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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Thursday, September 30, 2010


Better have another one just to make sure!

Bottoms up,

Saturday, September 25, 2010




I am from the planet Blixtarrg, in a galaxy billions of light years away from Earth. My people are also light years ahead of you Earthlings in intelligence and scientific development. Blixtarrg, and the entire galaxy we dominate, is curious about your puny race. Accordingly, I have been sent by the Council of Ministers of the Blixtarrg Aggregation to report on you Earthlings.

I can do this with ease because I and all of my fellow Blixtarrgans have the innate capacity to understand, speak and write all languages that have ever been spoken on Earth. Because of our highly-evolved state we are fluent even in those of your languages that have not yet evolved. In all modesty, I can truly say that we Blixtarrgans are exquisite beings.

Notwithstanding our billions of years of evolution and our near-perfection, we do, however, have one minor weakness, hardly worth mentioning. Indeed, I would rather call it a genetic quirk. In any event, all of us on Planet Blixtarrg are dyslexic. We have long since dealt with this by self-installing at birth mirrored corneas atop our three natural ones. In this way we can obtain corrected images, enabling us to communicate with lesser races such as yours.

My report follows:

After a brief flight from Blixtarrg, I enter into Earth orbit. While approaching said planet I observe that its prismatic hues consist primarily of blue and white with some greenarrg and beige, with gray hues closer to the population centers. Curiously, however, one area of the surface is predominantly crimson. I select a wooded area on the periphery of this red-stained area as my landing site. As I approach the rouge glow, I find that it is created by an aggregation of mobile red figures. These, I gather, are the species I was sent to study.

The creatures, which appear to be some primitive form of intelligent life, are being drawn by some sort of force field toward a huge, stone fort. Statues cloaked in full military regalia guard the entrances. The creatures are being scanned individually as they enter. The scanners seem to be using a primitive system which can detect metal and are denying entry to persons who are carrying metallic objects. Because my Blitxtarrgan mirrored corneas are metallic (made from a compound your people will not discover for another million years), I realize that I will have to remove them if I hope to gain entry. I remove my mirrored corneas with the insta-surg tool of my Blix Army knife. I never leave Blixtarrg without it!

I now see that the Earthlings are gathering for a religious event and what I thought was a fort is instead a stone enclosure of sacred grounds. I glean this because the red-clad Earthlings are all taking communion while parading toward the entrance. They are drinking a foamy-looking, golden substance called reeb. All of them, young and old, are drinking it. Some carry cases of it. Many are performing a reciprocal ceremony in which they pour reeb on each other's heads and laugh.

I want to blend in so I drink a reeb that someone has handed me. It makes me euphoric. Because I am substantially larger than humans, I take this opportunity to resize myself by enveloping my bodarrg with a marquee tool and at the same time change my colour to red. This is child's play for me because at birth Blixtarrgans have Photoschlarrg microchips implanted in our magnificent brainarrgs.

Once inside the holy ground, I observe about two hundred carefully fashioned robots precisely highstepping around a large open area. Some are swinging huge gold and silver jewelry in the air above their heads while others are sucking or blowing on curved or straight weapons. Still others beat furiously on round weapons which are tethered to them. This creates what I gather passes for music on Earth. I infer that these must be apostles of the deity these Earthlings await.

These marching ones are followed by a cluster of small dancers who prance and leap about in synchronized abandon. These small ones seem to have no problem defying gravity as they fly about with energy and grace. Sometimes they land atop taller Earthlings, who in turn toss the small ones from one to another. They eventually form a pyramid which points skyward, apparently imploring their divine one to appear.

As the excitement reaches a fevered pitch, the deity appears. He is much taller than the typical Earthling and though he walks upright, he looks more like one of the lower life forms than an Earthling. He possesses a huge brown head with a white stripe down the center, running to his long black snout. He has all-seeing, all- knowing eyes. His bodarrg as well as his head is covered with fur and he wears a gaudily-decorated, striped "talis" (for that is what such a garment is called by the tiny minority of Earthlings who follow the Hebraic religion) over it. I would not describe him as a dignified god. In fact, he appears quite ridiculous. He waves to his thousands of red-clad supplicants and mimes some foolery. Nevertheless, the crowd becomes more and more frenzied. They call out to their god, shouting in unison “Og Ykcub! Og Ykcub!" I surmise that is the great one's name.

