy butterflies, colorful and jittery as I imagine a young man of Madison's age would be as he embarks on the journey of his life. I entitled the painting "Catcher"–a nod to "Catcher in the Rye.




Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Art Trinity: the Painting, the Painter and the Viewer



The painting and the artist at Monmouth Museum
 
The painting and the viewers

The art trinity: Painting, Artist and Viewers

MONMOUTH IS A BEAUTIFUL AND INTIMATE MUSEUM in southern New Jersey.

We, painters  and viewers, had a wonderful time at the fall 2015 opening of Portraits  completing the three-way transaction that exists among the painting, the painter and the viewer. The reason the shows are so satisfying is because the art trinity is not really complete without the viewers.

The paintings, in my case, Catcher, are the stars of the evening. For me Catcher represents harmony between humanity and nature. Once created, however, Catcher became an entity unto itself.

As an artist, I am merely the technician that made Catcher happen. I did this by filtering the model  and all the images that make him up through my mind's eye. I kept the final image translucent, so that viewers can bring their own interpretation as to its meaning.

Most of the viewers told me that they could not figure out whether it was a peaceful image or a disturbing one. That contrast in a work is what makes a painting successful. An art critic/journalist tells us which pieces he decides to write about:

"It is the paintings where I don't get what the artist is trying to do that attract me. They remain with me. I keep thinking about them, trying to figure out what the artist is up to. When I understand what the artist is doing, I say,  "Oh yes, that's nice," and move on because the work no longer engages me."

You're on your own now, Catcher; thanks for being thought provoking!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Post Modern Shark Attack*





Digital Painting:  Hirst's Shark attacking DuChamp's Urinal






Damien Hirst
Nearly burst
Trying to out-camp
Marcel Duchamp.
To top Marcel's conceptual urinal
Damien worked in an air force terminal.
Eventually something fishy did fit
For the iconoclastic, ditsy  Brit.
Executing his fame-obsessed wish
In formaldehyde he dipped a fish
The resultant preserved postmodern shark
Enclosed in glass,  made its mark.
Bought by a hedge fund guy... funny -
Only he could afford the money
No shrieks of envy pass my lips
I'd  rather have my fish with chips.


*My poem and painting above reflect my thinking on some of the art that's around today.  If you would like to read more on the topic, take a look at Simon Doonan's article, Why the Art World Is So Loathsome. In it he quotes Camille Paglia and lets us know why some critics are calling today's art the Post Skills Movement.


















Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Flying Uni-brow


 Frida Kahlo
Lived in the shadow
Of Diego Rivera
Thinking her work was a flop.

She felt small as a  minnow
An amateur in tow
Diego Rivera
Made art hard to top.

The artist considered her uni-brow
"Ugh," she thought; then shrieked, "Wow!"
Mrs.  Rivera
Discarding her tweezer started to slop

Paint on canvas - uni-brows en masse
Deep in the crabgrass in order to outclass
Diego Rivera
Brow beating her man nonstop!





Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Modigliani's Model


From my book of poems, The Flying Unibrow

Modigliani
Searched  nook and cranny
Looking for the perfect model.
An  emotional wreck at full throttle.

He took his search
Through zoo and  church
On a very long trek
For an elongated neck.

Stifling an hysterical laugh
His feverish quest cut in half
Modigliani
Painted a giraffe.

Alex Katz's Real Muse

Homage to Alex Katz (Sorry Ada, he loves me


Alex Katz 
Cut many hats
 With an extremely close crop.
His chop became a precursor to Pop.

An obsession with Ada
Most definitely played a
Part in the heart of his work
In fact, it drove the master berserk.

Ada, Ada...he prayed ta
Ada - even put her face on a scarf
Ada on this, Ada on that;  the beach towel, a fait a-
Ccompli, made me barf.

Katz painted me in my 60's antiquity
Over and over and into ubiquity. In perpetuity
He'll dance with my cutouts, have drinks with my flats.
Ada is over and that's


That!


Botero's Model

Botero's Model, digital painting


A veritable Botero 
whose waist's not too narrow 
installs herself in my chair 
with a permanence seldom seen there
 but  in Pyramids or the Eiffel Tower.

