"Contemplating A Tiny Black Planet"
oil 26" x 26" 1976
(lost in San Francisco, reward offered)

"Contemplating a Tiny Black Planet"

I could not live with it, this sterile dark depression
like a stigmata floating out before me, unavoidable
as if a tiny piece of black tape were between me and everything.
So I focused on that point, let go image and reflection
vision blurred, my concentration rarefied and saw all three
the spot was now the standard
and its echo lived inside, cutting, tearing, silently imploding
'till flesh became fuller broader entirely diffused
into a landscape,
a landscape with no sky.

"Contemplating a tiny black planet" is a line taken from a poem by Jerry Ratch, friend of Curt Thayer

Another work by Susan Holsclaw, "Contemplating a Tiny Black Planet" (also 1976) makes use of a related visual method. It is a self-portrait, painted from a mirror, using a piece of black tape on the mirror in the attempt to locate a focal point outside the eye thus shattering the image as well as 'organizing' it. This is more a Carlos Castanada idea and the resulting work is dramatic-sort of a cross between a landscape and a portrait- a landscape with no sky, though we do find the color blue around the latitude of the eyes. Here the subject is in the picture and in the strokes. Still it has "content". In "Contemplating a Tiny Black Planet" we feel something; compassion perhaps for a blurring shattered face. It is somehow an affirmation of our human plight, and it is a feeling in our eyes. It remains a painting of something.


Mirror Mind" 12" x 9" 1987

"Mirror Mind" (1989) is also a portrait, painted from looking into a mirror. The image is conditioned by a hanging plaster rabbit sculpture. On one side the rabbit is white with green spots; the other side is flat with an inverted image of a pepper and a carrot. The carrot is orange then over painted with blue, its compliment but not a true color for "carrots"; the pepper is green over painted with its compliment, red, which is another color for peppers. (Sort of like yes-no, yes-yes). Hanging, as it does in front of the mirror, we see both sides. The three elements in the painting (arm, rabbit & face) are difficult to reconcile. The arm (whose arm?) holds a sliver of glass which bisects the rabbit and claims the surface of the mirror. The hand has color stripes for fingers, like some exotic engagement ring. Does the arm belong to the rabbit, the face or yet someone entirely else? The white compressed space that severs the arm also vignettes the portrait. The face has a calm clarity like a cold glass of water. A golden door is suggested in the background. The disconnected arm is maybe the most odd element but because of its (accurate) placement to the face, the space around the figure becomes opaque and felt as empty mirror. Compression? If you look at the 'light' in the mirror; the face, the sculpture and the arm again come together. The rabbit, the plane of the mirror, the "sliver of glass" could have shattered the face as in "Contemplating a Tiny Black Planet"(1976) but here the face defiantly refuses to be broken. The arm refuses to let go. This is a determined painting implying an intention to defend oneself. The arm vacillates forward and back and the face remains beyond. It is a small work, 1/4 life size. A related work is "Small Nativity"(1988).

"Small Nativity" oil 12" x 8.5" 1987

"Puberty" oil 12" x 15" 1971

The Ghosts Departs" oil 1972
(Lost in Amherst, MA. Reward offered)

"Portrait 78" oil 9" x 12" 1978

portrait is "Puberty" (1971). Here the face itself is the mirror. In "The Ghost Departs"(1972) we see the anger of "Puberty" is tempered by a deeper concern. In "Portrait" (1978) we see a face with eyes, ears, nose, mouth, body; life size and "sentient". When we look at paintings we should notice what happens to our eyes. As we stumble over one stroke or another it activates other areas of the painting and changes our focus. These things are what painting is about. With photography, realistic painting diminished but that made way for Impressionism, Expressionism, etc. With computers, we can easily hypnotize and tickle the eyes. …possibly even generate "content', but it may remain impersonal. (Am I making a case for fashioning horns out of human femur bones?) Well, not to relegate painting to the status of rare books, but to say, paintings have 'presence'. Good paintings have good 'presence' and that 'presence' is not limited to the person who created the painting. There is an element of 'divinity' involved. One needs to live with a painting to really get to know it.