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, January 29, 2011

Jingles is Very Fond of String Beans


My grandfather, Poppa Bisgood, had just buried his wife, Dede, in the family cemetery. He loved Dede, as did we all. However, she was rather bossy and set in her ways. During their long marriage, she had never allowed Poppa to have a dog or drink alcohol in their house. Freed from these restrictions, on the way home from the cemetery Poppa bought a dog and a case of beer.

Poppa got two blue ribbons. The dog was a registered toy fox terrier from a long line of champions. The beer was Pabst Blue Ribbon. The puppy couldn't stop kissing Pappa on the way home, his identification tags making jingly noises every time he jumped up to kiss Poppa's face. Poppa named him Jingles and they bonded instantly. The case of beer?–that worked too.

Poppa was lame and could not go out of the house without assistance, nor did he wish to. So he and Jingles settled into Poppa's favorite easy chair in the shabbily comfortable 1840's Sag Harbor captain's house which Poppa had bought for $1 from his father many years before. Jingles was very good company for Poppa because he did not want to go out either, other than to take care of his canine business, which he conducted under the forsythia in the yard.

The two of them merrily wore a path from Poppa's chair through the dining room to the kitchen, where they dined on cheese and liverwurst (which Poppa washed down with a beer or two) for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. In addition to meals, several times a day they would rendezvous in the kitchen for a snack of cheese and crackers. The words "Come on my little cheese hound, it's time for our snack," were music to Jingles' ears. With that, the two of them would hobble and trot off to the kitchen. Jingles didn't care that he had given up a life of show-ring glamour and fame. It's not that he didn't like strutting. He liked strutting very much, so long as it was into the kitchen. Living with a fromageur was much more fun than being a show dog. He thought he was the luckiest dog in the world to have ended up with Poppa!

After a time, though, Jingles no longer looked the handsome champ he was born and bred to be. In fact, he more closely resembled a beach ball with legs than a dog. No matter–he was still highly regarded among breed fanciers because he had championship blood coursing through his little canine veins. One day, a breeder came to call. She wanted to borrow Jingles as a stud for her Juliette, who was in heat. She told Poppa that the black spot on Jingles' back was perfectly placed for the breed, even if it did look like an overblown black balloon on Jingles'enormous-sized rump. Poppa, a true romantic, told Jingles he would probably enjoy being a sire and to go with the nice lady. Even though Jingles hated leaving Poppa and the house, he obeyed and followed the breeder.

Much to the breeder's dismay, Jingles did not fall in love with Juliette-or if he did, it was an entirely platonic relationship. Despite the fact that Juliette was in heat, Jingles growled every time she got near him. Jingles only had eyes for Poppa and soon was returned home, where a large plate of liverwurst and cheese awaited him. To mollify any ruffled feelings the breeder and/or Juliette might have harbored, Poppa remarked about the unsuccessful romance, "I guess Jingles is just a natural-born bachelor."

Life went happily on for Poppa and Jingles. However, the family became increasingly concerned about the unhealthy life style Poppa had fallen into without Dede. And nobody could believe the girth on Jingles! We all started to visit and look after them whenever we could. One weekend my cousin Jack drove all the way to Sag Harbor from college to clean the house, wash Poppa's laundry and cook some nutritious meals. At dinner that night in the formal dining room, Jack was delighted to be getting some wholesome food into Poppa for a change. Poppa seemed to be doing a good job of cleaning his plate, too. Soon, though, Jack noticed that Poppa was surreptitiously slipping all of his food under the table to Jingles–chicken, salad, potatoes, and even the string beans. Tired and stressed from all the driving, housekeeping and cooking, Jack lost his temper and yelled at Poppa that he had driven 300 miles to make the food that Poppa was slipping to that canine basketball under the table. Poppa looked Jack directly in the eye, smiled politely, paused, and, in that manner and cadence that only the English can pull off, replied,

"Why ... Jingles is very fond of string beans."

Paint on,

Saturday, January 22, 2011

On my Doorstep

ON MY DOORSTEP I HAVE FOUND all sorts of things: a cat, freshly baked banana bread, flowers, dry cleaning and laundry, groceries, suitors and various parcels.

Imagine my surprise when I returned home recently and found two huge paintings (at left) I had done as a young artist propped up on either side of my front door, staring at me accusingly, imploring me to take them in. I hadn't seen or even thought about them for at least 30 years.

