mark-making, and the human condition

Honest. Mark-maker. Colorful. Informer of the human condition. That’s my take on Sue’s work and her process.

Here is an artist statement, and a few more choice works…

Sue Chenoweth explores memory, myth, and place through paintings inspired and informed by historical narrative, architectural forms, and zoological studies. Her research and travel catalyze the deeply personal content of her paintings, which bring to life a variety of subjects, such as swimming with great white sharks, mining the sub-basements of gilded-age estates, and following the migration of whales. Her work always traces a path back to the unity of the human psyche, and a universal understanding of the human experience.

Ghosts in the Clearing of the Great White Shark -detail
Gouache, acrylic, graphite, ink and Pantone paper
14.5 x 14.5″

Chenoweth often paints “pre-memories” of adventures before she experiences them, later investigating the similarities and differences between the “pre-memory” and the actual experience. By blending these intuitions, premonitions, and realizations, Chenoweth captures with her graphic media certain archetypes, common human experiences, and the surprising emergence of the extraordinary from within the everyday experience of being human.

I Saw Myself as a Great White Shark – detail
Gouache, acrylic, graphite, ink, Letraset and cardboard disk
14.5 x 14.5″

Fire on the Mountain and I am Feeling Fine – detail
Gouache, acrylic and graphite.
14.5 x 14.5″

I specifically ask Sue about the painting above. She comments, I see the fire on the mountain as a signal fire.  A survival fire. A wave to a friend.  I am here.  Like the other one with the light house [below].  A beacon.  I am here. But a fire can spread and quickly turn deadly.  The opposite of a signal.  Fire is a dichotomy in life.  It can kill us or help us survive.

Oh, to survive with a bounty of beauty, love and goodness.  Tending the fire to keep it contained and safe.

Futile Energy

Sue Chenoweth was born in Plainview, Texas. Sue received both her BFA and MFA (in painting) from Arizona State University.

Chenoweth’s work has been shown in many solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States, including the Cue Art Foundation in New York City, and the New American City at the Arizona State University Art Museum. Among many grants, awards and fellowships, Chenoweth received a Surdna Arts Teachers Fellowship, a project grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Contemporary Forum Materials Grant from the Phoenix Art Museum and the inaugural Ensemble DevMan Print Project Grant as well as Studio Space at the Cue Foundation.

Chenoweth not only researches ideas for her own art work but is on the quest to find new, inventive and relevant art education.  Teaching is just as important to me as creating art.  I want to teach the language of drawing before it is gone forever. Children should be able to draw as easily as they speak.

In the fall of 2011 she will be a part of We’re All Still Here, opening at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.  The show, an alternative biennial, investigates ‘critical regionalism’ in the art world today.

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sideways saguaro-was the working title

When I ask Mary to tell me what I can share, she graciously replies,
Share it all, I have no secrets!

Working title: Sideways Saguaro (maquette)
Somewhere in between : I am close but not sure…
Final title: Lunar Landing
An Installation
Media: digital prints, plexiglas, styrene, silk, milled aluminum, LED lights and optical fiber
Completed Size: 10X10X12’
Yr: 2011

It began with this maquette below (which I’ve shown 3x…I can’t help it).

Below the form is carefully developed and we see it coming to life…

1,561 pieces of fiber get placed into the tubing when all is said and done

Mary statement about the work offers explanation about her process including sound elements:

My work as an artist is based on line and involves any process, which can accommodate a drawing in some form. I like to push the line out of the surface and that is the reason the optical fiber became important-it could sort of head out into space.

I like doing things I have never done before. The installation piece for this show is like a drawing for me, I am trying to fill the space with imagery that interests me. The labor of making art is also important; the labor pushes the concepts and reinforces my connection to the work. I like to touch and make and hear what goes on.

I will be using the sound of marks being made (pencil, pen and Wacom tablet) in this piece to let the viewer hear the work.

digital print/central image

clear tubing with hand drilled holes

Mary calls these 'wings', they are the upper portion of the installation

I ask Mary how it is she went from working 2D to 3D.

I was drawing Saguaro texture and I thought how it was so linear and interesting that I could fill a page just with the texture then I thought I could roll it up, you know rolling paper is common for storage etc. I called a plastic company to see if there were optically clear tubes and did the first one. From there I was working with pulling landscape apart so that I could establish the feeling of being out in the desert, with all the detail contained in the tubes and the space was in 2D drawings on the walls. This was the exhibit when I met you.

I was doing this work and I got a commission to do a terrazzo floor for the city of Phoenix, it just made me more aware of the possibilities of taking my drawings off the walls. As I applied for more public art I knew I needed to learn to draw digitally and I was aware of the tablets animators used and watching them I wanted to do some of what they did. I started generating my drawings on the computer and one thing led to another because you can print on so many different surfaces and in any scale. I think I use digital media like a printmaker in that it is not to be viewed on a monitor or projection etc.

