Of the Dense and Porous: More Holes by Linda Leslie Brown

Linda-L-Brown-Porous-5 copy.jpg

Linda Leslie Brown, Porous, 2015, mixed media.

We are very pleased to welcome a guest writer, Heather Davis, to our blog, for her essay about Linda Leslie Brown‘s exhibition, More Holes. If you’re around this holiday weekend, stop by the gallery to see the exhibition before it closes this Sunday, May 29. 

The forms emerge from and with the earth. Various materials—plastic, ceramic, wood, metal—are pressed and held together in strange, humorous, bodily shapes. Almost recognizable items emerge from the matrix, as odd characters that seem to have been compressed through the pressures of time and weight, emerging as if from the distant future. The detritus of consumer culture is here reworked to comment on its archaeological status to come. Linda Brown’s series More Holes evocatively produces these future fossils, implicitly asking, “What are we leaving behind? What will remain as our material legacy?”

Installation view, More Holes, Kingston Gallery, May 2016, photo by Ann Wessman.
“Materials teach you things” Brown asserts. Working with discarded materials, culled from recycling bins and objects she finds on the ground, provokes questions not only about their shape, size, weight and structure, but about their lives, past and future. In rendering the objects unrecognizable, Brown creates abstract remnants of a society hell-bent on technological progress, heedless of the warnings that are all around us.

Despite the beauty of their forms and the way that they seem to beg to be touched, retracing the movements of Brown’s hand as she worked with the materials, there is something rather banal and sad in the waste. Immune to the processes of decomposition and cycles of transformation that govern our bodies and other organic matter, these objects remain stubbornly inert as if found in some future landfill: broken, cast aside, and then petrified. The objects begin to write our era into the geology of the earth.

Linda Leslie Brown, All Natural, 2015, mixed media. 
The brilliance of Brown’s artistic rendering is in provoking reflection on the meaning of all these objects, all this waste, while still providing holes. The porousness of the work suggests a future already in the process of being reworked. The holes refute ideas of masterful progression, instead creating a sense of the unfinished, while at the same time providing more surface and more entryways into the work. The sculptures look as if animals have already made a home in them, moving through the dense layers of plastic and metal and ceramic. Things that used to have a definitive form, that once had commercial value, appear instead to have become the dwellings of burrowing creatures and waste-consuming bacteria.

Brown’s work collapses the distinction between “nature” and “culture,” and her artworks become an offering that seem to have emerged from the future, eroded and weathered, complete with the markings of many other critters. The porosity of the works reminds us to be humble in the face of our technological advances and the negative sublime of ecological crisis. There is always a way through; there are always more holes.

Linda Leslie Brown, Hermit Crab, 2015, mixed media. 
Heather Davis is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at the Pennsylvania State University where she researches the ethology of plastic and its links to petrocapitalism. She is the editor of Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies (Open Humanities Press, 2015) and Desire/Change: Contemporary Feminist Art in Canada (MAWA/McGill-Queen’s UP, forthcoming 2017). Her writing can be found at heathermdavis.com.

Gallery Artists’ News

The second half of 2014 was as busy as the first for Kingston Gallery’s artists! We are happy to share what our artists have been up to:

Ilona Anderson currently has work in Imaginal/Imagining The World (organized by Deborah Davidson, Suffolk University Gallery Director) at the Adams Gallery, Suffolk Law School. The exhibition runs through January 25.

Kathleen Gerdon Archer was a finalist for the Photolucida Critical Mass awards. Photolucida is an arts nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon whose mission is to provide platforms that expand, inspire, educate and connect the regional, national, and international photography community.

Linda Leslie Brown Co-Host Ceramic, metal, plastic, paper clay 13 x 9 x 9 inches 2013
Linda Leslie Brown — Co-Host, ceramic, metal, plastic, paper clay, 13 x 9 x 9″, 2013

Linda Leslie Brown has been awarded a 2015 Traveling Fellowship from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She had a new environmental work in copper wire and crystal, Indra’s Drala Net, installed as part of the Kingstown RI Land Trust Sculpture Trail, and she currently has work in Imaginal/Imagining the World Imaginal/Imagining The World at the Adams Gallery, Suffolk Law School. (See Ilona Anderson, above, for full details).