What was I up to at that time? They are large, colorful, acrylic paint-on-linen, figural paintings after Heinz Edelmann, the psychedelic pop artist who created the art for Yellow Submarine. One is an intricate tangle of a man, woman, bird and bicycle and the other is a sandy island in a rolling sea on a sunny day with sailboat, sunbather, umbrella, bubble-spewing whale and erupting mountain. Flying above, overseeing it all, is a large white bird.

Upon closer inspection I noticed decades of dirt and mystery spills on them. Both canvases were worn through to the stretchers at the corners, making them look even more like the abandoned orphans that indeed they were. I brought them into the house and immediately cleaned and restored them as well as I could..

As to what I was up to in my life, I had sold these two paintings, along with a triptych of girls, to a photographer friend, Benson, for his studio. This gave him what was at the time the largest collection of original Depingos in the world. I joked that I hoped he would take good care of my "children," especially "the girls." He replied that now that he had so many of my "children," he wanted me to start having his. He wasn't joking, either. I guess it was a proposal of sorts. I didn't mind his having my "children," but I didn't want to start having his, so we drifted apart.

Years later, when my daughter, Nicole, was going away to college, she saw photographs of "The Girls" that Benson had bought along with the two paintings shown here. She asked where "The Girls" were, because she loved them and wanted to use them to decorate her dorm room. Unfortunately, she couldn't. Very shortly thereafter, I ran into Benson, whom I hadn't seen for years, at an opening. Astoundingly, he whispered in my ear, "I think you want your girls back." I was stunned by the acuity of his mental telepathy because I had never said a word to him about them.. Of course, I said yes and Benson had them delivered to my apartment the next day. Nicole brought them to college, and later on to her first home. Today the girls hang in her office.

It's funny how paintings serve as visual memories of the phases of an artist's life. I don't know why Besnon returned these paintings after so many years. There was no note with them–just his card. I've tried to conjure up mystical reasons for the return but remain baffled. My only thought is that there are birds in both of the returned paintings and that Benson somehow gleaned from the preternatural ether surrounding us that I am having a solo show this year entitled Birds of a Feather. Maybe he thought they should flock together. Or, perhaps, more prosaically...

he is simply moving to a smaller studio.

Paint on,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


ITTLE OVERWHELMED when we first got Lulu. I had to sandwich her training and walks between shopping for and cooking dinner and painting. Apparently, Mr. Depingo noticed because one day he came home from work and said, "I don't want you to take this the wrong way, Depingo. I think you are doing a great job of taking care of Lulu and cooking and painting, but you are wearing yourself a little thin. So, I've hired a personal chef to cook dinners and a professional dog walker/trainer to take care of Lulu.

I am glad he did not hire someone to paint my paintings!

It all worked out fine. I usually went on Lulu's walks with her and her dog walker. Mr. Depingo thought that a bit eccentric, so please don't tell him that a couple of times I went shopping for fresh herbs with our chef.

Paint on,

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saddened Hearts, Slut, Mud and Phlegm

SADDENED HEARTS, SLUT, MUD & PHLEGM (SHSM&P) is an international megafirm for which I worked for 10 years. I have changed the firm's name for this post. I have done this not only to make it more descriptive but also to protect the innocent–me.

I worked as the staff illustrator for the firm's weekly international newsletter. Basically, my job was to add interest through my editorial drawings and cartoons to an endless stream of otherwise dull, self-serving articles about the firm's dubious business coups, without stepping on any political toes. I did this with great aplomb. In fact, in all modesty, I can say I became a genius at being amusing and bland simultaneously, which is not an easy thing to do. In retrospect, I might have become one of the great cartoonists of our time if my drawing hands had not been blandcuffed. Well, that's humor ... err ... um ... water ... under the bridge. (Or over the damned-I'm never quite sure which is the appropriate cliche.)

And speaking of water, there came a time when SHSM&P entered difficult financial straits. "In terrorem," they claimed–"due to an act of God." It couldn't have been their fault. Poor dears. Many of the firm's higher-ups took salary hits in the six figures. And some had to suddenly develop a keen interest in marine biology–a euphemism for being de-partnered. That's when SHSM&P decided to "right size" the rest of the firm. That's "right size," they proudly told their soon-to-be jobless employees–not "down size," even though downsizing is what they were doing, which, of course, is a euphemism for firing.

