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Wednesday, April 20, 2011
The Talent: Artist Susan Noyes
I recently saw Susan Noyes exhibition at The Art Registry Gallery in Georgetown. After viewing her piece at the DC Design House that Liz Levin used in the entry, I was very excited to see more of Susan’s work. I love the graphic quality of her pieces and her use of negative and positive space was very intriguing. I had a chance to speak to Susan about her work and learned the following:
Tell me a little bit about your background and education?
I grew up in Richmond, where I studied art at John Tyler Community College earning a Fine Arts Certificate, and later an Associate’s degree. From there I moved to Harrisonburg with my husband who studied at James Madison University. I spent one year in the JMU art department, but was very unhappy there, so I withdrew. Jason finished his degree, and was offered a job in DC. We moved to Fairfax in 2001. I wanted to finish my education, so I enrolled at George Mason University. I received a BFA in fine art in 2003. I loved the art program, and I felt like I had much more to learn, so I decided to enroll in their graduate art program. My concentration was painting; however I discovered the medium of razor blades during the last year of the program. The professors were extremely supportive of the new medium and encouraged me to explore the possibilities. My thesis exhibition included paintings and a few razor blade pieces. I graduated in 2006 with a MFA.
Who is your favorite artist and how have they inspired you?
It’s so hard to pick just one; I’m inspired by many various artists for different reasons. But, if I can name only one, I would have to say Frida Kahlo. She had such a difficult life, and she poured her emotions out on canvas. Her artwork was moving and uncomfortable at times, but she was telling her story. She was brave, and her work focusing on identity and the personal narrative, paved the way for future women artists. I admire her because she was able to use art as an outlet for self expression which focused on her interior life. Her artwork was her therapy, and I relate to that concept.
What was your inspiration for your work?
My work is based on my life experiences. Some artists are motivated by the outside world, but I draw from my personal life. I don’t know how else to do it. I work with material that I know best, and that is what drives my work.
Talk to me a little bit about the process of creating the razor blade pieces?
I sit at the table in my studio with multiple types of blades, and I play with them. I move them around until I see a pattern or design that I like. When I’ve decided on the layout, I glue the blades down onto a piece of graph paper in small scale. This helps me get the lines straight, and to see how I want the overall composition of the piece to look. I then measure the design, with great accuracy. The graph paper is critical in getting my measurements correct. Once I have my measurements, I do the math to blow up the image. Math is not my strength, and I never thought I would be using it in my artwork. Next I have the frame built to size. I then stretch the canvas and prime it with glue. I draw a grid in pencil in order to keep my lines straight. I don’t draw every line, so some of the work is done by eye. I used to create the pieces all by eye, and that resulted in too many failed attempts. They wouldn’t line up properly. Finally, I start gluing down the blades.
Have you always worked with razor blades as your media?
No, I started out using soft pastels as my primary media. I did a lot of portraits, and that’s how I learned to draw. When I began classes at GMU, I used oils. I did a series of black and white paintings depicting myself in different situations and moods. Eventually, I grew tired of illustrating my emotions on canvas with paint. As I learned to pare down my content, I moved to razor blades. I also have quite a collection of various items that have personal significance that I use as media as well.
When I spoke to you at your show you mentioned your husband, how did he feel about you using razor blades as media? I have to be honest my boyfriend is terrified of knives and got a little freaked out when I mentioned to him how cool your art was. After he saw your work he became very fascinated.
Jason and I started dating in high school. I’ve known him over half my life, and he has always been very supportive of my artwork. He thinks the razor blade pieces are “cool”.
I noticed in your recent show that you had an installation that was prescription labels. What was the tie in to your razor blade work?
I’ve done pieces with pill bottles, medication, prescription ads, and cash register tape. I use any media that has personal significance. All of my work comes from the same source, and I choose the media that best expresses what I’m trying to convey.
What are you working on now? Any new ideas? Do you think you will continue to work with razor blades and evolve that work even more?
Currently, I’m taking a much needed step back from my work. I’ve been in my studio constantly for the past several months getting ready for the show with The Art Registry. It’s good to take a pause from working so I can reassess and think about the direction I want to go. I have many ideas brewing for my future work. I’ve toyed with the idea of painting the background of my pieces. Right now I’m interested in the plain canvas because it forces the viewer to look at shapes, both positive and negative. The pieces mess with your eyes depending on how you view them. The viewer can see patterns when focusing on the blades and other patterns in the canvas. I need to try painting the canvas, and see if the painting is a detraction. I’ve also discovered a way to turn the metal blades into beautiful colors. I want to explore that too. I’ve thought about layering the blades to create depth. I think my work with blades has endless possibilities.
Do you have any new shows coming up? Website? Blog?
I don’t have any shows lined up yet because my work at the Art Registry’s gallery will be up until July. I have applied to a couple of exhibitions taking place in late summer that I’m waiting to hear back from. You can stay up to date on my events and work by visiting my website (www.noyesart.com).
For inquiries regarding the exhibition at the Art Registry, please contact Jessica Naresh, Jessica@theartregistrygroup.com, or visit their website www.theartregistrygroup.com.