Judith Brassard Brown’s painting, Frontline, was purchased by NYU’s School of Professional Studies in New York, NY. She had work in the group exhibit Faculty and Students of Montserrat College of Art and Endicott College at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center, Gloucester, MA during the month of October, and also during October she exhibited work at New England BioLabs in Ipswich, MA.

Mary Bucci McCoy is now represented by Gray Contemporary in Houston, TX and CG2 Gallery in Nashville, TN. Her work was included in an exhibition of work by gallery artists, Aloe Vera, at Gray Contemporary in August and also was featured in a two-person show with the British painter Erin Lawlor, Long Loud Silence, in September and October at the gallery. Reconfiguring Abstraction: Lisa Russell and Mary Bucci McCoy was on view at the FPAC Gallery in South Boston in August and September. Mary was the Visiting Critic for the fall semester at Montserrat College of Art’s Senior Fine Arts Seminar. She has work in a group exhibition of work by gallery artists at Gray Contemporary, Houston, TX through January 17.

Conny Goelz-Schmitt had work in Bibliophilia at Nave Gallery Annex, Somerville, MA during the month of October. Also during October Conny also had work in Time Travelers at Cambridge Arts Association, Kathryn Schultz Gallery, Cambridge.

Julie S Graham had work in the Salon Show at the Clark Gallery, Lincoln, MA in November–December.

 the space between, hand embroidery on re-appropriated linen, 50 x 72", 2012
Joetta Maue — the space between, hand embroidery on re-appropriated linen, 50 x 72″, 2012

New member Joetta Maue spoke at the event With Thread in Hand, a program celebrating the historic and vital art of embroidery, at The Atwood House Museum in Chatham, MA in November. Also in November Joetta had work in Narcissism and The Self-Portrait at the Ann Street Gallery in Newburgh, NY. She had work in The Personal is Political, at the Slater Concourse Gallery, Aidekman Arts Center, Tufts University, Medford, MA in November and December. Joetta gave an informal talk within the context of the exhibition Vessels at the Nave Gallery Annex in Davis Square in December.

Jennifer Moses was an artist in residence at Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY for the month of July. She had work in the summer-long exhibition Surface, Strokes and Light, a group exhibition of of contemporary painters and sculptors at Kelly Roy Gallery. Broadsided Press displayed a collaboration between Moses and poet Annie Finch on the Cape Cod Public Bus Transit in the summer through September.

Rose Olson had work in Postscript: A Selection of Work from the Gallery Artists and the Director’s Collection at Hutson Gallery, Provincetown, MA in September and October . She had a group of small works on display in October at Susan Maasch Fine Art, Portland, ME, and currently has work on display there in Gallery Artists: Group Exhibition at Susan Maasch Fine Art, through February.

Christina Pitsch — Flora of Fauna Porcelain 21” x 21” x 5” 2013 [photo: Millyard Studios]
Christina Pitsch — Flora of Fauna, porcelain, 21” x 21” x 5”, 2013
[photo: Millyard Studios]
New member Christina Pitsch has work in Beasticon II at Mark MIller Gallery, 92 Orchard Street, New York, NY. The exhibition runs through January 15.

Lynda Schlosberg is guest juror for Chroma, a national juried exhibition of work on hue, saturation and value at Gallery 263 in Cambridge, MA. The exhibition will run January 15 – February 14, 2015. She has work in Gallery Artists: Group Exhibition at Susan Maasch Fine Art, Portland, ME through February.

Elif Soyer had work in the annual exhibition Ekim Gecidi (The Passage of October) at the Canakkale Museum of Ceramics in Canakkale, Turkey in October and November.

Ann Wessmann had work in the group show Earth to Heaven at Spoke Gallery @ Medicine Wheel Productions, South Boston from September to November.

Luanne E Witkowski’s works on paper and selected paintings were featured at Hutson Gallery, Provincetown, MA during the summer and she had work on display there in Postscript: A Selection of Work from the Gallery Artists and the Director’s Collection in September and October. She also had work in Trans-Alternate: artists, social practitioners, and voices seldom heard from Nepal: Art and Social Practice – Call and Response at Godine Family Gallery, Mass. College of Art and Design, Boston, MA in October.


Kingston Gallery Artist News

Kingston Gallery artists have had a busy first half of 2014:

Stacey Alickman — Lost Year, oil on canvas, 48 x 42", 2014
Stacey Alickman — Lost Year, oil on canvas, 48 x 42″, 2014

Stacey Alickman received the 2014 Blanche E. Colman Award.

