The artist Sue Chenoweth
Sue introduced herself to me years ago, at an opening. She came in early, shook my hand, and delivered thoughtful commentary about my work. Generous. I knew who she was because people had pointed out her work to me.
I connect to her use of color, the way she fills (2D) space, her use of line, her media and recognizable abstractions. I especially appreciate a quality of freedom she represents. This freedom of composition is uniquely Sue’s.
Sue’s work is currently filling up space at SMoCA. The exhibition runs through September. It’s an innovative concept which has her art hanging alongside some of the museums permanent works, in an installation titled, Spyhopping: Adventure with Sue Chenoweth. Intelligent and fun, stimulating to eyes and mind.
The Exhibition / What Goes On and What Takes Place
Sue brings lots of energy to our project. Natural, honest, active and reactive. If she doesn’t know what to do…she says so. When an idea comes forth, she shares it enthusiastically. I wonder if she might paint this way too. I respect her nature…creative, and in the moment. She has plenty of ideas for the upcoming Art Detour weekend, and how we might interact with Modified visitors.
When she’s not making art, she’s teaching at Metro Arts, or at Phoenix College. She’s in the middle of moving, when the four of us meet for dinner, to discuss working together.
Not unlike the rest of us, she has a home studio. I love it here, she says. I must have my studio at home because I work in little spurts… all day long. 5 minutes here…half hour there… I keep it going all the time, that way I get things finished and have an ongoing relationship with the work. It Becomes my days.
…some photos of her variety of materials and her new studio space.
I ask about the doll house. The doll houses were in an installation called ‘Hold your Cards’ I had at eye lounge a long time ago. I ordered them off e-bay. It is funny how I coveted a metal dollhouse like the one I had as a kid and then got a BUNCH of them.
Both Sue and Carolyn were present at the start of eye lounge. She says of the experience, I was not in the very first show, but became a member when they moved into the Roosevelt space. I was a member with all the original members though. It was a great group. I feel honored to be a part of the beginning. I had the very first show in the new building. I don’t think there was anyone in the east gallery.
At our meetings, Sue expresses she has no idea what she’ll be doing for the exhibit. I jot her words into the upper right hand corner of my paperwork. Unknown to me, Mary photographs the notes. The photo amuses me. Why did this strike me as something to capture? Because truly, this is the artists dilemma, we don’t know, until we do…know. It’s also the human dilemma.
I imagine Sue will wait to begin working, because some pressure appeals to her. Consequently I don’t expect to get an image of a work in progress anytime soon. But I do!
I have NO IDEA what this painting will be. I just know it is the start of a new series, but also closely relating and advancing on the last Spyhopping series of paintings. I never ever show this early stage of a painting so this is a rare glimpse into the underpinnings of my work.
…one more thing about each of us…we’ve chosen to document our process and make it a part of the exhibition…though we wouldn’t normally do this…rare glimpse sounds about right.
She continues…I try to make each layer just as good as the last, so as one peers into a work, it works all the way through. This one is a bit rough yet. No under painting. Landscape that is real but not real. Fragments of life and process showing what it is like to live in our world.
I ask about her materials. She answers quick… All gouache on paper SO FAR.
Working title? I have no title yet. Size? This is just a starting place. The overall painting (on paper) will be 48″ x 50″.
…I only get starting places to begin…. I have been affected by the oil spill but do not want to make paintings about drippy birds etc. I know the oil spill is the beginning. I am looking at artists Neo Rauch and Thomas Hart Benton. Regionalism and in a way Hieratic scale with Benton..Maybe that is the wrong word to use, but it fits for me. I am also looking at the mosaics of Ravena which I often refer back to them. I like the way color shifts in the mosaics. I am trying to paint like that in places in my painting. There is another fresco that I find interesting and that is at the Basilica S.M. Novella in Florence Italy. Called the ‘Allegory of the Church’ the details of ‘Vices and other sins.” Love the way the different scenes are partitioned off so it looks a bit like a doll house.
While I’m completing this post I receive an email from Sue….For the show I think I am going to make vacuum formed mountains like model railroad mountains but about 19 inches tall. Some way smaller. They would sit on the ground as if they are peeking out of the sea.
Another email follows shortly...It is just an idea. I have to see where I can have these made and IF I can have them made. I am so so glad that we have until Feb to finish the work.
It’s all just an idea; thought takes on form, and becomes experience. Interaction follows. It’s what art making is all about.
We hope through the documenting and sharing of our individual process, you get a sense of all that may be involved in art making. Creating the whole exhibit, is a collaborative project. Exhibitions will overlap, work succeeds, work fails, visits to the art store, the frame shop (me), the printer (Mary), the mountain maker (Sue)… Life keeps getting lived, gardens get tended (Carolyn), studios get dirty and cleaned, photographs get taken, discussions keep being had, agreements, maybe disagreements, thinking, rethinking, writing, sketching, working and reworking, details come and go…
This is an idea in motion, generated by four women artists.
I’ll sum this up next time. I hope to include my work in the mix. Come back.
*Sue Chenoweth will be giving a Hands-On Workshop at SMoCA, on July 1st. For more info check their website.