Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beer with a Painter: Susanna Coffey

Susanna Coffey, Moss Glen Falls, Monoprint, 15"x12" 2008 (Image courtesy of the artist.)
Susanna Coffey, “Moss Glen Falls” (2008). Monoprint, 15 x 12 inches. (All images courtesy the artist unless otherwise noted)
Susanna Coffey, who was born in New London, Connecticut, studied at Yale, teaches at the Art Institute of Chicago, and lives and works in New York, is best known for her self-portraits. These frontal heads set against backdrops of world locales and events are rigorous, unrelenting penetrations of the meeting-point of humanity and violence.
Over the last year, I got to know her, and another part of her painting practice. She works outdoors at night, making pulsating, loose landscapes and cityscapes on tiny canvases and boards. The differences between her practices are a reminder of how compelling the range of one’s humanness can be.
The sternness that her self-portraits suggest is undone by her personality, the way she connects with people, her love of dance and her spirituality. The focus on symmetry in Coffey’s work is not, in the end, about evenness, but rather a reminder of balance.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Beer with a Painter: Mary Heilmann

Mary Heilmann, "Renny’s Right Geometry of a Wave" (2011). Oil on wood panel,31.5 x 39.75 inches
Mary Heilmann, “Renny’s Right Geometry of a Wave” (2011). Oil on wood panel, 31.5 x 39.75 inches (all images © Mary Heilmann, courtesy the artist, 303 Gallery, and Hauser & Wirth, unless otherwise noted)
I visited Mary Heilmann recently in her Bridgehampton studio. At the end of our time together, she took a small painting of a wave, and turned it upside-down. It was the perfect gesture to sum up our conversation and the themes of her work — an offhand reminder of its yin-yang quality. Heilmann’s work plays with big ideas, but it does so playfully.
Heilmann, born in 1940, spent her childhood years in Southern California amidst beach and surf culture. She studied ceramics and sculpture at the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her MA in 1967. She moved to New York the next year, hanging at Max’s Kansas City with her friend Richard Serra, and gravitating toward the world of minimalist sculpture.