Ilona Anderson has work in Pipe Dreams, Wishful Thinking, Grand Gestures & Dirty Lies at ASC project space, 526 West 26th Street, Room 304, New York, NY through July 15. Ilona also has work in the group exhibition As | Orchard opening July 31, Lower East Side, NY.

Kathleen Gerdon Archer and Barbara Moody were named Co-directors of Kingston Gallery for 2014. Kathleen Gerdon Archer and Conny Goelz-Schmitt both had work in the group exhibition Synchronicity at the Associazione Culturale Rosa Venerini (ACRV) in Viterbo, Italy from June 27 – July 6. They spent the month of June at the Associazione Culturale Rosa Venerini (ACRV) Residency Program.

Judith Brassard Brown is exhibited in The Power of Suggestion at Gallery Alpers Fine Art in Andover, MA from January 15 – March 22. For more information visit www.alpersfineartonline.com. Judith is now also represented by Art in Giving, www.artingiving.com. This non-profit organization provides a creative way to raise funds for research for the prevention and cure of childhood cancer.

Linda Leslie Brown and Luanne E Witkowski both had work in a group show at AMP: Art Market Provincetown, 148 Commercial Street, which runs June 25 – July 9.

Mary Bucci McCoy was interviewed by the 365 Artists 365 Days project.

Mira Cantor is teaching at the Burren College of Art in Ireland during the month of July.

Julie Graham was in the group show Small Works at the Ruth Bachofner Gallery in Santa Monica, CA, November 30, 2013 – January 11, 2014. She also had a solo show Topoanalysis at the Carol Schlosberg Alumni Gallery at Montserrat College, Beverly, MA, May 28 – June 27.

Mary Lang’s had a one-person retrospective exhibit, Like Water, at the Trustman Gallery at Simmons College, March 17 – April 17. The exhibition was reviewed by Mark Feeney in the Boston Globe.

Barbara Moody taught a new studio intensive course entitled Expressive Interpretations of the Landscape, at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA in both January and July. She exhibited her photo-collages March 17 – May 7 in a three-person exhibition at the Albright Gallery, in Concord, MA. And she and Ann Wessman both have work in Dreaming Gardens at Suffolk University Gallery, 75 Arlington Street, Boston, MA, which runs June 10 – August 22, curated by Deborah Davidson.

Jennifer Moses showed her work in a group exhibition of 12×12 paintings at the Oxbow Gallery in North Hampton, MA, December 5, 2013 – January 5, 2014. She has work in the summer long exhibit Surface, Strokes and Light, a group exhibition of of contemporary painters and sculptors at Kelly Roy Gallery. Broadsided Press is displaying a collaboration between Moses and poet Annie Finch on the Cape Cod Public Bus Transit through September. Jennifer is also an artist in residence at Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY for the month of July.

Rose Olson will be featured at Hutson Gallery, 432 Commercial Street in Provincetown, July 25 – August 7. She also has work in Danforth Art Museum’s Community of Artists Annual Juried Exhibition, which runs June 8 – August 3.

Lynda Schlosberg had a solo exhibition Field of Potentiality in the Spencer Presentation Gallery at the Walter J. Manninen Center for the Arts, Endicott College, Beverly, MA, January 28 – March 20. She was the featured gallery artist at Susan Maasch Fine Art in Portland, ME for the month of March. And her work was included in Painting Intricacies, curated by Resa Blatman at Nave Annex Gallery in Somerville, MA, April 18.

Luanne E Witkowski’s mixed media works were included in a group exhibition in the President’s Gallery, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, December 9, 2013 – January 23, 2014.

NEW Gallery Members at Kingston

By Linda Leslie Brown

In Boston, the new year begins not in January but in September. This is especially true in the art world, where September shows are eagerly awaited and fresh work arrives in the galleries to inspire, perplex, challenge or bore us unspeakably for another season.

Kingston Gallery is part of this ritual of renewal with its annual members’ show, Gifted. Visitors to the gallery this September have noted the inclusion of work by a group of artists who are new to the Kingston stable: Stacey Alickman, Kathleen Gerdon Archer, Mira Cantor, Julie Graham, and Lynda Schlosberg. I found that in the Gifted show, the work of these new artists has added an enhanced richness of color and texture to our visual mix.