Suddenly, Og’s soldiers appear. I surmise something solemn and serious is about to happen–perhaps a sacrifice is about to be offered up to Og. The warriors are huge and fierce, much larger than their fellow Earthlings. They wear the requisite red for the ceremony but they are heavily armored under their garments. Another set of warriors, clothed in uniform garb of a different color, emerge from the other side of the arena and taunt Og's warriors. Suddenly, pandemonium erupts! The opposing groups of warriors lunge and chase each other around, trying to capture some sort of disputed oblate spheroid icon. Some fall injured or dead and are dragged off the field of battle. Meanwhile the others push, trip and jump on one another in chaotic fashion.

Og seems extremely delighted by all of this, especially when his soldiers seem to be succeeding. But Og wants more. He is greedy, so it starts all over again. Sometimes Og is so elated when his soldiers succeed that he has a group of his followers lift him onto an altar. From his platform above his followers' heads, Og leads the masses in prayer by repetitively pumping his prostate body up and down on the altar. His followers thank him for their bounty by counting out loud the number of times Og propels himself upward.

At various times the multitudes jump up and down in spasms of frenzied joy. At lulls in the combat, they amuse themselves by slowly waving their upper appendages from side to side, while singing “U-rah-rah-U-rah-raaaah." This hymn causes tears to form in the eyes of many of the older Earthlings. In addition, some of the congregation have taken off their red shirts, exposing their chests on which are painted images of Og. Others have smaller forms of the Og images painted on their foreheads, cheeks, arms and legs. Upon further inspection, I can see now that Og's countenance, sometimes fierce and other times friendly, is imprinted on many of their garments and head coverings.

As the events around me build to a climax, I decide to return to Blixtarrg at once. I am a sensitive and civilized sentient creature and I have no wish to see tens of thousands of Earthlings sacrificed to their animalistic and bloodthirsty deity. I am certain that in a matter of moments, Og will become angry at some failure by his warriors, tire of the entertainment and invoke his wrath upon his hapless people. I have had enough and am not waiting around for this sordid end to the spectacle.

As I take my leave of this obscure and insignificant planet in a backwater of the inhabited universe, I resize myself to my splendid Blixtarrgan form and restore my natural coloration. I make my way back to my IGS-craft and take off for the short, faster-than-light journey back to Blixtarrg. As I gain altitude, I notice a large sign which I must have missed upon landing. It reads:

nisnocsiW, nosidaM ot emocleW

!ykcuB, oG

I realize that I have forgotten to replace my mirrored corneas. I insta-surg them back and am able to read the billboard. This is the message I bring back to Blixtarrg:

Welcome to Madison, Wisconsin.

Go, Bucky!


***Concept inspired by my friend Ken Feldman

Monday, September 20, 2010


MY HEART SKIPS A BEAT when I open the door because I don't recognize my own home. Maybe I have taken leave of my senses and somehow returned to the wrong place. The apartment I find myself in is dismally dark and eerily quiet but for some low growling sounds and another high-pitched, muffled one. The air is thick with the odor of some rotten universal solvent.

As my eyes acclimate to the darkness, I notice a sprawling heap in the center of my living room, with strewn clothes atop and around it. I can see that the bouquet of flowers on the coffee table is now in the garbage. A pungent, past-its-sell-date, fish smell assaults my nose. Something is fishy here, indeed. I discern a scowling figure sitting in one of my easy chairs in the darkened living room. Although the chair is not in the right spot, it does look like mine. I notice its mate is missing. What is going on here? Perspiration runs down my cheeks, my heart beats even faster, I hyperventilate. Should I fear for my life, run, scream?

I cannot move, let alone run and before I can initiate screaming, the scenario becomes clear. "Ohhhh," I sigh. "Ahhh," OK, I can relax. It's only ICG (Insufferable Composite Guest) who's come for a visit. She looks like a CGI (computer generated image) executed by a Photoshop neophyte. She has arrived early for her visit without alerting me. Chaos demystified.

