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An example of work by Susanne Mechtild Slavick
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Artist Statement, submitted by Susanne Slavick|
Over the past two decades, my work has explored aspects of paradox, my
attraction to and dread of absolutes, and the confrontation between and
intersection of conflicting realities. I have investigated
relationships between male and female, the material and the ethereal,
the sacred and the secular, nature and artifice, and the known and the
unknown. My worlds have been binary seeking the unitary; the
promise of contradiction resolved has always been a lure.
Literary and visual sources have included Russian and Byzantine icons,
Persian Gulf War battle plans, the maps of Ptolemy, Mercator and
Waldseemuller and the Beatus manuscripts of the Pierpont Morgan
Library. For the past seven years, I have been appropriating
visual structures such as maps and genealogical tables, diagrams which
seem inherently rational and which often imply hierarchy. I
subvert these structures through a variety of strategies.
Longitudes and latitudes are removed; topography is obliterated.
Names are erased from family trees. Pedigrees become impure. The
language of the laboratory is merged with that of the spirit. Specimens
and souls are interchangeable. The didactic dissolves; veils
In Repercussions, Suspended and Affliction, gores of a spherical
world float in uneasy connection to each other, offering a carnal and
spiritual cartography. They hover like disciples, wounded and
beatified by shimmering haloes. Coupling and decoupling, they
infect each other with disease and desire, apathy and ecstasy. Embalmed
for burial or bandaged for recovery, they vacillate between the
corporeal and the ethereal, between transmission, remission, submission
Though beautifully illuminated, the diagrammatic images I appropriate are often impersonal. The family trees in Familiar Secrets and Fly in the Eye: the Genealogy of Ecstasy
are of biblical proportions, beginning from Adam and Eve and the
progeny of Noah. Their representation of human origins is
macrocosmic, multi-generational and projects a generic authority.
In invoking the body, flesh and blood, I have attempted to transform,
expand and (perhaps) deflate these sources, to fuse the more
macrocosmic and impersonal with the microcosmic and personal, to allude
to the moment as well as to eternity, to decentralize and to infuse
with desire. Shimmering haloes float with tongue tendrils, petri
dishes, microscopic specimens, dividing cells, and bloodstains.
Veils of the boudoir hang with those of the altar and stage. The
sterility of the X-ray contrasts with the fecundity of the cornucopia.
Globes unmoored from their orbits are framed among blind spots and
A 1997 teaching exchange in Holland and residency in Poland returned me
temporarily to landscape. The amputated willows lining Dutch canals
sparked my Phantom Limbs series of drawings. Rows
of Polish trees with their random spheres of mistletoe became backdrops
for invented genealogies. Such irregular rhythms in an agrarian
geometry provided another visual metaphor for order undone.
Mistletoe’s romantic reputation is complicated by its parasitic nature
and medicinal value. Its berries are like pinkish pearls.
Though born of irritation in the shell, pearls also have romantic
allure. Mistletoe drains the life from its host, but prompts the
lover’s kiss. The berries in Swoon are suspended in an idealized state and cast down, before and after the “fall”, the surrender, the loss of innocence. Swoon
embraces this complication with an aleatory genealogical table that
departs from a rational and patriarchal order of bloodlines. This
impossible structure acts as an armature for the cascading drapery of
Flemish painting, the surrender of grief and desire made
incarnate. The eyes of the romantic and the realist are crossed
in this painting.
This dubious vision examines the bed as both a functional and sentimental site. Recent works, such as Point of Entry,
offer mattresses as grids straying from the pure austere picture plane,
grids with body. Apertures puncturing illusionistic cushioned
surfaces refute the impenetrable flatness of modernist (male-gendered)
painting as well as mirror the violent response to softness prevalent
in our culture. The comfort offered is a contrary one, ruined by
the pea (another sort of pearl) under the princess’ mountain of
Over the last two decades, my work has probed persistent polarities,
disembodiment, the questionable primacy of the rational, an elusive
equilibrium. Piero Camporesi's Incorruptible Flesh has
enhanced my consideration of the world and the body, the world body,
the body as world. His accounts of spiritual ecstasy numbing the
body to external stimuli inspired Fly in the Eye; a Genealogy of Ecstasy.
In rapture, one would not blink, even if disturbed by a fly. Such
coincidences of the banal and miraculous embody the extremes of our
experience, the measured and immeasurable.
Susanne Slavick 1999
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following, submitted December 2005, is from the artist.|
Susanne Slavick was born on Easter and April Fool's Day, an appropriate
coincidence, given the nature of her work. She graduated summa
cum laude from Yale University in 1978. That summer, with funding
from the Kosciuszko Foundation, she attended an art program at
Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland and then proceeded to Rome
where she began graduate work through Tyler School of Art, Temple
University. In 1980, she completed her M.F.A. in Philadelphia
where she began exhibiting her work in a gallery. During her
career, she has received four awards from the Pennsylvania Council for
Slavick began teaching in 1980 in a visiting position at Kutztown State
College in Pennsylvania, followed by three years as assistant professor
at University of Wisconsin at Madison. While in Wisconsin, she
exhibited with a gallery in Chicago. She has exhibited in museums and
galleries in New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis,
and Pittsburgh as well as in Scotland, Japan and The Netherlands.
She has received an artist fellowship from the National Endowment for
the Arts and four awards from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
In 1984, Slavick joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon after a
fellowship residency at the MacDowell Colony. In 1997, she was an
exchange professor at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and an
artist-in-residence for a project in Skoki, Poland through the Academy
of Fine Arts in Poznan. She became Head of the School of Art at
Carnegie Mellon in 2000, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art in 2001,
and, after a 2005-06 sabbatical, will rejoin the faculty.
Though she has worked on public, collaborative, and installation
projects, Slavick is primarily a painter. Over the last two
decades, she has probed "persistent polarities, contrary comforts, and
pretty lies with the crossed eyes of a romantic and realist, seeking an
elusive equilibrium, the measure and the source of the immeasurable."
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