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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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Mistaken Identity


ONE DAY, I was in the basement at our cottage, Foxglove,
 and I saw a scorpion.

















 

 I DID! –even though Foxglove is in Connecticut! Well, that made me very anxious because I thought it would probably try to kill me. So I called our pest control company, Master Shield, and requested they come to my house immediately to take care of this urgent, life threatening problem. This is what their technician said to me. "Lady, we're not coming; we don't do scorpions, only plain old-fashioned Connecticut bugs."
























I told my husband of my problem. He said, "They can't do that. We have a contract with them. I paid for emergency house calls." Please note. My husband DIDN'T EVEN CARE THAT WE HAD A SCORPION IN THE HOUSE. He only cared that he wasn't getting his money's worth. In a huff, he called Master Shield himself. The technician reiterated that if a scorpion were in the basement, they don't do scorpions. To which my husband replied "And would you believe my wife if she told you that the Loch Ness Monster was swimming in our lake?"

This is what happened next:

Master Shield was here within the half hour; found not a scorpion but a plain, old-fashioned Connecticut bug, a mole cricket in our basement and per my request, left it well and alive in the basement, where it still resides today.

                                                                


Wait.  Gotta go. I think I see something ... moving ... swimming ... in  ... the ... lake. Oh, it's probably nothing ... just a log ... or ...  maybe ... it's ... somethiiiiiiiiiiing.............ELSE.  Gotta call Master Shield and tell them!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

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.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Me Write Pretty Tomorrow

Susan and David, acrylic on linen, 36 x 24 inches


SINCE IT IS MY EDITOR, David Rosen's, birthday today, this post is about his work on my blog. I would like to thank him for turning my uncut rough diamond-esque posts into the dazzling gems with clarity, cut and color that they become after he works his magic. Without his skill, my blog might possibly be entitled, "Random Thoughts About Random Stuff" or "A Blog - Not as We Know One." He is a natural born editor and easily removes the wheat from the chase; or is it chafe, err, uh, maybe staff? Got it– –laugh! No, chaff!

See what I mean.  I really need him! When he edits my prose, it tickles me down to the tips of my toes, right through my pantyhose. My word! I can't even tell he has had his way with my...words.

We met as he was commencing his legal career. He did the impossible and obtained a divorce for me from the Prince of Darkness, who really is a dangling participle. Extricating me from such an evil force required him to pull out all the verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections he ever knew–especially interjections–or do I mean expletives? After performing all that legal work for me, as he likes to put it, he got a promotion and became my husband. Now he concomitantly fills an even higher post as my editor. I thought that if I made him my editor, me write pretty one day.

Note to David: Happy Birthday! Thought it would be fun for you to read a post on which you didn't do any work. I hope you like my syntax. I love yours and I will love it for infinitive. Is that right? No, infinity!

Oh, never mind, you get the day off for your birthday. Me write pretty tomorrow!

Disclaimer: I assure you David Rosen did not edit this post.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

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)
 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

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.





Thursday, October 7, 2021

Freudian Slip

Homage to Lucien Freud

Lucien, heir to Rembrandt and Freud!
Unlike his granddad, a void's just a void
On which he painted pockmarked flesh
Bright, not as you'd expect - peche.

 His nudes sat with dogs and an occasional cat
Impastos made even Kate Moss look fat
Others seemed out of excess begat
Queen Elizabeth?...an old bat.

Lucien asked me to pose in the nude
I, a prude, thought this request most rude
Depingo, he asked, "You really won't strip?"
That's when he made a Freudian slip.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

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!





Friday, July 2, 2021

Cadavre Exquis




"CADAVRE EXQUIS" IS A PARLOR GAME INVOLVING DRAWING or words. It relies on the chance encounter as a disruption of rationality and a product of the shared. Invented and played by Andre Breton and other 1920's Surrealist artists, "Cadavre Exquis" literally translates to "Exquisite Corpse."

To play, the first artist would begin by secretly drawing a head of a person or animal. He would then fold over the paper, hiding all but a small portion of the neck. The second artist would continue the drawing. From the neck lines of the first artist, he would draw the torso, including arms, wings, tentacles, or whatever struck his fancy. He would then again fold the paper so that only a small portion of the hips or thighs was showing and pass it along. The third artist would continue drawing the legs, feet or perhaps claws and a tail, springing off from the exposed tips of the hip lines.

