Four artists; four directions


Susan Schiesser

Behind the closed door of Susan Schiesser's studio, things have been happening. Ideas have been taking shape. Images have been appearing on her canvasses in ways they never had.

What began as a series of landscapes has turned into a jumping-off point for an exploration of a completely different kind of painting.

On Monday, her easel supported a 6-by-3-foot canvas painted from an out-of-body vantage point. The eye sweeps over a field-checkered valley far in the distance. Although the perspective is at once high above the earth, it also is grounded by a horse that stands in the foreground.

If the viewer does not have vertigo already from the flying while standing feeling of the piece, he or she is challenged further by flowers and blades of grass that have been tossed into the air and still hang there.

The piece is called "The Absence of Horses in the Landscape," inspired by a passage from Tom Robbins' "Skinny Legs and All," and it is a complete departure from the more traditional landscapes that Schiesser painted for years.

The piece is part of a continuing series of paintings that began with some aerial photographs of fields and rivers. By shifting her perspective once, it freed her to continue on a path that leaps from one painting to the next.

Schiesser may show "The Absence of Horses in the Landscape" tonight in its incomplete form along with several of its landscape predecessors. The paintings move from one end of the canvas to the other between the visually obvious to the more dreamlike and abstract.

She compares her new thought process to work painted by an old friend from the San Francisco Bay area, artist Julius Hatofsky.

Hatofsky mixed images he called "passing spirits" into his paintings -- references to the many people who had come and gone in a space during time.

"I think the falling flowers have to do with days that are passing," she said.

Nancy Jeffrey

As Susan Schiesser adds elements and color to her paintings, Nancy Jeffrey is taking them away.

The pieces she will be showing in tonight's show appear almost empty -- white on white. Jeffrey's work, both her professional interior design and her personal artwork, was becoming increasingly minimalistic, but the shift to painting with whites came after Jeffrey attended the show "White OUT" at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver.

"I was amazed by the work of a German artist Udo Noger," Jeffrey said. "It was so brilliant and so minimal. He sliced the canvas and painted over it and covered it with transparent silk. White on white on white. It was all about shape.

"It's so hard to communicate an image that way. Your work has to be so concise and thoughtful, and it has to be well-painted because it has nothing to hide behind."

One of the pieces that will be on display tonight is a construction of thin horizontal white lines on a vertical rectangular canvas.

The only color is a few small red lines representing branches.

Julie Anderson

Ceramic artist Julie Anderson is best known for her organic vessels, cut with a surgeon's precision into new shapes. Anderson is still at work with clay and scalpel, but her work has flattened out, and her potter's wheel sits almost untouched in the corner of her studio.

When most people hand-build ceramic pieces, they add clay until it takes the right shape. Instead, Anderson's process is more one of taking away the clay with her knife until the image emerges.

Anderson is experimenting with less-functional pieces that hang on the wall rather than sit on a table. The bases of her latest works are thick, rigid rectangular and square slabs that she covers with organic shapes that lay on top of the geometric shapes like ivy swallowing the walls of an abandoned building.

"This is where I want to head, into more nonfunctional, sculptural fine art," she said.

Susan Thompson

For months, Susan Thompson was painting abstract landscapes for the sake of keeping herself in the studio. As she painted, she let her mind wander. Slowly, ideas took shape, and the work that followed was a series of complex collages that tell stories and communicate thoughts.

"It was fun to paint about painting for a while," she said, "but now I think I have something to say."

Thompson will have three new encaustic mixed-media pieces in tonight's show.

The first piece, "A Grim Toll," came from a story she heard about the death toll of birds hitting the windows of skyscrapers. Inside the painting are pictures of thousands of dead birds mixed with mirrors, glass and reflected sky.

The second piece, "Secret Vestige," is a statement about the viewer as much as the artist.

Her composition is a simple grid. The images she selected for her collage were unaltered from their original, other than placing them inside of her canvas.

"Just putting them down was liberating," Thompson said. "It freed me from being so geometric and precise."

Inside the painting is a hidden dragonfly wing.

"Most people don't have the patience to look at a painting," Thompson said. "Only certain people will see that 'secret vestige.'"


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