Above the Surface: The work of Susan Harmon
Layers of paint describe the history of a painting much like ancient cultures surface from the excavations of archaeologists. Overlays of paint are built up and cancel out previous marks and textures from artistic expression describing Susan Harmon’s work. Susan Harmon has been creating paintings accordingly. She works in a private studio space. She holds her MFA degree in painting from Georgia Southern University, although educated at The School of The art Institute of Chicago, RISDI ,NYU.
Paintings come from the artists’ emotional and intellectual states of being. Years of study of all the great masters from all time, come into view, as all artists have been moved by what they have physically seen in reality. Traditional studio instruction has consisted of drawing and painting from direct observation. Internalization (indirect observation) of what these artists have seen has always been an ongoing process .The outcome was a visual expression of a person/portrait, place/landscape or thing/still life object. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, breakthroughs had come in terms of psychoanalytical therapy developed by Sigmund Freud .Interest in the mind in terms of dreams and their interpretation were being studied and analyzed. Carl Jung, once a protégé of Freud, became enraptured with dream analysis and symbolization. He, himself, would paint, personally realizing the creative depth of the human condition. Susan holds these same beliefs in her work.
Jackson Pollack underwent Jungian Psychoanalysis of which his paintings are a testament in the canon of mid 20th century action painting. Early American modernists simplified their vision of the world in competent abstractions of reality. Painters such as Arthur Dove even attempted to paint sound. Surrealists such as Andre Masson would draw automatically, to induce a state in which free form imagery would emerge. Mark Tobey layered patterns of brushstrokes like lacework. An art of the mind emerged in which artists were set free from the boundaries of picture making in order to explore their own psyches. Abreaction, a Greek term, was first used by ancient Greek dramatists to describe the purging or cathartic effect that the release of emotion gives one. Freud had applied the term for treatment of hysterical conversion symptoms via analysis or dialogue. Susan ‘s work are visual collections of emotion. The unleashed splattering of gestural paint strokes on huge canvases, so much a part of the release of angst in Abstract Expressionism, are replaced by a textural layering of paint leading to expressive mark making in meaningful contexts throughout her work. That the subconscious is at work, there is no doubt. She doesn’t make a painting with only sheer logic in mind. Rather, painting is a journey which may involve a more pensive/meditative mark making painting process executed on intimate small format surfaces or on extremely large surfaces. This is evident in the creative work of Susan Harmon. Above the Surface,is an art series which realizes visual expressions above layered paint texture.
All of Susan’s work is informed by literature about themes of suffering; Mental Illnesses, Drug Addiction, Sex Trafficking. She needs to “Feel that lump in her throat” as Robert Frost said, in order to choose a piece of literature as the catalyst to paint. She feels as Tolstoy said, “Art is a human activity that one man consciously, by means of certain signs, hands on to others, feelings he/she has lived through and that others are infected by those feelings and experience them” through her art.