This is one of many ways in which the Surrealists experimented with, and exploited, the mystique of accident and collaboration. Indeed, even the name is derived from a phrase that resulted when they first played the game: "Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau," meaning "The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine." This early game obviously was played with words rather than drawings.

An artist/curator friend recently asked me to paint a portion of a Cadavre Exquis on which he will be working with other artists. We haven't started yet, but I am eagerly looking forward to it. At the time he invited me, I was just beginning to learn Photoshop and the invitation gave me an idea. I could turn what might have been tedious Photoshop exercises into real fun by playing solitaire Cadavre Exquis. Thank you, Chuck!

I produced many collages, either from top to bottom or left to right (as in the one above) by dividing my Photoshop canvas into three parts. I took three random paintings and merged them together, continuing the lines from one image to the next with some strange and delightful results. At the time, I knew how to use the move tool, so I could move corresponding body parts of three different paintings into compositional alignment. But I had yet to learn image resizing, so the sections of the various paintings are not all the same image size. Though I was playing solitaire, it is still very much in the spirit of Cadavre Exquis.


One of the most beautiful and surprising accidents of the composite painting above is the strong lavender-suited forearm energetically jutting out of the background without a body of its own (left side center–leading to the hand with bluebird perched on it in the second mid-section.) I was stunned when I noticed it. At first I thought it must be magic because I did not actually ever draw a lavender forearm on any of the paintings which I combined. It seemingly emerged on its own from an abyss in the lavender background. In fact, it is the lavender background, re-articulated visually as a forearm by framing between the seat and the back of the chair. Chance had it that the defined space is the same shape and at the same angle as it would have been if I had actually drawn it there. Because it serendipitously leads to and connects with a hand in the next section, it strongly suggests "forearm" to the viewer. It is amazing to me because I had nothing to do with it. It is also haunting because it is echoes a remembered image of the government recruiting posters picturing Uncle Sam's pointing finger with the message, "Uncle Sam wants you"– in my case, to have more artistic accidents, I guess.


Well, accidents will happen! In additional to the magically-appearing forearm, the composite rendering of half my nephew's face on top of my best friend's face (right side of composite face) looks suspiciously like Keven Spacey. And to think I would have never known this, had I not entertained myself playing Cadave Exquis solitaire.



Monday, May 24, 2021

Hatching


Out of the Woods, acrylic on linen, 30 x 24 inches





































 I AM ALWAYS AMAZED by the multifaceted meanings of English language words. Take for instance the word hatching. The definitions given by the Merriam Webster dictionary include:

1. to cause young to emerge from the egg, as by brooding or incubating.

2. to bring forth or produce; devise; create; contrive; concoct: to hatch a scheme .

3. drawing of fine lines in close proximity, especially to give an effect of shading; also: the pattern so made.

I started the above painting of a girl with approaching wolf a while  ago.  I was stumped as to how to finish it so it has been incubating in a corner in my studio.

It caught my eye recently. Though unfinished, the painting is going in the same direction as the paintings I am making currently.  I discovered a sketch of a wolf in man's clothing taped to the back of it. Because of that find, I knew exactly how to complete the painting. In my excitement, I lifted the painting quickly and placed it on the easel with a loud thud.

Wolf in Man's Clothing, pencil on paper, 3 x 5 inches

To emphasize that I've-got-it moment, I  thought I heard applause. It was a thunderous flapping of wings, made by a startled dove leaving his nest in my window box. Upon closer inspection of the window box,  I could see that a female dove was sitting on an egg.

I thought about the symmetry of it all. At the very moment I was hatching my idea for my painting, mother  Dove was hatching her egg.

I started work on my painting and with the quieter hatching work of penciling in the basket, the male  dove returned to keep us both company during our respective hatching.

At day's end, I  went to bed thinking about the similarity between me and the doves and nature and humanity.  It was then that I realized we are all equal. I demonstrate that  harmony between human beings and nature in my paintings.

It tickled me and supported my realization to think that while I was being warmed by my feather duvet, the dove's baby was being warmed inside its egg by the "duvet "of his mother's luxuriously feathered body.




Thursday, April 8, 2021

Yeoman

Digital Painting

I HAVE A SUITOR

You can see him in this snapshot I took from my balcony.  By the way, you don't need to mention this to my husband.

