Spring Blossoms, Suzanne Fisher
"Spring Blossoms", Suzanne Fisher, 2009

By: Karen S. Chambers

When you walk into Suzanne Fisher’s exhibition at The Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center (one of six shows presented under the rubric “Full of Color”), you enter a world of wonder. In fact, if Fisher had given her show its own title, it would have been “Natural Wonders.”

At the opening, I overheard the artist telling someone that at this stage in her life, she wants to make happy things. These works are.

A painter and a mosaic artist, Fisher had long wanted to combine her two skills, and in these pieces, she has done this to felicitous effect.

Fisher has created a delightful vision of nature as she combines a myriad of discards and reclaimed items with painting in her mixed medium paintings (I’ll call them paintings although they could also be called relief sculptures or even assemblages because of her use of three-dimensional objects).

Like Nick Cave does in his *Soundsuits (his exhibition “Meet Me at the Center of the Earth” was recently presented at the Cincinnati Art Museum), Fisher finds beauty and value in what others have thrown away.

I imagine that in Fisher’s studio there are containers overflowing with things to affix to the hollow-core doors that she uses as the support for her work. Judging from the pieces on view, there would be faux pearls, beads, costume jewelry, broken bits of pottery, mosaic tiles, glass and mirrors, fake gems, glitter, buttons, and stones. I’m sure there’s much more.

The artist then responds to these bits and pieces by adding painted elements such as circles, stylized blossoms, coral, arabesques, dashes, zigzags, PoMo “art marks,” etc. Her sensibility is close to the Pattern and Decoration style of the mid-’70s to early ’80s. Championed by the late New York art dealer Holly Solomon, these P and D artists, including Valerie Jaudon, Jane Kaufman, Robert Kushner, Ned Smythe, Betty Woodman, and George Woodman, rehabilitated the notion of decorative.

Fisher then covers her pieces with a thick layer of clear resin that amplifies their jewel-like quality. After that she may add more “stuff” on top for an extra punch.

Fisher is eloquent visually, but she also has the verbal facility to describe and explain her work.

In her creative process, she combines painting, mosaic, and collage and moves “back and forth being (sic) dimensional and flat, thick and thin, embellished and plain, floating and grounded, abstract and representation(al), and natural and man made.”

Her use of resin has a similar dichotomy as “resin can encase and serve as a barrier while adding depth. It can suggest highly glazed oil painting (high art) or amber (nature) as well as the surface of a surfboard (pop culture).”

In her artist statement, she shares that as a small child, she was entranced by the natural world. “Some of my earliest memories involve being immersed in the marvels of the natural world. I have vague early memories of the sensations of sunlight, buzzing bees, and the color and fragrance of rose petals, and can remember the experience of looking down into the interior of a red tulip and being transfixed by its stark and elegant geometry.”

As a child, Fisher was also drawn to the ocean with its “endlessly fascinating shapes, textures, and materials, washing up in fragments for longer and closer inspection.”

For the more graphic elements in her paintings, Fisher takes inspiration from the Spirographs, Incredible Edible molds, and Pier 1 daisies that were popular in the ’60s when she was 10 or so.

Her fanciful interpretations of nature, of course, recall Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450-1516) and his well-known “The Garden of Earthly Delights.”

There is also a touch of the freshness and naiveté of children’s art.

Fisher often works with school kids to translate their drawings into large-scale mosaics.

Fisher’s works, both in color and preponderance of circles, which she considers the “most basic and perfect form,” remind me of the Orphism of Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957) and both Robert (1885-1941) and Sonia (1885-1979) Delaunay.

(The poet Guillaume Apollinaire coined the term “Orphism” or “Orphic Cubism” [1910-1913]. The colorful abstract style was influenced by Fauvism, best exemplified by Henri Matisse, and the dye chemist Eugène Chevreul.)

Fisher captures a moment in time, rather like a photograph, and you know that her shapes are going to keep hurtling through space. Nature is continually moving and cannot be stopped.

The artist’s palette is bright but nuanced, which adds to the sense of movement.

Photographs courtesy of the artist

The least successful work—there, perforce, must always be one—is a small and restrained mosaic called “Natural Form #2.” Here Fisher combined pieces of unglazed terra cotta, shards of mirror, pebbles, and a green glass cabochon surrounded by small cobalt glass buttons, each with a painted letter or number. It’s a topographical view of a garden path. The best thing about the piece may be its date of execution: 2009.

This is also the date of “Spring Blossoms,” hanging just outside the Hutson Gallery where her show is installed. In this work she has begun combining painting with mosaic.

Fisher has grown artistically, and viewers can celebrate that progress with her as they take in the jewel of a show.

“Suzanne Fisher: Full of Color” on view through June 22, 2012, at The Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center, 1028 Scott Blvd., Covington, KY  41011, 859-491-2030, www.thecarnegie.com

2 Responses

  1. Beautiful Paintings Suzanne. Beautiful new work!! We went to UC together in the early 80’s. Ciao for now Grant

  2. Beautiful Paintings Suzanne. Beautiful new work!! We went to UC together in the early 80’s. Ciao for now Grant

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