Gallery Open House featuring the work of
Suzanne Lefranc Sheppard
November 23rd 7-9 pm
November 24th 2-5 pm
Wine & Hors d’oeuvres
All gallery proceeds from art sales will be donated to the
“I am deeply appreciative of Architeqt’s exhibit of my paintings. They are aware that I have MS, and through friends they thoughtfully asked whether or not I would want this known. My answer was an immediate and unreserved “Yes.” I explained that if there is someone with MS who is discouraged, but learns that I have continued to paint despite the daunting limitations of MS, then this could be encouragement. MS can certainly slow one down – a lot! – but MS need not automatically or always prevent someone from activity that can give a person real joy in life. Architeqt’s generosity deserves to be acknowledged for what they are doing, at their own expense, to provide that encouragement and support.
Painting and drawing are my favorite way of taking in the world around me…and then capturing what matters most to me about what I see. I delight in the activity of looking carefully at something – even an ordinary apple or piece of cloth – and then becoming as aware of my seeing it as I am of the “it” itself. In this frame of mind I enjoy noticing whatever beauty or interest is offered by even a common object and the light that illuminates it. When I’m setting up a still life and then painting it, the left side of my brain goes along for the ride, making technical choices and judgments. But my paintings are almost literally a product of my eyes alone, with no conscious “message” intended to be read into the subject matter of the picture.
It is therefore quite natural and inevitable that my paintings are objective – containing easily identifiable subject matter. This simple fact, I learned decades ago, is not how a lot of modern paintings are done. My college professors – all of them painted non-objectively – went out of their way to “blur” my vision. And in response to something I said during a private conversation with one of them, he said very abruptly to me: “But if there were objectivity in art, then some guy would always be at the top of the heap.” He understood – even better than I did at the time – that my way of coming at drawing and painting was profoundly threatening to him, not because of any particular merit in my work, but because my efforts were geared toward staying in touch with the real world, where real people with real eyes and clear minds can see for themselves whether something makes sense, or not…is well crafted, or not…is worth looking at, or not.
Towards my goal of acquiring painting and drawing skills and a grasp of human anatomy, I pleaded with that professor to allow me to use a charcoal pencil in his class on drawing the human form, after he had instructed us all to use black poster paint and big, thick brushes. Finally he relented, and allowed me to use a pencil for my drawings of the class models, but only on the condition that whatever grade I earned, he would lower it one step. He kept his “promise,” and gave me a grade of B.
I later discovered the antidote to his discouragement when I sought out instruction from an artist whose paintings I love and whose knowledge and work ethic I greatly admire, Joan Mitchell Blumenthal. Her singular skills, knowledge and encouragement turned my artistic struggles onto a happy path. Ever since, I have been inexpressibly grateful to her for her help, her wisdom and her example.
By contrast, the professor is an occasional reminder to me of what I have not sought to emulate or achieve as an artist. Instead, what I most care about are clarity and intelligibility – and making them visible in my work. So each drawing or painting I’ve ever done reflects my passion for “paying attention” – not just to my work but to everything that matters in what I see and experience in life
Some have told me that they like the detail in my work. But for me, that detail is there only to the extent necessary to capture textures and the way light plays on them. I love to convey visually how a particular object would feel to the touch. And I want to see a place where I can sense, even on a two-dimensional surface, a reality of space and air. Beyond that, I want to create pictures whose visual impact is immediate and whole, requiring no specialized, outside knowledge as a prerequisite to “getting it.” Composition is, for my purposes, more than just a technical consideration. It is the way I make visual connections, so that the whole of a painting is a coherent, self-sufficient visual image that I can see and share without creating a need for explanation.
Reveille, the title of my painting of Ground Zero, is a slight departure from my usual approach to a painting, in that I integrated certain details into the picture that are central to the painting’s meaning to me, but which do not need to be noticed by a viewer in order to grasp the painting as a whole. For years I’ve usually refrained from calling a viewer’s attention to these details, but am glad to share them here: the firefighter’s stance, hands and face are are essentially those of the Statue of Liberty.
The painting itself came about after I watched in awe as a New York symphony orchestra played a concert within Ground Zero’s still-smoldering ruin. At one point during the music, the conductor raised his baton just as a cloud of smoke rose directly behind him. It was a stunning and emblematic vision of civilized human behavior persisting in defiance of the horror and carnage. In that moment, my desire to do a painting was sparked.
But that specific image gave way to another one, which arose long after I had watched Eric Shawn’s street-side TV interview on September 12, 2001 of a New York firefighter from Engine 10/Ladder 10 (the Twin Towers’ firehouse). Exhausted after having been in the lobby of Tower 1 when it collapsed the day before, and passionate in his desire to share his commitment to life and to America, this firefighter (John Morabito) scrawled words on a torn piece of brown cardboard and held them up to the camera. His words were: “Rescue, Recover and Rebuild.” He and his words and his spirit all locked in with my original inspiration for the painting, and became the heart and soul of Reveille.”
-Suzanne Lefranc Sheppard