My suitor (I so prefer that term to "stalker") is incredibly handsome and well groomed, with perfect posture. He always wears his uniform. I have identified it as the uniform that the Beefeaters wear save two minor differences.  The breeches and fuzzy high hat are both white, rather than scarlet and black, respectively. Queen Elizabeth has such a sense of style! She had the exact same uniform made up for my guard but with the white hat and breeches. This, of course,  is the Florida version of the Beefeaters' uniform.

He definitely has been sent from the Queen and is one of the Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, the Tower of London.  His London counterparts' duties are, theoretically, to look after prisoners in the Tower and to safeguard the Crown Jewels.

I have no prisoners here at Ocean Place Palace, except for, say, my husband. But I have lots of jewelry. The Queen is an avid reader of my blog, got worried and sent one of her guys over to guard it for me. She has always been an extremely kind and generous fan.

My guard stations himself, stiff as a board  under my balcony day and night. I call, "Good morning, Yeoman" to him from my balcony, as did Juliet to Romeo. Indeed, I surreptitiously blow kisses to him during cocktail hours. My husband, puzzled, wonders, "What on earth is Susan up to  now?" as my kisses float off into the sea-scented air. At night I call down, "Sweet dreams,  my Yeoman."  Just as  strict  as any Beefeater at the Palace, he never responds in any way - just stands there  erect and immobile, not so much as a hint of a smile or the blinking of an eye. Still, I know he loves me.

Today is the last day here at my sand castle.  I am thinking that I cannot bear to leave Yeoman. He is a part of me now and has really gotten under my skin. I have decided to throw caution to the wind. I will go down on the beach and thank Yeoman for being there for me. Perhaps I'll kiss him goodbye and see what ensues. I am so excited to actually meet him.

Post script

Good heavens! I am shocked and dismayed. Perception has played a cruel trick on me.  There is no Yeoman–never was at all. I have fallen in love with a lifesaver stand!


Digital painting










Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Privilege Is in the Painting

 Chicken Coop, McLaughlin, 30 x 24 inchesxxxxxxx

I SAW A FASCINATING PLAY:   The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall. A true story, it centers around a group of English coal miners who transformed themselves into renowned artists known as the Ashington Group. The miners, who referred to themselves as "pitmen," worked on their paintings at night, after performing long days of backbreaking labor in dark, dank, dusty, oxygen-deprived pits in the ground in Northumberland. What a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively) painting must have been for them.

The miners' original idea was to enhance their lives through an art appreciation class. They were to meet once a week in their hut with Robert Lyon, an instructor in art history at a local college. After the first few meetings, however, Lyon discovered that the minors lacked sufficient vocabularies to understand his talks on the great art of the world or even to discuss the slides he projected among themselves. Instead, he brought in paints, brushes and canvases and told the men that they were going to start to paint.

The pitmen vehemently protested that they couldn't possibly paint because they had no skills or training in anything, let alone art. Most of them had left school and commenced working in the mines at around age 10. Despite their misgivings, Lyon prevailed and the men started painting. The instructor encouraged them to paint what they felt inside. As they continued, painting not only enhanced their lives but gave them self esteem. One of the pitmen, after completing his first painting said:


I was shaking–literally shaking—‘cos for the first time in me life, I’d really achieved something that was mine…. And I felt like for those few hours there—I was my own boss.

Lyon's advice, painting what you feel inside, is good advice for any painter, including myself. I have been learning Photoshop recently. This involves drawing and painting on an external tablet while watching the work appear on the computer monitor. Pretty tricky when you're not used to it! Though I am convinced Photoshop will eventually enhance my work, the learning process has temporarily set me back some in terms of drawing and painting. It has negated (temporarily, I hope) my formal, graduate-level university training. I feel that I am starting all over again. So I can empathize with the pitmen. I have heeded their instructor's advice and have started to paint what I feel inside, rather than worrying about my technical acumen.

While Photoshopping, I painted my cat predominantly purple because I couldn't find a way to switch to another color. While practicing color gradients, everything I produced looked like a Jimi Hendrix album cover. Don't let this get around, but when using the polygonal lasso, I could not stop it. It lassoed everything in my drawing, then my house including my dog and cat and then went after me. I finally had to pull out the electrical cord, shut the door and leave the house in order to escape. Then I said to myself, "Yes, I'll draw what I feel like inside–which was a glass of wine. Eventually, though, I became comfortable with my new friend, Photoshop, just as the pitmen did with their brushes, paints and canvases.