The managing director, Mr. Saddened Hearts himself, who had a heart for art, was saddened indeed because he was under intense criticism from the philistines he worked with for paying for art for the newsletter. Hearts, with saddened heart, disingenuously avoided personal responsibility for this by saying he had no idea the firm was paying for my art. Maybe he thought I was operating a charity art service for the fabulously wealthy? Furthermore, he had signed my timesheet every week for ten years, indicating his approval of both my time, my work and my paycheck. Nonetheless, illustrations were cut from the newsletter along with my job. I saw cadmium red! I was as angry as a trapped lioness. I charged in to see Mr. Hearts about this, who, being a kindly and benevolent leader, heartlessly roared, "Don't tell me your troubles."

At lunch over a wonderfully appropriate bowl of pasta puttanesca, Ms. Slut, my supervisor, told me that SHSM&P was reorganizing and had plans for a more important position for me on the newsletter. But, she added, for various bureaucratic reasons, my future position was not quite ready to go. Would I mind helping out on some other work assignments until the new position started, she asked. Of course, I said. She then sent me on a series of assignments that seemingly were designed to kill me or for which I was absurdly over- or under-qualified. The most outrageous of these jobs was operating a pollutant-spewing shrink-wrap machine in a hot, unventilated room with no protective gloves or face mask. I explained that I would be glad to help out as a shrink-wrap operator. However, I had never operated one, didn't particularly wish to breath in carcinogens and didn't want to get OSHA involved in looking into the conditions under which SHSM&P's employees were asked to work that particular job.

Another assignment was to stuff and seal thousands of envelopes by hand and tongue because that machine was on the fritz. Unfortunately for Slut and the firm, I had watched the Seinfeld episode in which George Constanza's fiance died from licking envelope flaps, so I flat out refused to lend a tongue.

Sometimes I was sent to cover for a secretary who was out sick. This was invariably distressing to all concerned because I had no secretarial skills whatsoever. On one of those occasions, when I heard "take a letter" I replied , "to where?" Short of scrubbing the bathroom floors, I got all of the worst assignments that were to be had. My bad reviews were piling up. Suddenly it occurred to me that Ms. Slut (puttanesca personified), was trying to discourage and enrage me into quitting. She wanted me to leave in a huff.

One day Mud, Slut's boss, called me in to sling some mud at me. He noted my growing stack of negative reviews and asked if there was anything the firm could do to help me perform my assignments more satisfactorily. I replied that if the firm really wanted to help me, it could stop harassing me in the hopes that I would quit.

The final indignity came on an assignment with Phlegm. Mr. Phlegm was at his most phlegmboyant that day. He kept drooling, snorting and licking his lips every time he passed me. I thought that was part of being phlegmatic. But then, he licked them a little too slowly while handing me a gift, a CD. At first I thought he was trying to be nice, but then I saw that the title of the CD he had bestowed upon me was Drums of Passion. I put two and two together and passionately drummed my way out of that phlegmy letch's office, nearly slipping on all that slime as I ran out.

Not surprisingly, there never was a more important position for me at the Newsletter in the works. That was a pretense so Slut could put me into unsavory situations to goad me into quitting. SHSM&P knew it; I knew it; SHSM&P knew I knew it; my lawyer knew it and SHSM&P knew my lawyer knew it. But we all pretended that we didn't. I think I won the battle because, one day, with no further ado, Slut and Mud fired me and simultaneously handed me an extremely generous severance check. I guess that was the prize for winning. They said the check was for all the excellent work I had done for the firm for the past ten years and the perfect performance ratings I had gotten until recently. Shaking their heads, they added that they had no idea what could have caused an employee's performance to slip so precipitously.

As I left SHSM&P headquarters for the last time, I took a circuitous route. I wanted to have a look in the shrink-wrap room. I am very happy to report that the shrink–wrap operator was wearing a facemask and gloves and that the windows were wide open.

Paint on,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I NEVER MET A COOKIE I didn't like. So I stopped in this quaint little bakery in the East Village, closed my eyes and pointed. Then I wolfed them down, while sketching the storefront. My random cookie selections were delicious, which confirms it. I never met a cookie I didn't like.