The work of these artists is diverse and vividly realized, exhibiting a wide variety of conceptual perspectives and technical practices. What unites them is their commitment to the ongoing development of their creative vision. Their work will have a significant impact on the intellectual environment of the gallery, and we’ve selected them specifically to participate in ongoing dialogue with us.

I’ve asked each of them to respond to a few questions in pursuit of this theme as a way of introducing them and placing their work in context.Their responses are intriguing, and we’re looking forward to seeing their ideas take shape in the upcoming shows of their work we’ll be presenting at Kingston.

Linda Leslie Brown (LLB): What is your take on being a new member of Kingston Gallery? How do you think your work fits into the mix?

Mira Cantor: I am delighted to be in Kingston Gallery as a NEW member. I believe it is a good fit as I am sitting here in the gallery looking at all the members’ work.The show was curated well and I think we are all fortunate to have Deborah Davidson with us handling the PR. It’s been a long time since Genovese Sullivan closed and I feel connected again to the street. Thanks for inviting me. Some of the members are old acquaintances and friends; others I hope to get to know. It’s exciting to be part of the group and look forward to seeing all the interesting work.

Mira Cantor
Mira Cantor

Julie Graham: I’m honored to be a new member of Kingston Gallery. I’ll show in the members’ gallery in March 2014 where I’ll install a new project that combines multiple elements of my interdisciplinary practice. I’m not yet sure what form it will take, but I will explore some ideas that have been percolating for some time. I’m happy for the opportunity.

Julie Graham
Julie Graham

Kathleen Gerdon Archer: For me Kingston Gallery has always been at the top of the list of galleries which show exciting, inspiring and thoughtful work. This gallery is less motivated by commercial success than it is by freedom and experimentation. I feel my work will be pushed in new directions as a result of frequent interactions and conversations with the other artist members.

LLB: What’s happening in your studio these days? Are you beginning a new direction or expanding on some ideas that have been in development for some time? What are you most excited about in your work today?

Stacey Alickman: I’m most excited to be exploring more nuanced kinds of texture. Not just impasto and ridges but also something that is the perception of texture rather than just texture itself. I am finding new inspiration in current work by sanding down the paint in order to build up lines again while allowing for previous layers to come through.
I’m also still developing paintings for the purpose of “breaking” in order to get the paint off its canvas. Once the paint is free of its ground, I can use these chips, front and back, for future compositions. I am thinking about using these chips for a large wall installation at Kingston in 2014.

Stacey Alickman
Stacey Alickman

















Lynda Schlosberg: I am currently expanding on ideas that have been in development for quite some time. My focus in the studio now is on finding ways to expand on my mark making and new ways of combining and layering the marks to achieve a certain level of visual density and complexity that is characteristic of my work.

While visiting the Danforth Museum’s “Off the Wall” exhibit this summer, I saw several artists with grid and network references in their work. I was already being drawn towards the idea of the grid and began wondering how I might go about introducing something similar into my work. Historically my marks have consisted of interwoven layers of repeating patterns of dots and dashes signifying a sea of vibrating particles of energy, yet I have been becoming more curious with the underlying system that connects all of this vibrating energy together which has led me to the notion of the grid. The grid I envision however is not a rigid system; it is fluid and pervasive, it is an optimum state between chaos and order.

My investigation with the grid is still in its infancy. I have started by working with cheesecloth, soaking it in paint and imprinting it onto the surface. The cheesecloth begins with a uniform structure, but quickly changes form as soon as I apply paint to it and reshape it before pressing it onto the panel. I am going back in and painting over the intricate mesh with different layers of color, breaking up the grid while maintaining part of its original structure. I have yet to finish the first piece using this new technique, so the jury is still out if it will be successful or not, but I’m excited to be working with these new marks.

Lynda Schlosberg
Lynda Schlosberg

Mira Cantor: My new work will be shown in the December slot.The landscapes are in a state of demise due to the variation in the viscosity of paint, which metaphorically references global warming.The show will be called MELTWATER.

The new work is derived from two recent experiences. I was an artist in residency in May in Banff, Canada and I spent the month of July teaching at the Burren College of Art on the west coast of Ireland. Both were total immersion of me in the landscape looking at nature very close up and with great vistas. I had also been in Banff in 2010. Immersion into the landscape seems to inspire and motivate my desire to paint. I started using oil paint again in 2010 which I stopped using in graduate school. Oil felt like I was more in touch with natural elements instead of the plastic quality of acrylic. It also enables me to do things with oil, turp and varnish that I cannot accomplish with acrylic. I do wear a mask when I paint which I do not need with acrylic. I think my work has become more quirky and fluid since my last series. I don’t know if that has to do with the material change or age.

