Susan Goldman’s vessels are metaphors for life. They began with an interest in ethnic women’s forms-African, Cycladic, Egyptian, the subjects of ancient urns and vases. The pure, rich colors and clearly modeled forms reflected the music and richness of these ancient universal female ancestors. Then the focus shifted and the images transformed to the women themselves as vessels: Literally bearing and containing new lives and new identities. The scale was large, relating to human size. It is more than coincidence that this first shift occurred after Goldman birthed her own daughters and after travels to the Mediterranean region.
Goldman’s imagery has moved on to new concerns. The metaphor continues as now the vases become far less defined, the palette more muted, the backgrounds and objects fusing into a subtle mixture of form and flatness, now with “ghosts” of images created by using solvents to break down the built-up forms. Again as in life: as one matures there are fewer and fewer clear choices, only a melange of best-choice-at-the -moment decisions. One lets go of the goal of perfection and learns to live in and love the shadows and the variations that each day brings. The beauty of the images is haunting, suggesting the rich subtleties of bring present in those moments.
Goldman’s new vessels will touch each viewer individually: becoming metaphors at once universal, yet still very personal.
TWO VASES, 1997, 22” x 30”, monotype
Goldman’s particular interest is the human (especially
female) form. Drawing upon a myriad of sources, she interchanges
renditions of the stylized “Hottentot Venus” with elongated, gender-neutral
figures and torsos that appear to be more real than the standard Western
ideal (flat-chested with flabby tummies, large buttocks and thighs).
Other reoccurring forms include flowers, reptiles, birds and mammals, as
well as geometric shapes, such as wavy lines, crescent moons, spirals and
concentric circles and diamonds. Goldman welcomes the fact that some
of these forms have cross-cultural significance, appearing as popular design
motifs and shared shorthand for water (wavy line), life cycles (spiral)
or the interrelatedness of all things (concentric circles).
Her compositions balance a serial repetition of forms with random asymmetry. When repeating the same shape in a frieze-like manner over a varied background, the effect recalls the passing of time or changing of the seasons. In contrast, the rhythmic interplay of shapes and overlapping veils of color in certain works appear to have a formal rather than narrative significance. Goldman’s selective wiping of the printing plate creates soft and luminous effects, lending a spectral quality to her forms. (Ironically, this same gesture serves to render her forms more three dimensional.) Goldman further suggests a liminal quality by obscuring vivid hues with layers of darker color. At the moments when these patches of color are allowed to peak through, the contrast appears like a flash of supernatural light, alluding to the existence of things unseen.
VESSELS, CYCLADES II, 1994, monotype
22” x 36” image, 30” x 42” paper
Copyright © 2001 Susan Goldman. All Rights Reserved