Thursday, November 20, 2014

Susan Roth’s works are currently on exhibition at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery in an exhibition called Form, Frame, Fold

Susan Roth grows inspired by the naturalism that surrounds her. Whether it is the motion of the waves or the whirl of the wind, she is fascinated by the evidence of nature’s presence and the trail it leaves behind.  In this way, movement becomes key in her oeuvre and can be perceived in different ways.  Being moved from a particular story or event leads Susan Roth to create pieces in which there is much movement. Moving memories are reincarnated through her pieces which embody travel, journey, and transportation via the mediums, textures, colors, or perceptions.  The optimism she develops from these elements she was also able to find in the touching story of Alice Herz-Sommer.  

A piece called Alice’s Piano within the exhibition, and prominently displayed in the show, is the result of an emotional catalyst.  To give a background to the story of Alice Herz-Sommer, Susan Roth tells us,
 “The life of Alice Herz-Sommer talks to the matter of what art is to the working artist.  It is the story of joy:  both making art and being alive.  Turning to Chopin's Etudes, the 27 solo pieces, Herz-Sommer found belief through practice, faith through optimism for the purpose of life.  This attitude to do, to honor, to emulate allowed her great freedom from the anxieties of influence. All this is to say, I trust my methods, [as] painting is artisanal, and allows any inspiration to come from this freedom to search.”

Alice Herz-Sommer was born on November 26, 1903 in Prague, to a German speaking, Jewish family where she was one of five children. 

To avoid the repercussions of what came with the war, her family fled Prague for Palestine.  It was Alice’s decision to stay behind to take care of her ailing mother.  In 1942, her mother was sent to Terezin, a Nazi operated camp.  After deeming that experience as “the lowest point of my life” Mrs. Herz-Sommer decided to begin work on Chopin’s Etudes.

In 1943, Mrs. Herz-Sommer, her husband, and her son were also transported to Terezin, where many of the inmates were among Czechoslovakia’s most renowned musicians and artists.  It was then that Mrs. Herz-Sommer joined the propagandist band, catering to prisoners and Nazi guards, as well as the Red Cross which visited three times a year.  The music seemed to boost the little morale of the camp and gave people joy.

The beauty of this story comes from the music: It was the concerts and music that kept her morale afloat while in Terezin, and it was Chopin’s Etudes that carried her through the rest of her long life.  Though Mrs. Herz-Sommer’s hands were beginning to fail her (she lost use of two of her fingers) she adapted, and it was her musical inclinations that gave her life and enriched her spirits.  Joy and the activities that evoke optimism in the lives of people can also help guide one to realize their purpose of life. Susan Roth says: Alice's Piano is dedicated to this spirit.  The title acknowledges the feelings I have for the picture.  I do hope that the viewer can see my sense of what James Joyce says, always, "the same anew".

Friday, November 14, 2014

Allusions in Susan Roth’s Work




The forms and folds of artist Susan Roth’s work present a dialogue on the use of cultural allusions in artwork. Specifically, Roth’s evocative titles often reference other works of art, media, and history. This is not completely unheard of; yet, Roth creates and assigns these titles after the work is completed. Therefore, Roth is not resigned to incorporating specific cultural allusions into her work; rather they occur naturally and derive from her process.

 
Susan Roth, Time Lord, 2013.
This is especially evident in her piece entitled Time Lord that refers to the ongoing BBC series “Doctor Who”. “Doctor Who” is a British science fiction program that chronicles the adventures of the Doctor, a time lord and humanoid alien. He explores the universe using his abilities while facing adversaries and helping friends. Over the course of its thirty-four seasons, “Doctor Who” has gathered a unique set of devoted fans. In fact, Roth is a fan, who began viewing the series during its original broadcast. It is evident from her steel painting Time Lord that Roth holds a special affinity to the show like most fans.  Like all of her pieces, Roth titled this work after its completion. Thus, the show was not the point of reference or focus during the work’s creation. Yet, Roth resonated with the shared themes of the show and the artwork. In an interview between gallery director Lenore Miller and Roth, the artist reflects on the piece and shares: “The shifting association [of the series] I feel is somehow invoked and similar to the shifts and rifts, the slips and slides, of my canvases, and now the steel as well”.[i] Ultimately, Roth’s feelings toward Time Lord and her process show how allusions become embedded in her artwork so effortlessly.