The work I do with the tablet has pieces of hand drawn imagery in it-and I draw freehand on the computer also. The fiber optics became a way to take the line off the surface and out into space-even though these are 3d it is still all about line for me. I love to draw on paper and I love to make drawing work in new formats, sometimes I think I like to be a little unsure about what I am doing.

Below are a list of some of the works and info, that you’ll see in a few very short weeks.

Satellite 6: Hibiscus/ moon craters/ rocks
22″ X30”

Archival inkjet print
Edition of 10, 72″X18”

This is the long narrow image, working title sideways Saguaro which becomes Saguaro/Belt, a limited edition print, and then evolves into Lunar Landing, the installation. There was a point in the process when I asked for the title that Mary did say
I am close but not sure….

…yes Mary has no secrets.

Mary Shindell earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from Northern Arizona University and her Master of Fine Arts degree in drawing from Arizona State University. She has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico, Illinois, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Montana and Kansas. Mary’s work can also be seen in permanent collections at the Glendale Public Library, Mesa Community College, The Print Club of Albany, Westin Kierland Resort Herberger Ballroom and Phoenix Municipal Court Print Collection. Mary recently completed a terrazzo floor commissioned by the City of Phoenix Department of Arts and Culture for the Westside Senior Center and has public art commissions on the Northwest and Mesa Extensions of Valley Metro Light Rail. She is a member of 515 gallery on Roosevelt.

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framing prints

Each of us take a small area of our largest artwork, and create a limited edition print. The reproduction represents the large work, and the 4 as a grouping, are symbolic of our working together. We’ve made a small edition of 24, 6″ x 6″, archival ink jet prints.

This is the perfect time to mention our framer.  We each sign #1 of the 24, and then they’re off to Bill’s.

Mary, Sideways Saguaro

Sue, Tilly-From Quid Pro Quo

Carolyn, Portrait #39

Monica, Creative Structure


Mary, Carolyn, and I use Bill for all our custom framing. Mary’s worked with him since 1975. She introduced Carolyn in about 1978. Carolyn recalls Bill’s Custom Frames was in a kind of shack near the train tracks north of University. She adds…with chickens running loose. Bill’s Frames has been around 35 plus years. He’s an interesting guy. He’s still out in Tempe, south of University, off of the Hohokam highway.

I’ve worked with him since 1995. And speaking of chickens, a few years back when Paul (framer) learned that I painted with egg tempera, he gave me fresh eggs from his pet chicken and duck.
Note: egg tempera flows richer with fresh yolk.

Back to the print…
Bill’s impressed  with the four reproductions. He takes a long look at them and says he could be convinced one is an actual pastel. I set up a square format for framing, he suggests a horizontal layout instead.

Paul and Brian, the crew, step in to give me their thoughts.

Bill, Paul, and Brian

Horizontal it is!

Framing the artwork is one more part of the process. It’s an important part of preparing for exhibition.  It helps when you trust your framer.  Quality work guys. Thanks.

more →Bill’s Custom Frames

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it’s about the quality

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.   W.F.

Deborah Sussman asks, Who’s idea was this?
Mine! I say as I stand up. Hers! everyone points my way. I enjoy the moment, as I take credit for grouping this collective of quality artists. Also for being the catalyst to the 4 person exhibition.

Why? Deborah asks.

  • I wanted to both work and exhibit with Carolyn, Sue, and Mary.
  • They’re observers. They study, look, see, and then they put it down in meticulous form that carries impact.
  • Exhibition is bound to be good.
  • Fun.
  • It’s also an attempt on my part, to create and support community.

Deborah clarifies for me, A community of a specific sort.  She’s right.

I draw a conclusion. Each of us does what needs to be done to continue to make interesting and relevant art with sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution. These woman exemplify something valuable to an exhibition and worth the blog writing.
A note…two important connecting threads are experience and a Master of Fine Arts.

Everyone’s energy has filled me up and I’ve gotten really big, I say laughingly at one point, while answering Deborah’s question. Carolyn says, with amusement…Write that down and quote yourself in the blog!
Seriously, I’ve outgrown my old self in this experience. Even the studio has grown, it’s taken over the back-end of my house, I tell them as I point to all my new space.

Simply put, I wanted a quality creative and working connection, with each of them.

Today’s meeting is high in energy:  natural, fun, and…kind of…loud.
Deborah asks questions.  We answer. Question, talk, laughter, seriousness, question, discussion, pause, more questions, more discussion. Insight. Deborah writes fast.  She relates to some things, and shares connections to her experiences as a writer.

I learn a bit more about everyone.  They all have history together,  ASU connected. I’m the odd woman out,  NMSU grad. Mary has made art the longest.  Sue is the most recent to receive her MFA. And Carolyn is one good story-teller.  She talks about Louise Bourgeois  and Arshile Gorky as though she’s talking about old friends.

Deborah asks us to give her names of a couple of artist we are looking at. Mary and I respond in a similar way…this group, we’re looking at each others work.

