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 16, 2016


Inside My Mind,  gouache on paper, 8 x 10"

Contents of my Mind Arranged,  gouache on paper , 8 x 10 "

JUST CALL ME KALEIDOMIND. I have chosen this name for myself because of my creative process, which is analogous to that of a kaleidoscope.

You've probably never looked inside a person's head unless you are a neurosurgeon or maybe a radiologist. But in this post you will be able to see inside one for the first time–my kaleidomind. When you view the top image  you are seeing a painting of the inside of my brain. All of the images, colors and starry shapes I have stuffed and sucked into it, store there, and carry around with me constantly are on display. They are not heavy, they're my images.

Notice you don't see any words in there. That's because I am an artist; I breathe, eat, sleep, walk and think images. I don't need words. I don't even assign names or meanings to my collected images. They are just shapes, colors and textures to me, with no more significance than anything else that comprises my palette. These images shift around in my mind, for years sometimes, depending on when I first acquired them. As they assume this or that juxtaposition, I imagine they are rehearsing for their debut in a painting. For the moment, though, they are merely biding their time in my mind–waiting until I let them out.

Although these nameless objets d'art residing in my head are highly conducive to painting, they wreak havoc with my civilian life. The unnamed objects are not so good for conversational purposes. I have on more occasions than I would like to recall had to use one of the few words that I can consistently remember–"thingee." I use it in much the same way as a universal solvent is used. I am reduced to describing anything and everything with my universal solvent. I will mention this "thingee" or that "thingee" when I am talking about an object which I could draw accurately and precisely in a heartbeat but the name of which I cannot recall for all the paint brushes in China. Strangers I regale with such fascinating repartee sometimes take my friends aside and ask in hushed tones if I am the village idiot. "No," my friends will reply, "she's the village artist." It's worth the humiliation, though, not to have words and meanings get in the way of my production of art.

In the second painting on you are viewing the very same contents of my mind that you have already seen in the first painting, only after said contents have been filtered through my creative process and disgorged onto a canvas. If you examine the two closely, you will see that the individual images are the same except for placement and size. Well, maybe they are slightly distorted. It's more crowded than a New York City rush hour subway in there and just as bumpy. You will also see that my visual language is not at all exotic. It is comprised of everyday objects, including lobsters, women, umbrellas, bottles, bikinis– words to you, but "thingees" to me.

I was born painting and since then I have created paintings in the same way. After capturing and storing numerous images in my mind, I use my mindoscope (located next to the medulla oblongata) to rotate and record, shuffle and re-record them many times over to create my work. Although I have repeated some of the same images throughout my painting life, they are never combined in exactly the same way, just as a kaleidoscope's pattern, even though using the same pieces of colored glass, is never repeated.

My kaleidomind differs from a kaleidoscope in one important way. The kaleidoscope's content of shards of glass is fixed, while my kaleidomind's shards of images are constantly increasing in number as I add new ones every day. (I have to paint; otherwise my overcrowded mind would explode!) It is virtually impossible for either me or my precursor, the kaleidoscope, to form the same pattern or composition twice, even were we to attempt to do so. And why would we want to? There is so much new ground–background and foreground–we have to cover. Through this process, images of ordinary, everyday objects (or bits of colored glass in the kaleidoscope) end up confronting each other in unexpected, sometimes jarring and always extraordinary juxtaposition.

At this very writing, there are two extremely pushy shapes bouncing around inside my cranium and giving me a headache. Ouch! That hurts! They are trying to split my head open and escape. One of the shapes thinks that it is a bird and is trying to peck its way out. The other believes itself to be a bottle, or perhaps, in its more Freudian analysis, a womb, leading it to so believe that it has an inherent right to be born. Excuse me momentarily while I disabuse those "thingees" of their escapist notions–the one in which they think they can exit my mind prematurely and the other in which they assume that they are something other than shapes. Until I am ready to crank up my kaleidomind and shake, rattle, and roll that "bird" and "bottle/womb" out of their compartment in my mindoscope, that is exactly where they'll stay. While they remain captive, I, a seasoned artist, will explain to them that they must stay put until they have acquired depth and perfection. Then and only then can they emerge as part of my personal vision, set free and spilled out onto a canvas as part of an enriched, painterly whole.

That "thingee" depicted in the second painting--the girl? She matured, developing a lovely patina, until it was her time to become part of the painting. She could just as well have been a spider on its web. (I especially like webs because what looks more like a kaleidoscopic image than the beautiful refracted shapes and lines of a spider's web?) The girl simply did her time in my mind and then suddenly emerged from an abyss in my memory. Then I twirled her around in my mindoscope until she landed in her place on my canvas. She fell into place without any psychological hoopla. After all, she's just a shape.

Fittingly, the analogy I draw between my creative process and a kaleidoscope is itself based on one of my earliest visual memories: looking at the living room of my childhood home through the multi-faceted cut-glass, decorative sphere atop the "thingee" (which I only much later learned was called a newel post). This vision, one of the most splendid refractions I have ever seen, was perhaps first in my visual vocabulary. I will carry it with me always, use it in my art, and pass it on to my viewers–whose visages I will simultaneously be storing in my kaleidomind.

And so it goes, on and on, around and around, back and forth, up and down, and finally . . .out!


  1. I think your "thingees" are delightful.

  2. That was really interesting. You should write a book! i think people would find it interesting, like the perspective of an artist. it's inspirational to read."

  3. Love it!
    Again, another meeting of the creative minds.