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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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…


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."