s t e p h a n i e   s u t e r

My memory fails me regarding the source, but it may have been George Tooker, whose advice to artists was, “find what you love and make it your own.” I keep that in mind when I make work. I love materials, particularly traditional ones because of their non-technological quality, their humbleness and weight of history. I love Christian icons, early and northern Renaissance portraits, objects that fit in the hand, personal ephemera, eye portraits, and family photographs...among other things. These loves feed my visual language, producing imagery that is not symbolic and relates to the quality of memory rather than the narrative; the present moment and its rapid slide into memory.

Recently, I spent a month in Johnson, Vt in residency at the Vermont Studio Center. At night, I read; Marylin Robinson’s Home, one of the saddest books I’ve ever read, and Zbignew Herbert’s Barbarian in the Garden, essays about his travels abroad in Europe’s great art historic cities; in particular his brilliant essay on the paintings of Piero della Francesca (“…the landscape rains light.”)

I had been drawing from photographs and was finding the process unsatisfactory. I decided to draw self-portraits. What a surprise to find that I have no idea what I look like…to draw the only thing that I can’t experience first-hand. They never look like what I think I look like, nor do they lack resemblance. The idea of self, in particular a corporeal self, is certainly just an idea. Drawing from observation can be an investigation into many things…for me, it’s about time and memory. It’s a continual exercise in remembering; looking up then down and drawing from what I remember having seen. Only to look up again and find it is different. How can the self be different each time you look?