Kathleen Gerdon Archer: I am at the beginning of a new body of work that takes a different form but is consistent with themes I often explore. As before, I will use a series to tell a story with literary references. The work has been haunting me for three years and has finally developed into a whole. I can’t wait to show it.

LLB: How do you go about developing new work? Do you have a process of experimentation, inspiration, and change? How do you know when the work needs to take off in a new direction?

Stacey Alickman: In the past couple of years, I’ve been layering oil paint over extended periods of time, often putting it on then taking it off. At some point, the physical aspects of the paint assert itself and I am no longer controlling the outcome. The paint wills itself into a composition that is not of my ideas but something hopefully more transcendent. Lately, I’m more open to the possibility of not knowing what the work is about. A painting I can live with is one that results in an end that couldn’t have gone any other way.

Julie Graham: I’m interested in unexpected and unplanned collisions of ideas, forms, color and architecture — things and places that are normally overlooked, and things that don’t really seem to belong. I consider myself a painter, but I also make 3D pieces (I’m not sure if they are sculpted paintings or painted sculptures) and photographs.The processes of construction are similar throughout, as I build layer upon layer to mirror the way I see the world around me.

Lynda Schlosberg: The desire to expand on my mark making vocabulary and layering is twofold. One is of a semi-practical nature; since my work is very time consuming to produce I’m always looking for new ways to achieve the same visual intricacy with less. The second is on expanding the personal dialogue I am having with quantum theories, and the introduction of new marks and techniques is fueled heavily by what I read on the subject.

Right now I’m in the middle of reading “The Field” by Lynne McTaggart, which has introduced me to the ‘Zero Point Field.’ To oversimplify: there are lingering fluctuations in the Universe’s sub atomic energy field even at temperatures of absolute zero—which is where everything should be completely void of any motion. This ceaseless energy implies that nothing ever really dies completely, that all things that ever existed still exist, and that they are intricately and forever connected through The Field. It is this ‘connection-of-all-things’ that intrigues me, and the idea of an energetic grid that is the mechanism holding it all together.

Kathleen Gerdon Archer: By constantly taking photographs I eventually understand what it is I am interested in seeing. A pattern of like images develop, and once recognized, can be expanded upon. The images reflect what I have been feeling even if I am not aware of that as I am shooting. The years it takes can be frustrating but the stories eventually develop and become clearer to me as I write my statement, a critical component of the work.

July in the City

This is the last week for the three wonderful exhibits at the Kingston Gallery: Linda Leslie Brown’s Chimeric, Rachel Thern: Curves and Barbara Moody Blonde, which are up through July 28.

While in the gallery yesterday, I noticed how all three shows resonated with each other, especially as one moves through the space from one artist to the next. They rhyme and echo, the gestures of the forms in each leads the eye and the body, and guides the viewer to compare and appreciate these very distinct bodies of work.

We are so pleased that both Brown and Thern have recently been reviewed respectively in the Boston Globe http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/theater-art/2013/07/16/what-boston-area-art-galleries/QD8enGbaxSnV4Fmudp3dVM/story.html and on the Artscope Blog http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs191/1101530073189/archive/1114171649305.html.

Check out our Facebook page and Kingston Gallery Blog Thinking About Art Out Loud to see the articles as well.

Cate McQuaid’s recent review of Linda Leslie Brown: Chimeric exhibit

What’s up in Boston-area art galleries

By Cate McQuaid

Globe Correspondent

July 16, 2013


Tree-like sculptures

Linda Leslie Brown has built something monstrous yet strangely domestic at Kingston Gallery. “Chimeric,” her installation there, features three large tree-like sculptures fashioned from found objects, quartz crystals, metal, wood, and paper clay. They rise and writhe from the floor, standing precariously on odd little pronged feet, glowing in a pale, lichen-colored green. They rise to funnels, from which live plants spring.

Similar but smaller wall pieces surround them, these clearly emerging from kitchen utensils built into them — a pasta spoon, a spatula. They curve, protrude, and swivel, like plant life growing to accommodate its environs.

