Breathing Dreams Like Air: Susan Richardson's Ode to F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Susan Richardson, life is “a wall that has witnessed wars,” a series of layers “bold and strong, as well as delicate and ephemeral.” Susan adds layers of paint, text, and hand lettering to her walls and canvases, then removes other layers to reveal what’s buried underneath. Like her muse F. Scott Fitzgerald, she takes pleasure in balancing the delicate and the ephemeral. Looking at her interplay of inner and outer, past and present, it brings to mind scenes from The Great Gatsby, which inspired Susan’s works on Artfinder. And like Gatsby, Susan searches for a world “material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air” can drift about, free to continue dreaming and repeat past dreams.
A huge Fitzgerald fan herself, Content Curator Mica England loved sitting down with Susan and hearing how Fitzgerald has shaped her work.
Why or when did you decide to make work?
When I read certain books or poems and hear certain songs, they form a powerful image in my imagination. The words connect with the world as I’m experiencing it, as well as the personal experiences of my life. I express these intersections in mixed media works that contain layers of paint, lettering and collage. The work expresses the complexity, constant change and media soup of the world we live in. It also expresses how these outer worlds intersect with the layers of my personal journey. Some layers are bold and bright others' delicate and ephemeral. It contains a messy richness and a deeper harmony.
What inspires you currently?
For the past 9 months, I’ve been deeply inspired (again) by the vision of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I have had a spiritual love affair with Fitzgerald since I first discovered his work when I was 15 and went to school in the town on Long Island that is generally believed to be the town on which he based the East Egg of Gatsby. But beyond that, I have a deep affinity for the stories he tells and deeper themes he explores. I also am very inspired by the Baz Luhrman film of The Great Gatsby and the incredible soundtrack of the movie. I listen to the sound track while I’m working. It connects me to the spirit of Gatsby and his world.
How did you land on the medium you use now?
Every time I explore a new medium, I have a means of expressing something in a way that’s truer to my vision. And my artistic vision expands as I see how a new media or tool suggests more meaning and subtlety. I almost always include hand lettering as well as printed texts in my work. I love letters of all kinds — both for what the words they form say and also for the beauty of the shapes they form. I’ve studied calligraphy and lettering arts almost as long as I’ve studied visual art — over 40 years. I love typography and am very particular about the fonts I use in my work. I must love them and find them beautiful.
I love the rich colors of both acrylic paint and latex house paint. I love using house paint because a big gallon of luscious paint inspires me to work big and bold. As for collage, I find an almost overwhelming source of rich materials from papers and notes I find on the streets to old wallpaper and theatre posters, architectural blue prints, newspapers and more. They all are part of the narrative of who we are and the world we live in.
Other than your art practice, what other work do you do?
My art practice is the main way I spend my time. I love and treasure everyday I can spend in my studio. I also have a yoga practice that means a lot to me. I love gardening and have a yard full of plants and flowers.
For many years I worked in Marketing and that fed my love of graphic design and typography. I was also a university instructor of Writing and have a Ph.D. in Language and Literacy. My first love was words and I still am in love with language, literature, poetry, song lyrics and all the ways words tell our stories.
I’m a wife, mom, and grandmother and spending time with my family fills my heart makes me who I am.
What are your current artistic influences?
My current artistic influences are Mark Bradford and Robert Rauschenberg. I connect with their vision, their aesthetic, and their approach to materials and art making. I also love Joan Mitchell for her bold confident marks and colors. In the world of music and lyrics, my favorite artist has always been Joni Mitchell. Kind of lovely coincidence — Joan and Joni Mitchell.
What is your least favorite color?
Finally, do you have any upcoming events?
I will be participating in the Small Things Holiday Exhibit at Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery in Lafayette. Here’s the info:
November 15 - December 30th
Jennifer Perlmutter Gallery
3620 Mt. Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette CA 94549
Opening Reception and Holiday Cheer: Thursday November 15th, 6PM – til 9PM.
I’m also contributing to a book of Art and Poetry being created by Art Ventures Gallery in Menlo Park. A group of women artists are expressing our thoughts and feelings about being women in the world today. Each artist contributes poems an corresponding images for the book. My artwork is scheduled to be on the cover in addition to my poems and images in the book. It should be released for the holiday season. It feels like a very important project because, like so many people experiencing the demise of decency in our politicians and policies, I can feel overwhelmed. I often wonder what I can do as one person. As an artist, I can express myself through my work. And by holding hands with other artists, we will be stronger together. And by creating a book that can be read and experienced by others, our voices can rise. It’s not a solution, but it’s a small contribution towards decency.
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Find Susan on Instagram: @susanrichardsonartist
Q&A by Content Curator Mica England