Everyone brings something along to show and discuss.
Sue has 4 very personal, brightly colored, small (8″ x 8″…Carolyn measures)  works on paper.

Great White Shark

Sue on her materials of choice, I paint on paper because I do not like the texture of canvas.  I also rip canvas when I try to paint on it. Also I draw. Drawing and canvas do not work together for me.  I see a stretched  painting as almost a 3-D object…I know it is not…and I have a hard time making 3-D things.  Stretching the canvas etc.  I love gouache and feel like I can’t use it on canvas.   I LOVE paper or board. Drawable!

Carolyn brings many (wonderful) digital collages…and a graphite and gesso baby squirrel portrait, on 6″ canvas board.

Squirrel Portrait

She says of the image, This single image of a squirrel is meant to carry with it the memory of my large “Portrait” piece. The larger piece will have the 200 individual animal portraits all on one piece of canvas. This small squirrel portrait will carry with it some of the monumental impression of the larger work. It will be a souvenir of the large work. It is my expectation that will give this little portrait more power than it would have had on its own.

I had hoped to have more of these separate portraits for the opening, but I may do more during the exhibition.

Mary's maquette

Mary pulls out her laptop and shows images of her sculpture, in progress. The image above is her detailed, including surrounding space, maquette. That little process piece looks like one fabulous object. It gives her (and us) a sence of how her work fits into the area and what sort of shadows it may drop. We all agree she should include it in the exhibit. She also talks about video and sound recordings of her working and drawing. We discuss how it all might be incorporated into things. We learn interesting things about Mary’s education and discuss when  both women’s art and drawing, were not taken seriously. We’ve come a long way baby.

I have 10 very small renderings of body organs. They’re pretty self-explanatory…studies for the larger work. Materials are casein, egg tempera, prisma, gauche, and graphite. The colors are symbolic, more esoteric related than literal. We talk about framing and balancing picture plane and border, and the idea of the precious.


Each group of work laid out on the table is different, but connecting elements come through clearly.   Sue’s and my work resonate through line, color and material. Mary and Carolyn’s work connect via the digital, clear, clean and precise marks. All the work is meticulous, and the result of high intention

Deborah Sussman is here to look at our work, and to get a sense of how we interact as a group, so she can write about it all. She fits right in, presenting quality question and comment which result in insightful conversation. One more high note to the experience.

We’ve called this a project, we’ve called it a collaboration…What is it…
It’s creative work and yes, it’s fun. You can see the result on the walls and on the floor next month, at Modified Arts, opening February 18th.

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who’s on the text

Deborah Sussman is putting together text for our brochure. We are pleased to announce she’ll be writing about both our work, and the exhibition.

Deborah’s not only connected to the local arts community, but also with both the national and international. She’s written literary and art criticism for publications including New York Times and Washington Post. Her reviews have appeared in Art in America and Art News.
Currently she works for ASU Art Museum.

We all met this weekend, at my studio. Come back and read about our high-spirited Sunday afternoon of Q and A, Show and Tell, Discovery….

Deborah Sussman is the perfect one to break down the pieces and study the parts. Next post will tell you about our meeting, and include artwork.

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what’s the good news

We got one more bit of good news last week.  We’ve been looking for someone to write text for our exhibition brochure, and  I believe we found the right person. The brochure’s in design now. Layout awaits text.

I’ll share who… and what…soon.
Yes, very good news. We’re all pleased.

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monica’s dealings / more than the sum of my parts

I’ve never worked so large-scale.  And really I’m not working large-scale now, but the finished piece measures 74″ x 84″ or 6’2″ x 7′.  It’s a big work, made up of small parts, that I can handle.

This is the first public view of the life-size piece, at least, in parts….so to speak.  I’m just about done. I’m only refining small areas, like the solar plexus. I’m messing with colors.  And I’m reworking the background.  If I were to show you progression of the entire composition, you’d know it’s gone through many stages of color and depth.

You want to know the biggest challenge at the moment?  Photographing such a large image. It’s more than I understand, to photograph it well, on my own.  I want all the detail to come up on a single shot of the whole work, but maybe that’s asking too much.

And because I normally work smaller, I sketch similar designs on several pieces of canvas/paper and work out composition.  Eventually two or more pieces emerge. I approach this in the same way.  I never planned to making 2 large figurative paintings. But here they are, on my 19 foot studio wall. Hanging side by side. They vary in ways, obvious and subtle.

I could probably pick and choose parts from the two and make a new third.
I am particularly influenced by Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

Below, the parts. Laid out like this, I think of another influence.

"The Tibetan Art of Healing"

Today…I want to change the working title.  A year into this, and one is already signed and titled, not the one that will be in this exhibition. Can I really want to change the title…now? Sure wasn’t expecting this.
And if I did, it would translate into Spanish well… an important consideration at the moment.

…Clarifying lots and learning a good deal about the body, the mind and the spirit.  That’s the whole of it.

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