I, like the miners, discovered that you get better results when you think of painting as a means of self-expression and not of perfection. My nascent Photoshop paintings and drawings, though far from technically perfect, really do express what I feel inside.

After the Ashington Group became famous, Lyon wrote a dissertation about the project and was appointed to a professorship at the Edinburgh College of Art. The Ashington's Group's star painter, Oliver Kilbourn, complained to Lyon that he was just as talented as the Professor, and, indeed, a good enough painter to be in the professor's position. Kilbourn believed that the only reason Lyon, and not he, held the position was that Lyon was a member of the privileged upper class and had the advantage of advanced education and training which was not available to the working class. To that the professor replied with something I have known and felt my entire life:

The privilege is not in the class, the privilege is in the painting.

Paint on,
Depingo

* You can see the Ashington Group's paintings *here.
**Thanks to Li Gardner, my teacher, for keeping me out of the Photoshop insane asylum.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

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!


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Busy as a Bee




THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IS CAPRICIOUS and difficult to learn. My friend, Bea, a Brazilian who is currently living in New York and learning the language, recently told me that she had "inhaled" all of the dust from her bookshelves. "Kinky," I thought, until I figured out that she had meant to use the word "vacuumed." Well, she got the concept right; both words mean to draw in matter.

Bea told me that now even her name confused her. In Portuguese it is just her name, but in English, it is not only her name but also means various other things.

I explained the three Bs–"be," "Bea," and "bee"– to her as clearly as I could. The three B's might even be harder to learn than the ABCs because of their similar pronunciation and varying spelling and definitions.

The word "be" is defined as to exist actually;

"Bea" is a given female name like hers, or if capitalized, an acronym (BEA) for the US Bureau of Economic Analysis; and

"Bee" is a yellow and black striped, winged, hairy-bodied, stinging, pollinating insect.

Bea mentioned that she had heard the expression "busy as a bee" and wondered what it meant. I told her about the bees' checkered work history and how their work performance has been aggrandized over the years. Most people think that bees are the hardest working insects in nature–a virtual paradigm of the word "busy"–and liken busy people to them. Thus, the expression, "busy as a bee." Geoffrey Chaucer started the busy bee rumor in his Canterbury Tales, (the Squire's Tale), way back in the fourteenth century, when he wrote,

"... In wommen be; for ay as busy as bees
Be thay us seely men for to desceyve..."

The buzz is that bees are not actually hardworking, industrious insects. Sure they are great pollinators but what is that ... just sex with flowers. Bees work neither efficiently nor hard. They are in fact very laid back workers and work only under certain conditions.

Apparently, they belong to a very powerful union, the Bee Labor Union for Easy-life, known colloquially amongst bees as BLUE. In true BLUE spirit, these bluebloods of the order Hymenoptera don't work if they're feeling a bit blue. And here are some of the conditions that make them blue: Bees don't even venture outside, let alone work, if it's too windy, too still, too sunny , too shady, too wet, too dry, too cold, too hot, too early, too late, too midday, too bright or too dark. This leaves a very small window of working opportunity in which those "busy" bees can perform their job. If any of these adverse conditions prevail, they ask themselves, as if they were Shakespeare,

"to be, or not to be [working], that is the question"

Their answer is always, "bzzzzz ... nooooo!" Under the aforementioned circumstances, they simply are not going to wake up, leave their comfy, warm hives and that absolutely gorgeous queen and go out to work. They don't think so. "Bzzzzzzzz ... noooo!" They would rather stay home and ...

Bee well.

Paint on,
Depingo

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Basquiat Case


Basquiat, in a squat on the Factory floor
Watched Warhol movies which were  mostly a bore
Stifling a snore, he could take it no more
But it sure beat being street-artist poor.

He switched to TV and viewed Anna Magnani 
While painting in three-piece suits by Armani
He threw in some graphics, hues bright and tawny,
Some scribbling as well and was no longer yawn-y.

In his teens and twenties he had fun and made mon
Though his work looks a lot like mine at age one.
We were even in a show together and he won!
My youth?... not taken into consideration.

