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, August 2, 2018

The Socialite

And introverted Hermit the Crab
Pondered his life on the beach––found it drab
One day as his pincers skittered along
He spied a beauty in shimmering thong.

Whined Hermit,"Permit me to blab my gab"
Misguidedly added, "Your claws look fab"
Frightened, the girl quickly shied away
He got angry and stammered, " st-st-st-stay!

Sure I'm a crab with pincers that stab
But inside my shell, it's as big as a cab"
She shrieked, "Get away!" gave a hell of a yell
With that he stuffed her under his  shell.

He crab-walked further on down the beach
Grabbing up all the girls within reach
Now he's ebullient, no longer up tight
Indeed, he's a veritable socialite.


Friday, June 29, 2018

The Man Under My Bed

The Man Under my Bed, acrylic on linen, 30 x 24 inchesXXXXXXXXXXX

MOST GOOD PAINTERS strive to create work that causes them and their viewers to experience a strong rush of emotion. Painting one of my childhood fears worked as such a catharsis for me.

As a child, I had a downright frightening imagination. The subject of the painting above, The Man Under My Bed, in fact lived (I believed at the time) under my bed. Despite all the pretty pink bedding and lacy pillows on the top of my bed, there was a threatening, dark, evil abyss beneath.  My own childhood yin and yang.

I firmly believed that if I were to get into my bed the normal way, i.e. walking up to it and climbing in, The Man underneath would reach out, grab me by my ankle and pull me under. I knew that if he caught me, I would have to live out the rest of my life under my bed with a monster
in that cramped, dark, coffin-shaped space.

Fortunately, I devised a way to insulate myself from that horrible fate.  It involved some acrobatics.  Much to my mother's amazement, every night I would stand a yard away from my bed and take a flying leap onto the bed to stay out of The Man's reach. I exited the bed in the same way, standing on the edge of the bed and jumping in one giant three-foot long leap over the danger zone.

When I started this painting, I didn't realize I was painting my old under-bed nemesis until I completed his face and he started smirking out at me from the painting. I had thwarted his kidnapping approach, so now he was trying to get me under the bed with what passed for him as come hither looks, wine from his brain and flowers. If I had started out painting a non-specific mythical half-man/half-beast with ram's horns, I ended up painting The Man Under my Bed.

Now that I am an adult (chronologically at least), I realize that The Man Under My Bed doesn't really exist– or at least he doesn't live under my bed. To the great relief of my husband, I can now enter and exit my bed by walking up to it and climbing under the covers. After painting the above, though, I am now concerned that The Man has simply relocated himself. I therefore exercise extreme caution when I walk past my flower beds.

Ever seen a gardener do flying leaps to enter and leave her garden?


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Origins of Language

On Taunton Pond, acrylic on linen, 18 by 24 inches

TOMADDOW I will know the word for water
is not and never was g'ning-g'ning.
That's just a song the pipes sing.

But I like the spoonerism U Nork.
I don't really want to say New York

When I'm angry at mom who dozed
I will not tell her I am closed–closed
because I wanted cake for heaven's sake.
The word for cake's menum.
It's really not so dumb–the word menum.
The superlative's menumeneeeee
saved for chocolate and coined by me.

Tomaddow I'll not mark time by sleeps.
Instead, I'll count with days and weeks
In fact, I shall not even say tomaddow

Dear, dear, dear, dear, dear
I have no idea–it is simply so unclear
why I would want to talk so drear

Monday, May 14, 2018

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

An Artist Thing

An Artist's Thing, pen and ink on paper, digital color

YOU MIGHT NOT THINK SO, but painting is a lot like cleaning. In painting you start with a surface (the canvas), apply media to it, swirl it around a bit, and then polish it with glazes. By doing this, you are changing and improving the surface of the canvas. After you complete your work, there is an image on it. It is now pleasing to look at. In cleaning, you also start with surfaces–say a window. You squirt some Windex on it, swirl it around, and polish with a dry cloth. You have altered its surface so that it has a high sheen and you can see your reflection in it –that's an image.

All my life I have been going for the image. I am told that when I was a toddler, I would have a fit if I got even one nano-sized spot of chocolate ice cream on my dress. I would scream and beat my little fists on the floor until my mother changed my dress. She apparently didn't understand why a little girl would care so much about a slightly soiled dress. She did not yet know that I would be an artist. Artists go for the image.

Detail of Susan the Immaculate, pen, ink on paper, digital color

A few years later, Mrs. Gordon, our housekeeper would yell at my brother and sister because their rooms were habitually littered with empty soda bottles, half-eaten tuna sandwiches, dirty underwear and the odoriferous remnants of chemistry experiments gone bad. (They did not grow up to be artists.) She would tell them, "Look at Susie's room. Everything is so neat and clean in there. All I have to do in there is pull up the bed covers." You can imagine how this endeared me to my siblings. But that really was all Mrs. Gordon had to do. My room was the precursor to my canvas.

As a teenager, I took so many baths (I am now down to a maximum of two a day) that my father began calling me "Susan the Immaculate"–and we weren't even Catholic. I was just going for the freshly-scrubbed image. My parents still didn't know that I would become an artist and neither did I. I just thought that I would be really clean.