Great lengths of Spanish moss sway throughout, languidly draping from one object to the next, rising to the ceiling, falling to the floor. The whole feels partly like a patch of jungle, with its unruly greenery, and partly like a canopy for a wedding, complete with wedding gifts embedded in the structure.

Brown dices and splices, joining the stuff of civilization with the wild’s unpredictability. Her title suggests a chimera, the mythological mutant comprising several different beasties. Bringing in her kitchen items, she seems to tame her creation. This is an enchanting installation; I wish it were a little more big and frightening.

Installation view: Chimeric


This past Tuesday, during the first Public Relations Hours of the month (the next one will be July 23 from 2-4 pm), I had the opportunity to see the current exhibit, Linda Leslie Brown’s solo exhibit Chimeric, up through July 28 at the Kingston Gallery.

Brown is interested in the intersection of humans with nature, and the work literally embodies that intersection. Chimeric alerts us to our own relationship with nature. The installation of towering assemblages becomes a habitat for plants and crystals, the fusing of animal, vegetable and mineral. The man-made objects both reveal themselves – one is looking at a spatula, a masher, a spoon – and at the same time combine to create something unexpected. They bear the residue of human use. The viewer seeks to connect all the individual parts of the work while the work seeks to transcend all its parts, alerting us to the inherent relationship between culture and nature. The over-wrought forms suggest plant forms gone berserk, yearning to overwhelm and fill the whole space of the gallery.  I was reminded of Judy Pfaff’s work http://www.judypfaffstudio.com, which also mines this territory of our relationship to nature, often literally bringing it inside.

What also came to mind while experiencing the exhibit is the notion of the artist as a gardener, caretaking and cultivating ideas that become manifest.  In Linda’s case, the metaphor is more than apt, as the inclusion of plants as an element is very important. A garden is the demonstration of the relationship between culture and nature, which has existed for thousands of years. The artist, as she continues exploring this symbiosis, longs for this understanding and unity.  To quote Brown, “For me, these works are not simply visual analogues. A residue of homely utility is embedded in their adapted object parts. This carried life force resonates with my ongoing care for the growing plants and the energy fields created by the clusters of quartz crystals, in a way that gives the work a sort of consciousness and an experience in time.”

Linda Leslie Brown Interviews Susan Still Scott: Some Questions About “Righteous Ordinary”

Susan Still Scott’s show “Righteous Ordinary” is on view in the Members’ Gallery during the month of April, 2013. Recently, I interviewed her by phone and email to try to enrich my understanding of this intriguing body of work.
— Linda L. Brown

 LLB: I am interested in the show title Righteous Ordinary as an entry into the work. How does the word “Righteous” inform, nuance, support or contradict the term “Ordinary”?

SSS: Righteous Ordinary is meant to be a contradiction of sorts in the way that opposing elements provide friction. Though really the two words don’t negate each other in any way. They are just an uncommon pair. Most of my titles are free associations. I try not to overthink them. They’re not literal. I go by how they sound and how they feel. I keep running lists of words that occur to me when I’m working. If you look at the walls in my studio, there are little words in pencil around the room. When it’s time to do a show, I go around and look for the right combinations of words for titles. It works for me because this way the words have already been there for some time, part of a longer, larger stream of consciousness, that’s part of the space of my studio. In this case, Righteous was a word used over and over again in a novel I was reading by Cheryl Strayed. She used it in a sympathetic way meaning that something simply had a right to be, that it was natural and good, without pomp or ceremony or ego. It just was as it should be and had every right to be. It was not to be dismissed or passed over lightly. Ordinary happens all the time, but is no less important than anything else. My work is made out of ordinary art materials, ordinary found objects and materials. I use things that seem to me full of possibility and that refer, literally or obliquely, to some kind of function or purpose that I can imagine using in a painting.

Hollow Bunny
Susan Still Scott, Hollow Bunny, installation view, 2013

LLB: Do you consider these works to be paintings or “paint things”?

SSS: My work has been called constructed paintings and painted sculptures. I don’t really think about what to call them. My background is painting. I feel I look at things in a way that is centered around image — how we are looking at something. The time I spent in Italy seeing and studying the work of the earliest Renaissance painters in person was formational in ways I don’t think I realized then. All of those paintings were intended for specific situations, whether it was an altarpiece panel, the focal point of a chapel, or a small devotional piece. Cimabue’s Crucifixion at San Croce in Florence taught me how powerful a work of art can be — not in the religious sense — I’m not Catholic. It’s a massive shaped panel suspended from the ceiling alone, in it’s own space, far from the wall that serves as its backdrop. It’s a painting and an object with a terrific presence.

