Artist's Statement, Painting

By Sauerbrun, Susan J. | Frontiers - A Journal of Women's Studies, January 2010 | Go to article overview

Artist's Statement, Painting


Sauerbrun, Susan J., Frontiers - A Journal of Women's Studies


There is an energy that keeps each of us alive. It makes us breathe. It is automatic. If you hold your breath, you will pass out and begin to breathe again. Some traditions call it prana and some call it chi. Trying to define it is very difficult. What does this vapor look like? How would a painter represent it in a work of art? These are two questions the artist deals with in her art. The work is an expression of the practice of "one pointed focus." There are moments of ecstasy, release, and total silence. They are expressions of her life force.

This work makes serious demands on its viewer. It goes beyond entertainment and asks that the viewer interact with it. Quiet and calm, it nurtures a feeling of safety. It approaches Eastern thought from an American point of view. The initial composition defines the stance of the conversation. Then the viewer is free to roam around in the illusion of space. Knots of brush strokes remind the viewer to wake up and return to the opening statement. It moves past the search for the perfect moment of anesthesia. It reestablishes a sense of compassion with small acts of generosity. It is active and mysterious without the need to be mystical. It is feral yet contained.

There is no goal. The casual tourist goes beyond hypnosis to an alert state of visual perception that puts the nutritional value back into seeing. Each brush stroke symbolizes a unit of energy. The process of underpainting creates sparks of color. Each painting has a unique pulse. It embraces the principles of nonviolence on an intimate level. It takes daily practice and endless repetition of the same gesture, the same discipline and ritual procedure to achieve the mastery that finally allows an artist to create perfect forms without any apparent effort. They are constructed from the sacrum. It is silent, nonconfrontational painting. These paintings softly persuade and cajole one toward a different path of nonviolence on an intimate level. These paintings concern intellectual quiet.

They are immediate, fresh, feral, quick, sensitive, and silent. They are grounded, evolutionary, and calm. Art is a private language. Speech codification (like bipedal locomotion) defines the human circumstance. The paintings are translations of that private language.

Abrading sentiment from the technique turned blending of color into a whole new method. Scouring the surface of a painting forced the artist to dissolve the romantic notion that suffering created the gap in which art takes place. With nothing left to lose, she let go. Liberate the uncertainty and restricted excitement and taste the difference. The cumulative result of release was an increasingly deep and spacious quiet. Doubt and hope became wishful illusions.

A question that continuously pops up in the studio is When is a painting finished? Choose a habit and then try to break it. Just prior to resolution, the painting engages in adolescent rebellion and threatens to riot. Then there is an ecstatic release of tension in both of us. Silence announces completion of each painting.

When she considers why she is here, she is always perplexed. She has a list of her foremothers back to 1637. They led ordinary lives. They were heroic. They had the courage to survive and bear children under extraordinary circumstances.

These women are in her DNA. They dwell in every cell of her person. They inhabit her life. They are her personal cheering section, women who shout over the din whenever anything happens. It can be as simple as finding the right shoes in her size and on sale. It could also be a breakthrough in the work. They encourage her to move past Neanderthal aesthetics. She moves past the hunt-kill-eat perspective in art. She considers the delicate intimacy between objects on the picture plane and their interrelatedness. Facing the blank page is akin to the terror of facing death. All of this pales in comparison to termination prior to existential recognition. …

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