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, July 1, 2017

Alice's Aura

 Alices Aura, 40 x 36 inches

MY STUDIO IS ON THE SECOND FLOOR at Foxglove. Mr. Depingo rarely ventures up there, so he doesn't really know what I'm painting at any given moment. I have ideal lighting in the studio, four skylights and two walls of casement windows facing north and south. When I'm almost finished with a painting, I want to see what it looks like in different lighting, so I bring it downstairs.

Last night, after Mr. Depingo, who is naturally skittish, had already gone to sleep, I brought my current work, Alice's Aura, downstairs. I had just finished watching Local Color, a movie about the relationship between two artists. Because most of my intellectual and emotional life is devoted to art, if I am not painting myself, I watch others paint. This film inspired me to study my own painting, so I brought Alice downstairs and propped her up on the wicker love seat on the porch.

Alice Bisgood, my late Aunt Oddie, was the model for this life-sized painting. I prefer painting someone I know rather than a professional model. Doing so adds depth to the portrait because of the non-formal dimension the model's personality brings to the painting. Even when I am painting a portrait, I am painting shapes, not facial features or anatomy. The fact that I knew Alice makes the painting of her more challenging because in addition to rendering her shapes accurately, I have to take into consideration the intangible quality of her personality. After studying Alice to determine what needed to be done to complete the painting, I left her on the love seat and went to bed.

In the middle of the night, Mr. Depingo was awakened by our dog, Bella, who barked to be let out. In that indeterminate space between dream and wake, he passed through the kitchen, and viewed my painting in the dim porch light. Startled, he jumped because he thought there was a strange woman sitting in our porch. I am glad he didn't try to stab her with a kitchen knife.

As a figurative painter with a formalist bent, like Edouard Manet, the father of modern painting long before me, I am more concerned with shapes and paint–its flow and the patterns and marks it makes. I know that they are the content of a painting more so than any model or subject matter. I know better than to try to paint my subjects literally or "realistically" although I have been accused of doing so. I explain to my accusers it is not even possible to paint realistically because my subjects are three-dimensional and my canvases are two-dimensional. So to even approach the look of reality, I or any other painter has to distort the subject severely when translating from a three- dimensional subject in a two-dimensional format.

Still, the image of Alice was "real" enough to scare Mr. Depingo. What does it mean that Mr. Depingo was startled when he saw the painting? Of course, it took him by surprise, but it also means that my painting techniques worked and Alice's significant form, true inner nature, or aura, if you will, rather than her mere outward appearance, emanated from the painting.

The painter's own aura can be sensed in a work as well. If you look at Willem de Kooning's Women paintings, you will sense de Kooning's aura immediately and strongly. The first time I saw one of these paintings in person, my heart raced, I hyperventilated and nearly fainted right on the floor of the Whitney Museum. The spirit of de Kooning lived on and emanated from the paintings. It seemed as if he were right there with me. It was overwhelming.

Because my use of paint captured Alice's spirit, the painting has a strong emotional pull. I am proud that this painting caused the visceral reaction that it did. It probably means that I am a competent  painter ...or...perhaps...

Mr. Depingo is a big baby.

Paint on,

PS. The philosopher Walter Benjamin asserted in his famous treatise The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction that with the advent of mechanical reproduction, the aura of a work is diminished. I believe that you cannot experience the painting's aura by viewing it in digital form either. This in turn means that you're just going to have to come to Out of the Blue at the Avance Gallery (July 9th  opening) if you want to really experience Alice's Aura.


  1. wow! This is beautiful - a great panting!

  2. If you call me a big baby again, I'm going to start to cry.

  3. Wow Susie..this is so amazing..honestly, you are so good.I would love for you to paint Belden sometime. Thank you again..this is a beautiful tribute to my Mom.

  4. I saw Alice and it is a fabulous portraiture. Just one thing I must ask you,- If you show Alice at the show on Oct. 2, is that crazy guy allowed in with a kitchen knife"?

  5. He will be there sans knife. You never know what he might do with all that scary art around.

  6. darling ... awesome awesome ... wishing you the best... have fun with the work ... even with the stress ... the best sort... i love the painting!

  7. Wow, Susan—the painting is incredible. I keep looking at Alice, her posture and the sense of calm that exudes from her image, not wanting to have to stop looking. And your comments are, as usual, very entertaining! I feel honored to be the friend of such a creative genius.

  8. Susie:

    Clever depiction of Alice's aura. I did not know Alice, but have often wondered. I now have a piece to add to my ever growing perception of her. Great use of light, and that DeDe pink color returns!

  9. We love the portrait of Jack's mother. Beautiful work.

  10. the finished product is gorgeous!!! I especially love the dress, and the background is perfect. Did you touch it at all since I last saw it? I'm happy you were able to finish "quickly" :)

  11. Gorg! - translation gorgeous - OK Bye

  12. Your new Alices Aura painting is absolutely gorgeous. You are a fabulous artist!

  13. I love it. Someone you know? I can see them hanging together! Good choice.

  14. You do great portraits, especially Alice!

  15. John, I was empathizing with those unfortunate little painted turtles when I painted this one.

  16. I cоuldn't rеѕist commenting. Exϲeptionally well written!

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  17. Susan I had no idea you were such a skilled and accomplished artist! I love your work. Your abstract work is just as fetching as the realist landscapes and portraiture. How did this never come up in conversation? More later but congrats on the wonderful work!