Cimabue, Crucifixion, San Croce, Florence, 1288

At the Boston Museum of Fine Arts there’s a Duccio — a portable tabletop size altarpiece. The panels have hinges so they close and they’re painted on both sides. The center panel contains stacked and layered space balanced beautifully with the absolute flatness of gold leaf. This panel’s frame is painted pictorially with a differently scaled reality above. There’s a distinction between how the central and peripheral images are meant to be read; they have different meanings.

Duccio, Altarpiece Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1318

The Fra Angelicos in the monks’ cells in San Marco in Florence have everything to do with placement and proximity to the viewer and they are sublimely integrated into the architecture of the monastery. This art is intended to be instructional. A lot of it is meant to be contemplated for hours, in silence. In contrast, on a public level, a masterpiece and an exquisite example of drawing and sculpture combined, is Ghiberti’s North Doors on the Florence Baptistry, dubbed the Gates of Paradise by Michelangelo. The doors tower above the people looking at them. The perspective, scale and surface take that into account. These artists formed our idea of what Western art is. They had no trouble straddling a two-dimensional/three-dimensional divide because for them it wasn’t there. I think for them it was a continuum — flat space, deep space and our space. I absorbed all of this early on in my education, and I believe it had a lot to do with how I look at all the other art I have learned about since. I still love this work, especially the Cimabue…

Fra Angelico, Annunciation, monk’s cell, San Marco, Florence, 1436–45
Baptistry Doors
Ghiberti, North Doors of the Florence Baptistry, finished 1452

LLB: The rational, the emotive, the relational all seem to have a place within your work. How do you balance these modes of address to your viewers? Do you consider one to be more important than the others in this work?

 SSS: I like that you see multiple aspects. My work does contain the each of qualities you mention, but when I’m working on them I’m not thinking in terms of emphasizing one more than another. It’s more like an orchestration of relationships between the materials and between myself and the whole of the piece. I’m always trying to learn new ways to work that either encourage unexpected situations or lead to results I couldn’t predict. I like to be in a state where I’m not sure what my next move will be. It may be a rational response to a practical issue, like “how is this thing going to stay on the wall?” but the solution has to consider to the rest of the painting overall. That’s the wholeness of the piece.

A singular work of art has all of its aspects working together. It may not necessarily be harmonious, but it can’t be devoid of an overall sense of what it is. Most of my pieces are problematic, compromised in some way — but the idea is to work with that. Maybe that has something to do with the careful consideration that goes into each piece, because it all matters, down from the overall form, tonality, texture and timing down to something that may seem inconsequential, like a bit of colored thread hanging off the side.

Susan Still Scott, Greetings, 2013

LLB: Issues of presentation seem to be highlighted in this body of work. The way each piece relates to the wall or its support seems crucial to its personality and meaning.  What is it about this relationship that is so interesting to you?

 SSS: I did play more with presentation with this work than I have before. It seemed like a natural extension of the piece out into the space of the gallery. In terms of art history, images have been coming out of their frames for some time now — canvas from its support, sculpture from its pedestal… I’m not pushing the idea further as much as I feel I’m re-enacting it with some of these pieces. It may be a way to imbue strictly formal abstraction an element of narrative. I want people to wonder how did the painting get this way?

This is Paddlehead
Susan Still Scott, This is Paddle Head, 2013

LLB: it seems as if Necessity in an evolutionary sense has become issue for you- the work bears traces of your responses to circumstances, and of solving problems.

 SSS: It’s a kind of acknowledgment, an acceptance of the circumstances at hand. I want to explore this idea more — the idea of one’s response to the conditions of reality. For instance, one piece has a metal handle on the back that is kind of awkward. It appears that the work has “evolved” this handle. Or maybe it was forced onto it. I like finding humor in the absurdity of our habits and assumptions-why do we do things the way we do?

Triumph of Geometry
Susan Still Scott, The Triumph of Geometry, views from each side, 2013 

LLB: Right. It seems we all have adapted to the circumstantial environments of our lives with various kinds of “handles.”