"Splendor" | White Gold Leaf with Pigment Print, Acrylic Paint, Watercolors and Resin on Wood Panel | 40 x 60 inches | Photos: Drew Klausner

Illuminations: Ones to watch

There is something of a remembering to Susan Goldsmith’s mixed-media paintings. A notion of what a thing can become if endowed with the fantasy of magical realism. There is a wash of dreams and wanderings that will always lead home; in the resolution of images, a talisman tucked in your pocket. But they are also about place and beauty, sparked by the natural world, elevated beyond the seasons.

“I’m so full of inspiration; I’m overflowing with it, and it’s been that way all my life,” Goldsmith says. “I love the joy of making things more than trying to make something beautiful. Being in my studio is my happy place.”

Goldsmith came to appreciate nature while working as a caretaker on an estate. She’d walk the grounds, watching the daily changes of blossoms and trees and listening to the sounds of the environment.

Her process, which involves gold and silver leaf, manipulated digital images, layers of paint, hand-drawn images and multiple applications of resin, developed over the years into a signature for her.

“Between each coat of resin are hand-drawn images that are photo based. I’ll take 300 pictures of one tree and look at them, put them together and cut them up,” she says, explaining that the digital images are manipulated on a computer. “When you paint between the resins, it looks three-dimensional.”

Each piece starts with gold or silver leaf applied to a board. Goldsmith draws on translucent paper and then embeds it in the resin layer. Often, she turns a photo into a large slide and paints directly on the film and embeds that in the resin. Another layer might have a different combination. 

“I work with paint that has mica particles so it changes the way it looks, depending on where you look at it from,” she says. “Once the film is embedded in the resin, I will paint the surface, adding color and information.” 

Her work often comes in twos or threes, hanging as diptychs or triptychs. It’s that kind of plurality that’s needed to fully express the subject. For example, Goldsmith visits the same persimmon tree each year because there is a two-week window where there are both blossoms and fruit, with color bursting like fireworks. How can a single perspective honor such a surprise?

“I’m so enamored by trees and nature that I’m inspired to make paintings about them,” she says, explaining that paint alone cannot capture leaves shimmering back and fourth. “They are the things you can’t capture in a still frame. It’s always a wonder to me.”

Whether a series about the ebb and flow of the tide, a flight of herons gliding across a gold-leaf sky or a Monet-esque study of lotus on a pond, Goldsmith surrounds us with quietude and solace.

“I’m sharing my love of the beauty I find in nature,” Goldsmith says. “In spite of everything going on in the world, it’s what I do.” 

Her work is represented by Gallery Henoch of New York City, New York; Lanoue Gallery of Boston, Massachusetts; Diehl Gallery of Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and SFMOMA Artists Gallery of San Francisco, California.

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