Susan Roth, Argosy (Conrad), 2013.
Similarly, in Roth’s work Argosy, she alludes to the author Joseph Conrad and his literature. Conrad was a British writer, best known for his novels Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, which drew on his experience as a mariner in the 1870s. His works of literature often addressed profound themes of nature and existence, offering a revolutionary perspective during his time. Conrad and his works have been alluded to numerously in film. His stories and characters are recognizable in films such as Apocalypse Now and The Duelists. However, in both of these examples, Conrad’s works are cleverly adapted to different settings and conflicts in order to depict the timelessness of his ideas and themes. Yet, it is clear that these projects that these projects purposely used Conrad’s work to serve as inspiration. Comparatively, Argosy is unique in its allusion and medium because it occurs naturally. The allusion to Conrad is visible by the distinctive “C” shape that is embedded into Roth’s steel painting. Ultimately, this piece culturally adds to the previous allusions of Conrad’s work.


Susan Roth, North Country Girl, 2013.
 
Allusions can be powerful in artwork because they can elicit different responses and connotations from viewers. This occurs easily in Roth’s piece North Country Girl. For example, this piece could be an allusion to Bob Dylan’s song “Girl from the North Country”. Dylan wrote this song during a trip to England in 1962 in tribute to a past girlfriend. Since its debut, Dylan’s song has been covered by notable singers like Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart, and Neil Young. Depending on the age and background of the viewer, North Country Girl could be associated with a specific cover or the original song. Whereas, for other viewers, this may not be the allusion that is accessible. In fact, a film entitled North Country was released in 2005 that focused on a historic class action suit between a group of female miners and a mine in northern Minnesota. Although this event is seemingly obscure, it could impact how a knowledgeable viewer interprets the title of Roth’s piece and therefore, her work. Thus, the power of allusions not only impacts the subject of an art piece, but also how that piece is responded to by a body of viewers.
 
 
 
Susan Roth, North Country Girl, 2013.

Susan Roth’s works will be on display as a part of Susan Roth: Form, Frame, Fold until January 30th, 2015 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.



[i] Roth, Susan. Interview by Lenore Miller. N.d. Print. (Exhibition Catalogue).
 






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Covering exhibits at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery and giving you a peek into the Permanent Collection of the George Washington University.

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Howard Hodgkin: Paintings - May 16, 2012

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Susan Roth’s works are currently on exhibition at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery in an exhibition called Form, Frame, Fold

Susan Roth grows inspired by the naturalism that surrounds her. Whether it is the motion of the waves or the whirl of the wind, she is fascinated by the evidence of nature’s presence and the trail it leaves behind.  In this way, movement becomes key in her oeuvre and can be perceived in different ways.  Being moved from a particular story or event leads Susan Roth to create pieces in which there is much movement. Moving memories are reincarnated through her pieces which embody travel, journey, and transportation via the mediums, textures, colors, or perceptions.  The optimism she develops from these elements she was also able to find in the touching story of Alice Herz-Sommer.  

A piece called Alice’s Piano within the exhibition, and prominently displayed in the show, is the result of an emotional catalyst.  To give a background to the story of Alice Herz-Sommer, Susan Roth tells us,
 “The life of Alice Herz-Sommer talks to the matter of what art is to the working artist.  It is the story of joy:  both making art and being alive.  Turning to Chopin's Etudes, the 27 solo pieces, Herz-Sommer found belief through practice, faith through optimism for the purpose of life.  This attitude to do, to honor, to emulate allowed her great freedom from the anxieties of influence. All this is to say, I trust my methods, [as] painting is artisanal, and allows any inspiration to come from this freedom to search.”

Alice Herz-Sommer was born on November 26, 1903 in Prague, to a German speaking, Jewish family where she was one of five children. 

To avoid the repercussions of what came with the war, her family fled Prague for Palestine.  It was Alice’s decision to stay behind to take care of her ailing mother.  In 1942, her mother was sent to Terezin, a Nazi operated camp.  After deeming that experience as “the lowest point of my life” Mrs. Herz-Sommer decided to begin work on Chopin’s Etudes.

In 1943, Mrs. Herz-Sommer, her husband, and her son were also transported to Terezin, where many of the inmates were among Czechoslovakia’s most renowned musicians and artists.  It was then that Mrs. Herz-Sommer joined the propagandist band, catering to prisoners and Nazi guards, as well as the Red Cross which visited three times a year.  The music seemed to boost the little morale of the camp and gave people joy.

