My paintings are usually related in some way to my physical environments and experience of them. Source material I draw from when I’m painting often includes photographs I’ve taken of places I’ve been. Also, the paintings are experiments in creating new environments. An individual painting can become a new place in itself, with sensations of things that might happen in a place, such as weather, touch, landscape, temperature, sex or noise. Abstract marks interact with more recognizable shapes, and a kind of narrative ensues.
Semi-abstract “characters” show up in the paintings and suggest meanings with their repetition and associations with each other. For example, a chunk of green and white stripes has its origins in the green and white striped pajama bottoms from Suzanne Valadon’s The Blue Room, 1923. To me, this “character” feels like a queer, feminist reclaiming of the history of painting. Tongues want to bask in the sensual pleasure of looking and painting and eat everything up.
I am currently (from 2017 – 2021) engaged in a project called Red Country, where I am making paintings based on my experiences in “red” states. For this project, I’m using painting as a way to meet people and not hate my country. To me, experiencing landscapes (broadly defined, to include lunch and parking lots), and painting, are both acts of love.
Making these semi-abstract landscape-based paintings with a personal narrative running underneath is a three-pronged effort. I am looking at my agency in the landscape. I am trying to spend more time in the place by painting it. I’m using paint to make physical contact again. In this intimate way, the paintings explore landscape as a lover and loved one, enmeshed with the paint, and without the safe distance usually afforded by the Sublime in traditional Western landscape painting.
Susanna Bluhm 2019