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Artist Opens Door To New World
At Good News CafÃ© Exhibit
By Nancy K. Crevier
Newtown resident Susan McLaughlin will show her paintings and drawings at the Good News CafÃ©, 694 Main Street South in Woodbury, in a solo show entitled “Depingo Ergo Sum” (“I Paint, Therefore I Am”), from Tuesday, September 27 through Tuesday, November 29. A reception, open to the public, will be held from 3 to 5 pm, Sunday, October 2, when guests will also have the opportunity to purchase a signed, limited edition of Ms McLaughlin’s book, also entitled Depingo Ergo Sum, a collection of four decades of artwork, cartoons, poetry, and essays, many from her blog found at www.depingoergosum.blogspot.com.
Although involved in the art world since the early 1960s – first in interior design and graphic design, then as an illustrator and cartoonist for an international law firm and the New York Law Journal, before focusing on her fine art – the Good News CafÃ© exhibit is only the second time that Ms McLaughlin will be showing her work in a one-artist exhibition, and only the second time she has shown her work locally. She previously exhibited works with The Society of Creative Arts of Newtown.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be showing at the Good News,” said Ms McLaughlin. Forty-nine of her acrylic paintings, illustrations, cartoons, and magazine cover illustrations will be exhibited at the autumn show, she said, with her paintings ranging from 18 inches by 24 inches, to the largest at 36 inches by 60 inches.
It was not until after her 1995 marriage to David Rosen that Ms McLaughlin set aside her career as an illustrator/cartoonist and began to follow through on her love of painting, earning her master’s degree in studio arts from New York University, and exhibiting at various galleries in the New York City area. Even while working, said Ms McLaughlin, she had continued to draw and paint for her own pleasure.
“Art is like food,” she said. “You do it because you have to.”
At the Good News CafÃ© exhibit, viewers will see paintings that illustrate her personal point of view.
“Like my blog, it is about the interchangeability of art and reality, and how they reflect off each other,” she said. “In my world of art, life is more democratic. My work is of a more peaceful and superior world, one in which everyone and everything gets along. Animals are as important as people. They are noble and beautiful,” she said.
She has even named her alternate universe. “Foxglove” she writes in her artist’s statement “includes landscapes and portraits of its inhabitants, both human and animal, which reside there, and explores their interrelationships.”
Realism is overwritten with tones of the fantastical in Ms McLaughlin’s paintings. It is a world where a cap made of nesting birds, a butterfly brooch, and a bracelet with insect links, as in Alice‘s Aura, are as natural as any creations of Van Gogh or Grandma Moses, as her former painting instructor, John Torreano, clinical professor of studio art and co director of the MFA in Studio Art Program at NYU, points out in his foreword to her book.
“Her work explores the natural world in an effort to create a more perfect alternative, a world consisting of her personal vocabulary of meanings. In an absurd world, her attack on life and art is very much in the existentialist tradition of Jean-Paul Sartre,” Prof Torreano writes.
The challenge, said Ms McLaughlin, is in keeping a consistent quality to her art, even as it evolves, a challenge she believes she has met through her definitive brushwork and use of color and style.
No matter how she sees her paintings, though, said Ms McLaughlin, they are ultimately transformed by the viewers.
“My point of view will be interpreted differently by each person,” she said “If I do have a message, it is subtle and gives only ‘clues.’ Everyone has their own impression of what I am trying to say,” said Ms McLaughlin.
She anticipates every new painting with the same eagerness bestowed on pieces created decades earlier. “The most exciting part for me is blocking in the painting. There was nothing there, now there is something,” she said. She paints primarily in acrylics, using a technique that allows the paint to remain fluid for an extended period of time, much like oils. “I love the ability to build up layers of paint over time, with acrylics,” she said.
The middle section of the painting “is just work,” but then, when she is fortunate, she finds herself in the “zone.”
“There comes a point when I’m painting, where I’m not thinking anymore, and it’s magic! At the end, it’s not mine anymore. The painting is an entity in itself,” said Ms McLaughlin.
Her ideas, sweet and pointed, as in a magazine cover proposed for The New Yorker magazine years ago, called Beauty, in which a voluptuous ice cream sundae gazes at her carrot stick image in a mirror, or dreamy and whimsical, as is Zebra, in which an ostrich perches on the back of a zebra at a watering hole, only its leg and one lone feather visible, all come from deep within, said Ms McLaughlin.
“I have a photographic memory, it turns out. I see a picture in my mind and it just comes out through my fingertips. My mind is filled with a backlog of stuff. It comes to the forefront, and I know I have to paint it,” she said.
She has never used a professional model for the figures in her paintings, preferring instead to cajole friends and relatives into posing for her.
“It’s important to me, to get the essence of a person, even though these paintings are not commissioned pieces. Using real people helps me to do that,” Ms McLaughlin explained.
The artist shares her view of art and life in her blog, started two years ago.
“The blog discusses things I think are interesting and helpful to artists,” she said. “It’s exciting to see the little pinpoints all over the world, where people are reading it. It’s amazing how it has spread,” she added.
Depingo Ergo Sum is her artist’s statement, the title of her book, the title of her blog, and the name of the Good News CafÃ© exhibit, which she hopes will draw a large number of viewers, both those familiar with her works and those who are unfamiliar, but willing to share in her exploration of life.
“It is wonderful to be an artist,” said Ms McLaughlin. “I can’t think of anything I would love better.”
“Depingo Ergo Sum” is viewable in both dining rooms of the Good News CafÃ©, 694 Main Street South (Route 6) in Woodbury, from September 27 through November 29, during regular cafÃ© hours. An opening reception will be held Sunday, October 2, from 3 to 5 pm, and is open to the public.
For more information on the artist, visit www.SusanMcLaughlinArt.com, or read her blog, Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â www.DepingoErgoSum.blogspot.com.