Her bra doesn't wow her.

She throws it up in the air
with an absence of flair
poses there, weighty and immovable.
Thong totally removable.

It swings off her toe like a bower.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lady of the Sea

 
LAH-DE-DAH, lah-de-dee
Lady on a yawl slid into the sea
Fell from grace
Off the bow did she.
Called for help not once but three.

Bobbed fore and aft
 Like a piece of debris
 Clung to a shell
Hopelessly.

Towed pell mell
 During this embrace
Wore seaweed lace
Drank algae tea.
       
Who could it be
On this ominous race
Might be you; hope not me
Lah-de-dah, shell-shocked she
Our lady...
Lady of the sea.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Liquid Feet









AMPHRODITE rules the sea
Her consort, Poseidon, thinks it's he
Encircling the sea with her blue liquid feet
She flows onto her seahorse to see who she'll meet.

I, on the shore, straddled a dolphin
Crashed through the breakers for frolic and laughin'
I giggled and grinned 'til off fell my feet
My ankles and calves to make it complete.

Where are my limbs? I can't stand anymore!
 Amphrodite answered– with thunderous roar
" I saw you enter my cobalt door
I've never even seen a girl before.

Just seals and dolphins–such a bore
The more I see you, the more I adore
I am the personification of the sea
And you're the splashing image of me."

She called me Rhode; poured me a treat
Cool foamy water replaced my feet
Now I float with my new found mother
And swim with my dolphin, for he is my brother.





Friday, November 11, 2016

Botero's Model

Botero's Model, digital painting


A veritable Botero 
whose waist's not too narrow 
installs herself in my chair 
with a permanence seldom seen there
 but  in Pyramids or the Eiffel Tower.

Her bra doesn't wow her.

She throws it up in the air
with an absence of flair
poses there, weighty and immovable.
Thong totally removable.

It swings off her toe like a bower.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

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.


+

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Jellfyfish Hash

















I WISH I WERE a jellyfish
Wish, wish, wish
Back and forth, back and forth
Swish, swish, swish
I'd wear a conch upon my head
For flash, flash, flash.

 Should Sharky want his favorite dish
 Jellyfish hash
 Thrash, slash, crunch, mash!
As if I were a piece of trash
 I'd sting him on his face and lash
He'd definitely get a rash!

Then high-tentacle it outta there
Dash, dash, dash.
Retreating from the gloom
 And doom.  Zooooooom
To my meduszoan bloom
And crash, crash, crash.



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Merboy

Merboy, digital painting


H E FELT A TUG about his back
And then his muscles all went slack
His skin turned glossy, black and slick
He started to pick, but it grew too quick...

My boy.

It was thin and pointed
I  tried to anoint it
But larger and higher it got
Oddly enough, he liked it a lot...

My boy. 

When it morphed into a dorsal fin
He could not even hide his grin
Then his legs stuck together like glue
Inseparable! That made me  blue...

My boy.

His left then right foot splayed way out
I actually watched his fishtail sprout
He could not walk
Just flopped about...

My boy.

He now looked more like a dolphin
Than a kid fond of swimming and golfin'
I tried to keep him in a tank
But he said, "Glug! I gotta be frank..."

My boy?

"I see the sea not thee for me"
We sailed––SPLASH!–"Hard alee!"
It had to be; he dove in the sea
Windsong chanting, "Free, free, freeeeeeeee."

Merboy.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Seven



 























THE NUMBER SEVEN HAS A HISTORY of being useful for mankind. The cognitive psychologist George Miller wrote a famous article in 1956 about our capacity for processing information. His thesis was that the amount of information or numbers which people can process and remember is often limited to seven, (plus or minus two.)
Of course, seven is not really a magic number. But it really does get around. Many things come in sevens: the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man, Seven up, the Seven Seas and the Seven Dwarfs. Seven is also probably the most popular number. Studies have shown that when asked to pick a number from one to ten, most people will pick Seven.


