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September: Susan J. Gottlieb

Susan J. Gottlieb

Give a brief description of your upcoming show. And what might have inspired it.

The exhibit is called Passion: to paint the remembered sensation. This simple statement is pointedly clear. I have had a long fascination with world cultures, particularly ancient ones. My mixed media paintings are attempts to capture, or concretize, my experiences from my travels and studies. Where I normally focus on one place, one trip or one studies history this time I was possessed with too many experiences from several trips. And so this show is less about a particular place and more about my essential passion to paint. For when I have successfully recreated an experience, when I can stand in front of the piece and again feel the wind, or sense the light, or know again the energy of a place again then it is forever with me, even if the painting sells. To recreate binds the moment to me.

How have you expanded existing themes/ideas for which you are best known/or if this body of work is a great deviation from your norm, what inspired this new approach?

I struggled with this show. My work flow was stopped in it’s tracks by a broken kneecap (3 surgeries later the first one in Palermo, Sicily). Recovery was long and hard and painting was difficult. And so I thought this body of work seemed at first disjointed and then I realized even though I am painting more than one place I am focusing on specifics as per each place. For example I am totally obsessed with the prayer flags that are strung high up in the Himalayan Mountains of India. I have seen many prayer flags before, many trips in SE Asia have captured my imagination but, to trek high across mountains from peak to peak where thousands of flags are strung, is like no other experience. Literally to sit in the shadows of thousands of flags all whipping in the wind, so loudly that you are consumed by the sound, is a sublime moment. Sublime moments, when the eternal meets the temporal and I get to be a witness, I tiny witness…is magic. From flags to walls…the old houses of Old Havana just peel with colors. Walk past them and read a long tale of colored layers. I love patina, a surface that tells a story. The walls of Havana were poetry. And as always Italy calls me. Usually it is the light of Italy that captures my mind’s eye. I have been to Italy more times than I can count I never tire of the richness of the light and stories. So even though this show at first seemed disjointed to me flags, walls, light…I realized I am most happy when I am able to capture a remembered sensation. 

Stylistically and/or technically, what do you hope collectors notice in your new work?

My techniques varied according to the subject I was working on.  The Cuban paintings are thickly layers, scratched back, layered on again. I love to create rich, deep surfaces. But, the Indian flags called for a thinner surface, an immediate mark. Though there are layers they are thin, like watercolor, almost. And India called for black and indigo fluid paint. Bowl shadows and flags above, called for high contrast dark to light. Using  Chinese sumi brushes, stings and paper edges I danced with the ink-like paint trying to create the rhythm of the whipping strung flags. And black and indigo mixed together make for a darker black in my mind. I was much more focused on respecting the mark of the brush in the Indian paintings. Making a mark carefully and mindfully and then letting it alone, not reworking it. And Italy called for acrylic lines, architectural drawing, blind contour drawing. Working from some favorite photos I started with washes of colors and then just drew not looking at the canvas but keeping my focus on the subject, the image. Blind contour drawing, the first thing I teach my students in drawing class.

Add any additional info that might interest the viewer.

I usually being painting deeply in the Fall of each year. This seems to be my starting time on new series of works. Because I summer travel and study I come home full of new colors and ideas. And so Fall of 2016 found me happily painting. In October I was to lead a small group tour of Italy, focusing on Sicily. I had great foreboding that I tried to shake off. Long story short, wet marble took me down on my kneecap and an ambulance carried me to the public hospital. 4 ambulance rides later I am at a private hospital having surgery. 2 days later I catch my flights home and a long recovery and more surgeries ensue.  I stand when I paint normall, but, standing was not helpful to my healing. So I adapt and struggle. The big flag painting, Full Force Gale that I started in the fall watches me all winter. It waits for me to come back. But, it takes me until June to begin feeling myself return. Slowly I come back to my energy. Slowly my brain recovers from it’s fuzzy state, too many surgeries. I look at Full Force Gale all winter and spring with anxiety, can I come back to you? Finally, in July I was able to start that dance again. This painting brought me completely back to who I remembered myself to be, the one who is always ready to take the leap of faith.