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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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Raw Edges

Magda 40 x 36 inches

ONE of the most fascinating aspects of painting is the process. The painter mixes various pigments to the colors and consistency she desires, spreads the buttery substance on a canvas, layers it with glazes which are comprised of translucent pigments mixed with varnish, and this buttery substance, though still paint, magically morphs into something else --whatever the painter wills-- a tree, a face, a sailboat or in the case of an abstract painter, shapes.

The best way to see the painting process is to look at the edges of a painting. If you look at these beautiful, uncontrolled accidental abstract compositions of spilled or splashed colors, you will see unadulterated painting in its purest form. I love to look at those inadvertent compositions the paint makes on its own.

Recently, I delivered paintings to be considered for a local juried exhibition. I know it is not the Whitney Biennial, but you have to start somewhere. The entry form lays out very specific directions that the painter must follow. She is allowed to submit two paintings which may not exceed a certain dimension in any direction. I am hard-pressed to find any paintings among my current work, that fall within the mandated size limits, but I finally do. The submissions must be framed or have finished wrap-around edges with no staples showing. This necessitates my eliminating all the paintings (no matter how good they are) which have exposed staples on their sides, but I do that also. Like Lucy telling Ricky, "I want to be in the show!"

After selecting paintings which fit the criteria, I become really worried. If the sponsors don't like staples showing, they probably don't like all those wonderful drips and dabs and blotches and splashes of paint which occur all over the edges of the canvas either. So, to even achieve a semblance of societal painting propriety I now have to get out the white paint, tint it with black and ochre to match the off-white of primed canvas and paint over all those wonderful drips, dabs and splotches. I happen to love what happens on the edges. These free-form splashes serve as a map or diagram of the image and afford the viewer a glimpse into the process. While concealing the edges, I become both bored and miffed because it is labor intensive and requires many coats of paint to hide the " blemishes." Also it keeps me from real painting. I keep covering the edges though, watching the paint drips fade anyway so that my work will be accepted. "Ricky, I want to be in the show!"

The entry rules state that if your work is not deemed show-worthy, the Society will notify you to pick up your rejected art before the show starts. Were that to happen to me, I have a plan. I will disguise myself by wearing a pair of Groucho Marx glasses--the ones with the bushy eyebrows, mustache and big nose-for the pickup. I will be grouchy but I will also be Groucho, so no one will know it is I.

I did not have a plan for what actually happened. While registering my two large-scale pieces of art, a cluster of animated committee members surround me and my canvases and engage in an extended discussion among themselves. I keep hearing the phrase "raw edges," so I glean that the argument must be about my paintings' newly painted edges. Most of the arbiters seem to believe my edges are not finished. Although I have concealed the drips, spills and splashes, I did not paint over the l/8 inch scallops of paint bleeding over from the image side of the paintings to their edges. I didn't miss them. I did it by design. I chose not to cover the scallops. They were neat and orderly, so I left them. Also I didn't want a straight line of white paint that close to the image. It would not have looked right. Mercifully, a higher ranking official appears and rules that the edges are sufficiently finished to meet the standard. Whew! I'm in!

At the time of the writing of this post, the show has come and gone and the awards have been awarded. I am sorry that I cannot write that I won "Best in Show" or even placed. But at least I didn't have to wear the Groucho glasses while slinking away with my raw-edged art.


  1. You would look great even with a Groucho nose.

  2. Thanks Susan, I enjoyed looking through your blog.

  3. Great Post. Love it!

  4. gracefully...(and then going to the show only to say....huh?)
    innovation, originality, raw edges,vibrancy, sweat, labor, heart, genius, prayer, do not really play a role that guarantees anything in the success of ones work
    so strange this paradigm!

    but we must approach it with light original undefeatable heart ( yes bravo,,you do!) ..tho acceptance may feel like everything..but i think it should have very little to do with what we impossible seduction...

    so glad you are doing it as strange as it is..

    blessed beautiful raw edges...that is where the real art starts and finishes

  5. Your work is beautiful because it comes from within. You were right about the cat all along.

  6. Love it wonderful painting!

  7. Binx gave me such joy and having access to your art is among the most beauteous.

  8. I LOVE your work! The paintings are amazing! I didn’t realize you were a talented artist, I’m envious!