That's six examples of the ways that seven has been invoked over the ages. There are more, but I am stopping at six because I know from reading George Miller that our digital span is about 7 and I want  readers to be able to remember the most potent use for the number 7. I learned this some years ago from my boss, who used to remind me of it every day when he came back from his seven-mojito lunches. He would invite me into his office, where I would actually have to witness him ask God to grant him the power to get rid of a rival senior partner. He earnestly, if tipsily, prayed that if God did this one thing, he would never ask for anything else. My boss didn't want much–just to be able to dial his enemy's telephone number and when he answered, press the number seven to cause his instant death. By the way, I was being paid an extremely generous salary to listen to this. (I might add that this is why I do not like working for others.)

I wondered why my boss had picked seven to do his killing for him. I started doodling to see if I could understand his choice. I discovered that if I slant a 7 to the left, it looks like the scythe that the Grim Reaper slings over his shoulder. If I draw it upside down, the top could be the blade on a guillotine. If I draw it obliquely, its point could be used for piercing like a spear or arrow. A seven is indeed more frightening than the well-rounded 8 or 3, or 0 with their cozy interior space .

I rooted for my boss for a while because I felt this would be a good power to have. With some direction from me, and the right telephone numbers, we could get rid of much of the evil in the world. But then I thought, I can't believe I am even thinking about  this. 

So, one day after one of my boss's repetitious afternoon rants, I calmly did my duty. I returned to my office, dialed his extension and then...pressed seven. That's right - I "sevened" him!

PS. If you don't like this post, please don't  seven me.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Cathedral of Bones


Cathedral of Bones, acrylic on linen, 18 x 24 inches, $2,000 xxxxxxxxxxx

































I'M IN MY STUDIO painting a skeleton, 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 bit of knowledge, my recently finished painting, Cathedral of Bones, and the fact that Halloween is imminent, have combined to inspire me to share some thoughts on bones. I became familiar with them at an early age because my father was an orthopedic surgeon or, in the vernacular, an old sawbones. 

Make no bones about it, our skeletons have done a lot for us.  I greatly admire them and do not understand how they got such a bad name. In addition to their more prosaic raisons d' etre of supporting our bodies, allowing us to walk upright and protecting our brains (in my case, moderately successfully), they are a striking engineering achievement and incredibly beautiful to observe.

My first skeleton was the one that hung from the ceiling in my father’s office. At first I thought it spooky. But I soon befriended it and danced with those merry, dangling bones in our private, ether-scented ballroom to the rhythmic clickety-clack of Dad’s secretary’s typewriter.

There was also a human skull on the desk with whom I had many in depth conversations about, well, bones, as well as other important matters crucial to a four year old, such as what happened to its teeth and what it's like to be dead. In an effort to cheer Skully up, I used to dress it with my mother's jewelry. Perhaps this was the precursor to Damien Hurst's diamond-encrusted skull, For the Love of God.

 

My next encounter with bones occurred some years later when I tore some tendons in my neck and shoulders. Upon entering the radiologist's office after my x-rays had been taken, I noticed that hundreds of other x-rays were hanging on the walls–sort of like portraits. Until then, I had thought that skeletons were generic and would look pretty much alike. However, I was startled to see that my x-ray looked exactly like me. I could pick "me" out instantaneously. As I stared at the dark, empty facial sockets in that roentgengram, 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! And this is what you’ll be!"

For a while, I took solace in the knowledge that my bones will be around for a long time after the rest of me goes organic and returns to the earth. I imagine what that will be like in Cathedral of Bones. But the cathedral will not last forever. When I pass on, I will not have to say goodbye to my bones right away. They are so strong that, depending on soil conditions, it may take hundreds of years before they disintegrate and my remains become one with the universe. But when they do, it's...

Bone voyage!

PS  I hope this blog didn't chill you to the bone, I meant it to be humerus (pun intended)
 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Kernel Panic

Kernal Panic, digital painting

You'll never guess where I am!   It's colorful, wild, hot and artsy (in a Brice Marden meandering-line sort of way.) I'm here because of a  frightening computer malfunction.

While writing love letters on my computer,  suddenly big, black. scary, primal letters appeared on my screen. I usually take all things technical in my stride; I ignore them. However, this time I couldn't because the primitive type plastered itself slowly but steadily down my computer screen like some evil Barton Fink-esque kind of wallpaper, as if might consume me.  Its slow progression gave me, an alarmist in good standing, time to think and I came to a dismal conclusion. 

