Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Interview with Suzanne Demeo

Below is a short interview with Suzanne Demeo, Adjunct Instructor in the Art and Art History Department. A grouping of her watercolor paintings are on display in the Faculty Show.

Q: All of your work in this show depicts a similar stretch of road in the Nevada desert, what appealed to you about this area?

A: When my parents retired 15 years ago they moved from Connecticut to Nevada. Since then I have visited them at least once a year and I have been photographing the landscape and using the photos to inform my artwork. Over the past two years my parents have passed away. During my last visit I found a box filled with photographs my mother had taken of the cloud formations over the mountains behind their house. The sky is so vast in the west, the vistas stretching so far because of the lack of trees and the clear thin air. My mother was really taken with the variety of cloud formations and the way the “weather” moved through the valley. I have been painting the Nevada landscape off and on for many years but I never really thought much about painting clouds. Five out of six of the paintings in this exhibition were taken in part from my mother’s photographs. The exception is “Field on Fire” which is based on a photograph that I took very early in the morning as the sun was coming up over the mountains. The color of the light in the west is different and the shadows are crisper than ours because of the lack of humidity. I find the whole area infinitely beautiful and am grateful to my parents that I have had an opportunity to explore that part of the country. I am feeling the loss of my parents and also the loss of subject matter for future work.

Q: Why did you choose to use the medium of watercolor for these scenes?

 A: I have not painted in any other medium since college and did not attempt watercolor until about twelve years ago. Before that I used paper collage and pastel mostly. Prior to this series I was working with mixed media; combining watercolor, pastel and gouache. I wanted to limit myself to watercolor only for this series of paintings. The medium requires that you think ahead. It is an additive process. Areas of whites and lights need to be “reserved’ because you cannot go back and add them later unless you use an opaque medium such as gouache which gives the work a different look. There really is no such thing as white watercolor paint. I spent a lot of time on the preliminary drawings which I really enjoyed. Then there is the surprise element of watercolor because of the way the water and paper influence the paint.

Q: What artists or periods of art history inspire the subjects and /or aesthetics of your work?

A: Although I appreciate many different types of art and artists, I found out a long time ago that looking at a particular artist or period in art to find inspiration does not usually work for me. It becomes too much of an academic exercise and I just end up getting lost.  Usually the inspiration for my work comes from the colors and forms of nature or manmade objects. For a while I was interested in the colors of rust on metal surfaces. When I initially moved to Virginia I made a series of paper collages with flower and plant forms because I was inspired by all of the different things that grow in the South compared to New England. This time my inspiration was my father. He was an incredibly creative guy and a really good artist. I inherited several of his oil paintings, watercolors and drawings and have them hanging in my home. After my mother died I went two years without working in my studio in any serious way.  Between May and July I made twelve paintings. With my mother’s cloud pictures, my father’s beautiful watercolor brushes and a stack of their old CD’s, I thought about them as I painted their big back yard.


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