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, April 16, 2011

The Shape of Things

A FRIEND OF MINE, ANOTHER PAINTER, recently criticized me for painting my subjects and models so irreverently. He said he noticed that I had a complete lack of concern for their meaning or function.

He's right. As a closet formalist, I concern myself primarily with form or shape.
I can rely on shapes. They maintain their integrity. A shape stays the same no matter how you look at it, or where it is placed. A word and its meaning can change but a shape stays the same. If I turn a painting upside down, the shapes will remain just as I painted them, even though inverted. But the word for the shapes will change drastically, thus transforming the meaning and function of the element.

First image:
I can demonstrate this In my painting Upsidedown Sky. In its normal configuration, the way I painted it, the sky is at the top of the canvas and also appears as a reflection in the swimming pool. The reflected sky actually has heightened color because of the turquoise paint on the walls of the (actual) pool. The pink rectangular shape bordering the pool is the above ground part of the pool–at least those are the words that describe it in this upright orientation.

As I paint, I rotate the canvas. This insures that the composition works from all four sides. When you turn Sky Blue upside down:

Second image:
The pink border of the pool is no longer a pool element, but becomes a skylight through which you see the water. But in this orientation the water is not water anymore, it is sky. The element that I originally painted as sky is now at the bottom of the canvas. This way it is no longer sky; it looks like and becomes a lake. In this painting, sky and water, two disparate words with different meanings, are fungible when inverted.
The shapes stay the same, but the words and functions for them change.

In addition, when viewed upside down, what used to be the distant background appears more like a reflection in the lake because it is now inverted. Similarly, the hanging vine when the painting is upright transforms into a shoot. Here again, the shapes stay the same but the words change. This is why I like shapes better than words, although ...

I love words when I "paint" with them in my essays.

Paint on,
Depingo (who is sometimes unsure which end is up)


  1. Beautiful sky and water ... I mean, water and sky ...
    I mean sky and water.

  2. I turned my computer so the the two above images were side by side and that way they look like an aerial view of the whole swimming pool.

  3. I love your Optical Conclusion. Your words are as great as your paintings. If you had not painted the in two pots in the scene, you might have even got away with painting 1 and 2 as completely separate works of art upside down or not.

  4. John, I KNEW I would never get those upside down flower pots past your photographer's hawk eye!

  5. Your shapes and words and formalist art = Brilliant

  6. You are extraordinary at painting.