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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Sunday, May 16, 2010

All My Children

Probably nothing this deplorable has ever happened to you (and I hope it never does), but it did happen to me.

One day my entire family got killed violently and in one fell swoop. It was death in a most horrible way–by exsanguination. A vicious, untrustworthy editor stuck a knife in the back of every one of my children while I, their beloved mother, had to sit by impotently in a refined, business-like manner and watch the ink drain out of their tiny bodies until they turned white and expired.

Three months before the massacre, I had been hired to create my little family by this very same editor. She said sweetly they would appear weekly for a year in a four-panel cartoon strip in the newsletter of a renowned international law firm. I said, "Shouldn't we have a contract?" She replied, "No, a handshake is good enough for me." So we shook on it. Then she brazenly paid me to conceive them. I didn't like the concept of exchanging money for life. But knew that it meant that my children would have a good life, be comfortable and get to travel all over the world. Even if this evil editor did own them, I would still be their birth mother and in control of their weekly activities. So, I left with the check, set about my creative work and became pregnant immediately. Labor was not easy. I was paid for 35 hours of creative labor, but it took more like 355 hours to create my children and their strip. No matter, a mother loves her children, however difficult and long the labor.

At this writing, my drained, pale children have been living for some years (if you can call it that) in a storage locker in my basement. Sometimes, when I am down there storing a painting, I can hear their cries and whispers. They are barely audible (remember, they had all the ink sucked out of them) but they are there. If I listen carefully, I can make out the words and hear them reminiscing about their heyday--their 15 minutes of fame--in the newsletter. "Ah, those were the days," I hear them whisper amongst themselves. Their vitality, adventure, graphic beauty and moxie were unmatched.

I loved my children and still do. My favorite is Attorneyman, the protagonist; he had beautiful, golden #2 Mongol pencils for hands; he was sharp. Let's say about Handria, what she lacked in body (her body was comprised of just a hand and an arm) she made up for in organizational skills. Gavella was born to be a judge. She got her name because she was shaped like a gavel. Using the top of her gavel-head she made legal points with a thunderous whack. But she only hammered for justice–either that or trying to knock some sense into Attorneyman's head. Loose Ends was my problem child, but I loved him too. He was very smart but couldn't apply himself--too many loose ends. He also interfered with others when they wanted to get something done by entangling them in his own loose ends. There were many other children, too numerous to recount, but I loved the first-born four the best.

My children were not born of a natural, nor even a Caesarian, birth. They were born of the pen. Although they are comprised of ink and paper, they are just as rewarding as if they were flesh and blood. Ink and blood are pretty much the same anyway. A difference in color and consistency maybe, but both support life.

My children were sophisticated, classy, clever and funny–just what the editor wanted. They enjoyed providing their rather humorless lawyer-readers with a laugh or two on Fridays after their very boring week of hostile takeovers, CMO's and REITS. My children were drawn into amusing situations weekly, some of which poked gentle fun at lawyers and judges. Actually, it was Attorneyman, not Loose Ends (as I would have thought) who got the strip and all my children killed when he referred to a judge as "a hypoglycemic donut dunker" who wasn't sophisticated enough to understand his legendary legal legerdemain. Apparently, some of my insecure, puerile lawyer-readers thought that they would lose all their court cases if their firm newsletter referred to judges as hypoglycemic donut dunkers. Did they think that judges were that sour?

I did what any mother in the same situation would do. I laid my children to rest in a basement storage locker, got hysterical, drank 52 white wine spritzers and slept for an entire weekend. Then I went to that lying, cheating editor's office and reminded her that we had a handshake deal that my children were hired for a year. She replied, "Do you have it in writing?"

Potscript: The international law firm in question left its posh quarters in one of the most prestigious office buildings in Manhattan, and is now conducting business in a sleazy, dark building on Sixth Avenue. Several of its lawyers are serving time in prison for various frauds and Ponzi schemes. The editor who betrayed my family lost her job and relocated to Saudi Arabia, where she had both her hands cut off as punishment for the many deceitful handshake deals she perpetrated in that country. Attorneyman and the kids are happy to be out of the basement storage locker and living with their Mom in her studio again. They are thrilled to be making a comeback on Depingo Ergo Sum, which by the way has readers from twenty countries, which is 15 more than the countries in which the law firm had offices. Soon Attorneyman will be made into a major motion picture with Brad Pitt playing the lead role. Angelina is hoping that Brad doesn't fall for Handria, who is even taller, slimmer and prettier than she. Mother is happily blogging, painting and gardening at Foxglove Cottage and planning to paint formal portraits of all her children very soon.


  1. Now this is weird; passion; and real genius. You have it all! I LOVE IT! You are among the great! Dali, Warhol, Prior, Carlin, Einstein and Susan McLaughlin!!!

  2. At least the rent is reasonable.

  3. Susan...I hesitate to post on your blog... I think I'm in love. Your writing is a gas.