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The Story Behind the Work

Suzanna Fields's
Suzanna Fields's "Orange Crush" is made of paint fibers. (Suzanna Fields; Photo By Taylor Dabney)

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Friday, June 13, 2008

To make what Suzanna Fields calls the "puffed up on steroids" paintings in the Bethesda Painting Awards showcase, the artist doesn't use brushes. Instead, she says, the stalklike fibers of paint she creates are "extruded" onto canvas through bottles like those used to dispense ketchup at a hot dog stand. Each piece takes two to three weeks to "congeal," as she calls the slowly incremental layering, a process during which her squeezing hand often becomes so sore she can't work.

That's not what the artist means, though, when she refers to certain aspects of her art as "paralyzing." Rather, she's talking about the feelings that occasionally rise up in her whenever the debate over painting's relevance in today's art world rears its head. "It seems like someone declares painting dead every seven years," Fields says.

To her mind, such pronouncements, along with all art labels, are silly. Painting? Sculpture? Craft? Pop? High modernism? Lowbrow kitsch? Fields says her love of cheap candy, neon colors and fiber-optic Christmas lights is just as inspiring (and just as valid) as the gorgeous paintings of Pierre Bonnard and Chaim Soutine.

"It doesn't matter," she says. "It's about whatever engages you. My process is one of both celebration and bewilderment."

-- Michael O'Sullivan


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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