The beauty of this story comes from the music: It was the concerts and music that kept her morale afloat while in Terezin, and it was Chopin’s Etudes that carried her through the rest of her long life.  Though Mrs. Herz-Sommer’s hands were beginning to fail her (she lost use of two of her fingers) she adapted, and it was her musical inclinations that gave her life and enriched her spirits.  Joy and the activities that evoke optimism in the lives of people can also help guide one to realize their purpose of life. Susan Roth says: Alice's Piano is dedicated to this spirit.  The title acknowledges the feelings I have for the picture.  I do hope that the viewer can see my sense of what James Joyce says, always, "the same anew".

Friday, November 14, 2014

Allusions in Susan Roth’s Work




The forms and folds of artist Susan Roth’s work present a dialogue on the use of cultural allusions in artwork. Specifically, Roth’s evocative titles often reference other works of art, media, and history. This is not completely unheard of; yet, Roth creates and assigns these titles after the work is completed. Therefore, Roth is not resigned to incorporating specific cultural allusions into her work; rather they occur naturally and derive from her process.

 
Susan Roth, Time Lord, 2013.
This is especially evident in her piece entitled Time Lord that refers to the ongoing BBC series “Doctor Who”. “Doctor Who” is a British science fiction program that chronicles the adventures of the Doctor, a time lord and humanoid alien. He explores the universe using his abilities while facing adversaries and helping friends. Over the course of its thirty-four seasons, “Doctor Who” has gathered a unique set of devoted fans. In fact, Roth is a fan, who began viewing the series during its original broadcast. It is evident from her steel painting Time Lord that Roth holds a special affinity to the show like most fans.  Like all of her pieces, Roth titled this work after its completion. Thus, the show was not the point of reference or focus during the work’s creation. Yet, Roth resonated with the shared themes of the show and the artwork. In an interview between gallery director Lenore Miller and Roth, the artist reflects on the piece and shares: “The shifting association [of the series] I feel is somehow invoked and similar to the shifts and rifts, the slips and slides, of my canvases, and now the steel as well”.[i] Ultimately, Roth’s feelings toward Time Lord and her process show how allusions become embedded in her artwork so effortlessly.






Susan Roth, Argosy (Conrad), 2013.
Similarly, in Roth’s work Argosy, she alludes to the author Joseph Conrad and his literature. Conrad was a British writer, best known for his novels Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, which drew on his experience as a mariner in the 1870s. His works of literature often addressed profound themes of nature and existence, offering a revolutionary perspective during his time. Conrad and his works have been alluded to numerously in film. His stories and characters are recognizable in films such as Apocalypse Now and The Duelists. However, in both of these examples, Conrad’s works are cleverly adapted to different settings and conflicts in order to depict the timelessness of his ideas and themes. Yet, it is clear that these projects that these projects purposely used Conrad’s work to serve as inspiration. Comparatively, Argosy is unique in its allusion and medium because it occurs naturally. The allusion to Conrad is visible by the distinctive “C” shape that is embedded into Roth’s steel painting. Ultimately, this piece culturally adds to the previous allusions of Conrad’s work.


Susan Roth, North Country Girl, 2013.
 
Allusions can be powerful in artwork because they can elicit different responses and connotations from viewers. This occurs easily in Roth’s piece North Country Girl. For example, this piece could be an allusion to Bob Dylan’s song “Girl from the North Country”. Dylan wrote this song during a trip to England in 1962 in tribute to a past girlfriend. Since its debut, Dylan’s song has been covered by notable singers like Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart, and Neil Young. Depending on the age and background of the viewer, North Country Girl could be associated with a specific cover or the original song. Whereas, for other viewers, this may not be the allusion that is accessible. In fact, a film entitled North Country was released in 2005 that focused on a historic class action suit between a group of female miners and a mine in northern Minnesota. Although this event is seemingly obscure, it could impact how a knowledgeable viewer interprets the title of Roth’s piece and therefore, her work. Thus, the power of allusions not only impacts the subject of an art piece, but also how that piece is responded to by a body of viewers.
 
 
 
Susan Roth, North Country Girl, 2013.

Susan Roth’s works will be on display as a part of Susan Roth: Form, Frame, Fold until January 30th, 2015 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.



[i] Roth, Susan. Interview by Lenore Miller. N.d. Print. (Exhibition Catalogue).
 






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Washington, District of Columbia, United States
"Found In Collection" or simply "FIC" is the way many museums classify the more mysterious items in their possession that have little or no documentation. Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of the George Washington University, we do keep extensive records of our collection, but some of the items we come across in academic buildings or our own storage can leave us wondering. This blog is an effort to showcase some of the more curious examples and their stories, and to provide a glimpse of the great variety of art pieces within the collection. To learn more about the Brady Gallery's history, recent exhibitions, or the George Washington University, take a look at the links below.

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