ICG has turned off all the lights with the exception of a small table lamp from which she removed the shade. This irritating, isolated glare she pronounces the proper light for reading at night. She has turned off all the other lights because she doesn't like to waste money on electricity–even mine. All the window shades are down even though there is no need for privacy; the apartment is surrounded by a private garden. The music has been inexplicitly silenced--maybe she doesn't like White Stripes? A pair of easy chairs has been moved so that they are out of their decorative comfort zones. One has been moved about six feet so that it is adjacent to a window with a shade at half mast to facilitate daytime reading.

The other chair is placed in front of the entry hall. ICG is sitting in that one wearing a frown, a white t-shirt and red underpants–nothing else. She had to throw away the bouquet, she explains. There might have been bugs in it. Grumpily ICG accuses Bella, my elderly dog, of pinning her in her chair so that she can't get up and move about the house. I say, "Bella's just safeguarding you." But I think,"Good girl, Bella." No telling what ICG would have done next.

Thinking that I should salvage some of my living room decor, I decide to move ICG's smoked salmon-scented, over-sized suitcase to the guest room. It is currently lying in the center of the living room, flap hanging open like some exhausted, huge, brown tongue. There is another tongue–pink–licking it. The pink one belongs to Blossom, my cat. She is rooting around behind the brown one trying to find the salmon. She digs methodically and meows hysterically every time she thinks
she's close. Eventually, she finds it! ICG leaps up and wrests the leaky package from Blossom, permanently infusing my rug with eau d' smoked salmon. She admonishes Blossom, "No cat is going to eat my well-traveled smoked salmon."

And indeed it is. Apparently ICG originally acquired the smoked salmon at a wedding in Saskatoon at the beginning of the summer, and has been traveling with it ever since. She brought it back to Florida, post wedding, then took it to the Jersey Shore to visit her son. She and the salmon then visited her daughter in L.A. and then flew back to Florida. Now they have both flown up to New York. ... You know ... where is Homeland Security when you really need them? I'm telling you, that salmon had a more smokin' summer vacation than I did!

ICG explains to me that she has decided to sleep in the living room. She does not want to sleep in the guest room because the mattress there is too hard. She further instructs that she doesn't want her suitcase put in a closet because it would be too hard for her to get her things out of it. Compassionately, she notes that a suitcase in the middle of a living room doesn't help the decor and also blocks egress and ingress. Nonetheless, it is more convenient for her there. I allow ICG's clothes-vomiting suitcase to remain in the middle of the living room, thinking I can endure anything for a week.

That's when she springs it. Her visit might be longer than a week, so she has brought enough clothes for a month. She's kidding right? "No," she says, "What if I fall down and break a leg and am laid up here for a month. I'll need clothes." With no segue whatsoever, she continues, "And you're not going to like this next thing I have to tell you, but your husband is going to have an affair." How does she know? At this point, for peace of mind, I silently vow to take impeccable care of ICG so as to prevent any fractures. I also decide to answer any of her inappropriate viewpoints with "Whatever."

Then I serve some wine to take off the edge I am beginning to feel. I also put out a generous plate of hors d'oeuvres. Before I can even sit down, ICG has consumed them all, save one. I reach over so that I can have the last one but my hand collides in midair with ICG's. We do the "No, you take it-no, you take it" dance a couple of times and then ICG says "No, you can have it because I didn't really care for them." Perplexed, I wonder why she has eaten so many if she didn't like them. Guess she just wanted to make sure.

Trying to make lemonade out of lemons, I attempt to cheer myself up by thinking about something positive–like what is the best thing about ICG's visits. After considerable thought, I come up with something: the best thing about a visit from ICG is when she leaves! And when that time finally comes after infinity plus a day....

I do a little dance, do a little dance, get down that night, get down that night.
Do a little dance, the departure dance, get down that night, that's right!!

Paint on,

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


ad infinitum nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn ad nauseum

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ms. Parenthetical

ONE OF MY FAVORITE SONGS is the poignant Mr. Pitiful, by Otis Redding. In addition to delighting me, it strikes a melancholy chord in my mind and heart and stirs up memories of betrayal every time I hear it.

Mr. Pitiful and I are kindred spirits of sorts for I was once Ms. Parenthetical. The cheery, upbeat melody of Mr. Pitiful belies its sad lyrics, just as the common-looking curved parentheses hide their destructive power behind a benign form. You probably think that parentheses are just another innocuous form of punctuation. Not true; if used thoughtlessly, they can be treacherous.