"Just kidding,"  Jean-Michel - my tales are tall.
I adore your work; mine's in a mall.
Your paintings enthrall; mine are nothing at all
But I'm still making art and having a ball!


Heads and sun - Basquiat age 22; man and lady - Depingo age 1

Friday, November 13, 2020

Manet, My Muse and I

In grad school, one of my classmates, upon viewing my paintings of my cat, Muse, criticized them for their (intentional) lack of anatomical correctness. Then he gratuitously suggested, "If you want to learn how to draw a cat, trace a photograph of a cat." I countered, "Art, even traditional figurative painting, is not a representation, copy, or imitation of life. It is especially not a tracing of life; it is a transcendence of life." The French painter Eduard Manet (1832- 1883) was always careful to filter out the expressive or symbolic content of his models, so that the viewer's attention would not be distracted from the pictorial content--brush strokes and color patches. By this filtering, he transcended the literal meaning of the subject. The model would still have been the inspiration for the painting, but the subject would have been painting. The models in Manet's creations transcend their actual selves and become truer, purer, never-before-seen versions of themselves. They are distilled down to their essence. Manet's paintings were revolutionary visual manifestos of artistic freedom. His canvases exhibited what he believed to be the "natural laws" of the world of painting. Because of this, Manet's works are substantially different from those solidly constructed works of, for example, Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) with their familiar reality. Manet described the natural immediacies of the eyes' perception in terms of painting. The results were broad, flat areas on his canvases using no transitional tones to show what the eye takes in at a glance–not the way things really are. Manet believed that the painter's first loyalty must be to his canvas, not the world outside the canvas. This is the beginning of an attitude which was later to be summed up under the rubric of "Art for Art's Sake." Manet's life was devoted to "pure painting"–to the belief that brushstrokes and color patches themselves, not what they stand for, are an artist's tools, as well as her primary reality. If Manet had painted my cat: Muse would have been a totally new image and the painting's content, although literally Muse's image, would have been about painting itself. The anatomical shapes of Muse's head and body would be less important than the shapes that he would have abstracted from Muse's form. The abstracted shapes would more accurately exhibit Muse's essence than the more literally rendered versions of Muse's "actual" shapes. These "actual" shapes would have inspired Manet. They would not have limited him, as they do less gifted artists who search for "realism" in painting. In his concern for being true to the canvas, Manet would have found the truth, rather than merely the cuteness of a little cat in a three-dimensional "window." He would have had to make painterly decisions and some "sacrifices" at the expense of literal reality. Yet, he would have remained faithful to the canvas–his primary concern. By freeing himself of reproducing literal reality, Manet was able to capture the essence of his subject in a more truthful way. He would have transcended Muse, the signifier, and come to a clearer, purer painting of Muse. Art would have been created and the figurative subject abstracted in such a way as to be totally new and dazzling. When I painted my cat: I was delighted to see there is no more dazzling way to see a signifier abstracted and transcended than to spend an afternoon observing Muse. He is more my muse than my cat. He is, in fact, the perfect example of transcendence. Although he engages in the usual cat-like activities of eating, stretching, napping, purring, stalking and climbing, the shapes he assumes while so doing are more important than the fact he is a feline. The shapes he affects are so abstract as to make me altogether forget that he is a cat. He has transcended cat as animal and in so doing has become a fresher, purer, more universal image. Sometimes he is a ribbon or, perhaps, a comet as he leaps over my head. Then he is a sphere–a ball about to bounce off a shelf. He is a rectangular brick as he stuffs himself into a shoebox for a nap, and is flat as a modernist's canvas, or a pancake, when he tries to squeeze through a tiny space between window and sill. Finally, he is the crescent moon as he arches his back in preparation for battle with the neighbor's cat. Even he seems to know that the shapes he assumes are more significant than the fact that he is a cat. He never loses his "catness," but he transcends it--by leaps and bounds!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

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.

Friday, October 30, 2020

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


Sunday, October 11, 2020

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!


Monday, August 24, 2020

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,                                                        

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Three Lives


Water Under the Bridge, 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 original images.  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.  Fortunately, I take progression photos of my work, so you can see both of these painted over images  below.

               
                                                                                                                        

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 continues morphing into another image.

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 my favorite part of the painting experience. As to the finished painting?


I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Monday, June 1, 2020

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

Sunday, May 10, 2020

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!"