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, 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.