The opening verse of Mr. Pitiful follows:

They call me Mr. Pitiful
Baby that's my name now
They call me Mr. Pitiful. That's how I got my fame
But people just don't seem to understand
How someone can feel so blue
They call me Mr Pitiful, cause I lost someone just like you.*

I don't have to be told "how someone can feel so blue." I can write my own blues song. A verse from Ms. Parenthetical would parallel Mr. Pitiful and, perhaps, read as follows:

They called me Ms. Parenthetical

Baby, that was my name then

They called me Ms. Parenthetical. Tell you how I got my fame when

Parentheses imprisoned me and

Made me feel so blue,

I don't never, ever, ever want that to happen to you

They called me Ms. Parenthetical 'cause I lost someone too.

This is how I became Ms. Parenthetical. My boyfriend, a mutual acquaintance and I were corresponding via email about life and our artistic endeavors, which included my illustrating our acquaintance's book. The three-way emails were pleasant enough and continued for about a month. They then came to a temporary halt because the author needed to rewrite her work before I could start any drawing. Candidly, I was happy to put the work aside because I thought the story dull, unimaginative and lacking in vision or poetic beauty.

About five months hence, I discovered that the correspondence had only stopped for me. My boyfriend and the author had continued emailing each other, behind my back, daily, privately and for reasons other than collaborating on a book. Due to email misdirection, I had the occasion to read their ignoble emails.

Though the discovery of betrayal was emotionally unsettling, it was overridden by my fascination with the correspondents' use of parentheses in their dialogue. I was stunned by the power of this common punctuation and how these marks made me feel. Of all the words and sentiments I read in those emails, the parentheses were the most lethal. In a nutshell, punctuation punctured my heart.

For the first week or so after I was excluded from the emails, my boyfriend, Dalton, continued to sign his emails with both our names–"Dalton and Depingo." And the author addressed her emails to "Dalton and Depingo" as well, even though she was exclusively corresponding with Dalton. After a while, the author began addressing her emails to "Dalton (and Depingo)" and once to "Dalton (and, of course, Depingo)." Dalton followed suit and started signing his emails "Dalton (and Depingo)." Trapped between parentheses, I was being phased out, imprisoned, marginalized and rendered powerless. I was, indeed, in parenthetical jail, as it were. And I can tell you it was cold, dark and lonely between those restrictive, hard-edged, curved bars. It didn't take long though, before I was set free, grammatically at least, released from parenthetical prison and never again mentioned in their salutations or valedictions– ever–even in parentheses.

Deciding inquisitiveness was a better modus operandi than despair, I looked up "parentheses" in the dictionary. I learned that the definition is: to include material that you want to de-emphasize; a digression; a person, episode or incident that is irrelevant. Irrelevant! I? ...irrelevant? The second verse of my song started writing itself.

They called me Ms. Irrelevant!

That's what I was, baby

In parenthetical jail, baby

Where did I fail

I was Ms Parenthetical, it was irrevocable;

And all I got to do in jail was wail,wail, wail.

Then I summoned up the power of language and made an ally of it. I thought for a long time and finally realized there is only one thing worse than being parenthesized. And that was being deleted. Do I detect a third verse for my song in the making?

So I did what I had to do, baby
I deleted them with haste
I deleted them, baby–both of them–dragged them to the waste

I blocked them on my computer and then . . .
purged them from my mind . . .
That took a little longer, baby
But I was not to be left behind.
They call me Ms. Deletion,baby. I got a new name
I'm Ms. Deletion now, baby, I'm at the top of my game!

Paint on,
Depingo ... er ... um ... that's Ms. Deletion to some.

* Thanks to the late, great Otis Redding for his lyrics to Mr. Pitiful and inspiration for Ms. Parenthetical. The song can be heard ***here.***

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Paradise Regained

GREAT TO BE BACK HOME with trowel in one hand, palette knife in the other, tending and painting the birds and beasts of Foxglove. It is so beautiful here, the first time I saw my mythical home I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. And now, I return from a brief visit to Hell–one always appreciates Heaven more after a stay in Hell.

A fabulous iMovie by the famous and ubiquitous videographer Amy Youngs captures my return to Heaven.