Perhaps I went too far when I was straightening up the upstairs bedrooms in my parents' house. My father once had one of his surgeon buddies sleep over at the house. They both left their false teeth on their respective bedside tables. I didn't like the way that looked so I put their dentures in the bathroom cabinet. It was pretty funny the next morning seeing two world famous surgeons searching around, grumbling "Where'd we put our teeth!" (Actually, it sounded like "derew ew tup ruo hteet!")

When I got my first apartment, my friends knew that they were not permitted to leave their hand bags on the floor. I explained to them that it was tantamount to taking a handful of red paint and hurling it at one of my paintings. Neither the handbag nor the paint belonged. They were not part of the composition. If the handbags were pretty enough, my guests could put them on the hall table.  But if left on the floor or ugly, their handbags would be whisked away, or "hidden" as my husband now calls this behavior, not to be seen again until their departure. My smarter friends always chose a apretty bag when coming to visit and asked, "Is this pretty enough for the table?"

 Susan the Immaculate, pen, ink on paper, digital color

In graduate school at NYU, although I had a near-perfect GPA, not one professor ever commented favorably on my paintings. Professor Humphreys said "Wow!" once, but that's because it was a nude (who looked remarkably like me) with butterflies coming out of her stomach. However, at the beginning of every studio painting class, when my fellow students were running out to buy a canvas, or were out of cerulean blue, or in the most egregious cases forgot that it was a studio day altogether and did not bring their brushes and paints, I was always highly complimented. Numerous professors asked their classes "Why can't you be more organized. Look at Ms. McLaughlin. She has her paints all mixed because she keeps them all in air-tight jars so they don't dry out, her canvas is already sized and primed, she's researched her subject and she is blocking in her paint rough already. And you are first going out to the art supply store?" I know this sounds more like kindergarten than grad school, but it really happened. One of my fellow students, with paint dripping all over her, once announced that she had tried and failed to imagine me with even one spot of paint on myself. A practicing psychiatrist who for some reason was auditing one of my studio classes declared me "pathologically neat."

One day shortly after I graduated, I was surprised by none other than the head of NYU's painting program himself. He came upon me as I was exiting my personal studio at the school. After not making a single comment about my work the entire year, he said to me, "There are some mighty exciting paintings in that studio of yours." Before I could even thank him, he followed with, "Would you mind getting them out of there along with your easel and paints. I've got two students coming in tomorrow from Japan and I need the studio for them." He didn't really like my paintings, he didn't even like my organizational skills, he just liked my leaving!

To this day I cannot start painting until everything in my studio is clean, shiny and perfectly arranged. I would be more concerned about what might appear to be the manifestations of obsessive–compulsion disorder, had I not read a biography of Willem de Kooning. Luckily, I had learned that every Saturday morning, the great artist would strip the wood floors in his studio, and clean and polish them himself. He thought it very important that his floors shine. Before he could start reflecting on his canvas, he wanted to see his reflection in his floors.

It must be an artist thing.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Coming Out

Lady of the House, acrylic on linen, 24 x 18 inches

Happy New Year, with all the new beginnings that will unfold over the next 12 months. I am excited to have been invited to start mine off exhibiting  in Art Fort Lauderdale later this month.

Looking back at the year that just ended, I finally did it! I came out! I am now officially a “deb," a debutante presented to art-loving society all over the world. My cotillion took place at Spectrum Miami during Art Basel Week last month, where I and my paintings danced 'til dawn for five days while being introduced to collectors at the extraordinary art-filled…that is…booth of Irreversible Projects under the nurturing eye of our curator and mentor, Noor Blazekovic.

The literal meaning in French of the word debutante is ”female beginner.” Americans adapted the word to mean a young lady entering high society for the first time. However, I believe the word can also be applied to my painting career. At one time I thought my beginning was when I earned a Master of Arts in Studio Art from New York University in 1995. But I was mistaken. My debut is now. My new work has just begun.

At Spectrum/ Art Basel, Miami with my paintings

Lady of the House and Moon's Day Off are  special paintings for me because they so clearly embody my overall artistic thesis: harmony between humanity and nature. Lady (see large detail above is a vignette of a corner of Foxglove, my century-old cottage in Newtown, CT. When I first arrived at Foxglove 20 years ago, I thought that because I am a human being, I was the lady of the house. However, from observing the bustling, nesting and nurturing animal and avian goings-on around the cottage, I discovered that I am far from the only one. In fact, there are many ladies of the house. For instance, the doe who leaves her fawn in the safe haven of my garden while she forages for food in the woods; the barn owl who studies us in our habitat from our terrace railing as if we are the creatures in a zoo, not her; or the spider who quietly spins a web in my gardening hat (while I am wearing it!) as if it were her own personal manifest destiny. I hope she doesn’t raise a family there! But if she does, I must remember that we are all in this together, more similar than different.

Foxglove  Day Journal, pen and ink.

More than 82,000 people from all over the world attended Art Basel Miami Beach and its associated events last month. I am delighted to announce that one of them (perhaps a lady of the house herself) purchased both of my paintings to bring home with her because…

Cotillions are fun, but home is where the art is.