Paint on,

Friday, January 7, 2011

An Excuse to Kiss the Bride

INVITATIONS WERE ALL SENT OUT, bride's gown and pale pink bridesmaids' dresses with embroidered daisies on pink grosgrain ribbon imported from France via Bergdorf Goodman, wedding rings, church, reception hall, flowers, limousines, band, champagne, hors d'oeuvres, dinner, desert,–all arranged. The reception was set for the Hotel Grammatan in Bronxville. Ironically, when we were in high school, boys would throw rocks at the hotel's marquee to break lights so that it spelled "Hot Gramma," something I hoped at the time I would never be. I figured after marriage that was inevitable and so I was probably on my way. I did have some reservations about getting married but it seemed so romantic.

As you can see from my checklist, I, the quintessential Virgo, had taken care of everything, down to the most minute detail–tiny pink sculpted roses on the sugar cubes.
(Not even Bridezilla can beat a Virgo in the throes of wedding preparations, and we are even pleasant about it.) I could rest easy; my work was done.

But could I? Something was making me uneasy, nervous ... as if I had forgotten something. I had a nagging visual asterisk in my head. Maybe it wasn't an asterisk; perhaps it was a star? Yes, I think it was a star. I tried to stay calm and told myself it was just pre-wedding jitters and exiled it from my brain.

Eventually, though, the star came back and started to grow. It began to glow brightly and twinkled as if it were winking at me. Then it morphed into a laughing comet, crashing around and wreaking havoc in my otherwise orderly mind. With all that illumination, I suddenly got the message. Star! .... s... t ... a ... r... STAR! ...WILSON STAR! – a sweet, dashingly handsome guy from MIT I had been dating and of whom I was quite fond. We went out every time he came to New York, which was frequently because the city was his home. In the excitement of my engagement and
wedding preparations, I had forgotten all about him. I had forgotten to tell Wilson Star I was getting married!

Well, it was probably OK. Most likely, he was simply not in my orbit anymore. Actually, I had not heard from him for quite some time. He was still in school in Boston and I was working in NYC. Maybe he had found someone else. I hoped so. Oh, fate, please spare me the icky, sticky conversation I would have to have with him if he had not. Maybe I wouldn't have to talk to him after all. It probably wouldn't be that big a deal for him. For all I knew, he was already in love with a new girl. I'll bet that's what happened–we just fell out of love. I considered calling and telling him. It would probably be the polite thing to do. I kept putting it off, though, and eventually the star in my mind faded away. Thank goodness, no more brain-star.

Starless, for the first time in a while, I went to work. Unbeknownst to me, Wilson Star had indeed heard about my engagement through my boss (who was his father's best friend). Perhaps, that's why he had not been calling me. While in my boss's office one morning, to my sheer and utter amazement, in walked Wilson Star! He sat down in the visitor's chair next to me, politely shook my hand and said, " Depingo, it's so nice to see you," as if he were surprised to find me there! I felt a little uneasy ... caught ... trapped maybe, but then decided the visit had nothing to do with me at all. Wilson, finding himself in the neighborhood, was just stopping in to see his dad's buddy. I am sure that was the reason for his visit. He didn't know anything about my upcoming marriage (whew!)–and I intended to keep it that way.

As fate would have it, just then the phone rang. My boss answered, then handed it to me, saying, "It's the New York Times Society Page, Depingo–for you!" Bad timing in the extreme. Why did those pesky editors have to do their research at the exact moment I was sitting next to Wilson? I asked if we could talk another time and the caller replied, no, they had a deadline and needed to do it right away. Embarrassed to death, and knowing that this was a pretty shabby way for Wilson to find out about my impending nuptials, I had to answer questions about myself, my groom, our honeymoon and our future life together–right there in front of Wilson Star. I was rubbing salt into a star-shaped wound.

To break the tense silence, when I got off the phone, my boss said, "Oh Wil, did you hear, Depingo's getting married?" He said, "Yes," he had, and he was very happy about it because now he had an excuse to kiss the bride.

With that, he grabbed me so swiftly that my chair fell out from under me and I landed directly on top of him. He locked me in an embrace–right there, at work, in front of my boss! He whispered that we were bound together for eternity, held me so tightly to to his chest that I could hardly breathe, and gave me the most earth-shattering, mind-blowing, spine-tingling, wedding-canceling kiss I had ever gotten. Although I did not cancel the wedding ...

I saw stars!
Paint on,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


A New Year's resolutionist's nightmare.