 It was the end of the world and it was either  God himself, Putin (sore about an illustration I did of him), or one of Trump's 400-pound hackers, sitting on a bed hacking away.  Whoever it was, he was communicating a primitive and cryptic message on my computer screen.  I believed, the expanding unrecognizable print marching down my screen might be an ancient  Biblical  tongue, the  Russian language, or hacking. Suddenly, at the top of the screen, a header appeared in English. Though blurred and written in a basic and  unfamiliar hand, it finally came into focus. It read, "KERNEL PANIC."  That's when my computer froze. Everything stopped  but those two words which kept multiplying and spreading down the screen–an ersatz army attacking.

KERNEL PANIC,
KERNEL PANIC
KERNEL PANIC
KERNEL PANIC

I didn't know exactly what the words meant, but they struck me as serious.  I called for my live-in techie, but he apparently had slipped out to buy a new pocket protector for his pens. In his absence I did what any red blooded artist facing annihilation by computer would do: I grabbed my paints and sketchbook, cracked open the computer, crawled in and started painting the wiggly anarchy I witnessed inside.

Moving along the innermost primordial slime of colored wires and other exotic, twirling electrical arthropods, I painted my way to the bottom of the problem. It was just as the print on my computer screen warned:  KERNEL PANIC!  Sure enough, there in the depths, all aglow, frightened to death, and tied up with the many different colored wires was Kernel, and, yes, he was panicking. He looked like an ear of corn, but for the fact that he was screaming.  His  contorted face could have given the screamer in Edvard Munch's
painting a run for the money.

I told Kernel he could stop panicking  because the doctor  (my techie), would arrive any minute. While I was trying to cheer up Kernel, techie returned and called down a life saving prescription.

"to avoid crashing or hang issues, make sure you're exiting Scratch Live before disconnecting or turning off your Rane Scratch Live USB hardware interface (SL1, SL2, SL3, SL4, TTM 57SL and Sixty-Eight). Call me in the morning."

Kernel was paralyzed with terror, so I did the "Rane Scratch" thing for him. Much to my surprise, Kernel calmed down almost immediately.  The scream melted off his face, the mysterious  writing disappeared  from the screen  and the Kernel started doing his job again–whatever that might be.

I waved goodbye to Kernel, climbed gingerly out of the computer's entrails trying to  avoid any residual "hang issues" (they don't sound so good). I admonished my techie that he should never leave the premises again and resumed writing my love letters. 


Sent one to Kernel too, just to keep him in good spirits.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Guild - 5 Forty Five, Ft. Lauderdale

IN ADDITION TO THE MAKING OF ART, one of the best things about being an artist is the artist's reception at exhibits.  That's where I get to meet all sorts of wonderful art lovers and talk about my paintings and art in general with them. 


Susan and George Curri at Botanically Correct

Above is a photo from my solo show, Botanically Correct at The Guild 5 Forty Five, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  That's George Curi, my self-declared number one fan and collector. Behind us is my painting, Wings, the poster child for Botanically Correct. 

 I love the amber glow of this shot from the house lights and the confusing proliferation of hands surrounding us. The hand on my shoulder looks as if Wings is emerging from the canvas to give us a giant hug, but it is actually George's hand. The hand between George and me looks like it's George's but it is Wings' painted hand. The fingers on George's shoulder look like Wings' fingers tapping George on the shoulder,  but they are mine. And  then there's Wings' hand to the right of George which looks real enough to pinch him.

And so it goes, just as I have always thought, art and life being interchangeable!

George emailed me the day after he first viewed my work:

" I loved your use of color.  It was so bright.  I felt so cheerful in your gallery.   Especially, in contrast to the darker pieces featured in the adjacent galleries. You really are a true inspiration.  A very rare, but wonderful quality to possess."

Thank you, George!

A better look at the botanically correct Wings, The Man Under My Bed and Loose Ends. They are   currently being exhibited at the Good News Cafe, Woodbury, CT and can be purchased there through October 3.


Wings, acrylic on linen, 36 x 30" $3,500


The Man Under my Bed, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24," $4,000


Loose Ends, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24," $3,500

Thursday, August 25, 2016

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!