Heights Woman Wins National Artistic Nod
by Valerie J. Mercer
A major work by Susan Fishgold, an artist who lives and works in Brooklyn Heights, has been acquired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington, DC, for its permanent collection.
"A lot of my pieces have been purchased by private collectors and corporations. I'm happy about that, but these pieces are not very accessible to much of the public," Fishgold said. "Museum exhibitions are a way of getting one's work before a large segment of the public."
Entitled Monhegan Abstraction Vll, this 36-1/4"x 57-1/2" work, a layered monotype print, was completed in 1988. The colors are vibrant shades of green, orange, turquoise, blue and lavender.
Fishgold revealed the inspiration behind her print. She said it represents the root of a tree she found on Monhegan Island, in Maine, about two and a half years ago. Her hikes around the island produced "bags and bags of roots .and branches" that she collected to take home to Brooklyn for her work.
For Fishgold, the technique of monotype begins with a master drawing on glass which has been rendered with a grease pencil. Next. she said, the process of painting on glass and manipulating the shapes by pressing down on everything in a certain way is repeated with different layers of colors. "The consistency of the paint has a tacky quality so when I pull it away from the paper, there's a vein-like texture which also reinforces that natural feeling. I kind of dance around the whole thing and fill in the negative areas and forms with watercolors, crayon, color pencil or gouache."
The repetition of the form of a specific root of a tree in Monhegan Abstraction VIIdemonstrates Fishgold's preferred approach. "I repeat the motif over and over again within the same composition to try to increase the movement," she said. "I try to increase it more and more as I develop a series. I like to work through an image and keep simplifying it until I get to the essence of its energy and movement ."
Most of Fishgold's favorite motifs are derived from nature, usually flowers, leaves and tree branches. Her love of dance is the source of her desire to convey movement in her images, and one detects excitement in her voice when she says that watching birds fly in the openness of the sky is important for her creativity.
This artist does not associate her work with any specific movement or style, and is more concerned with expressing her unique vision through the reduction of form, a confident sensitivity to brilliant color, and the evocation of spontaneity in her compositions.
Asked how long she had been working as a professional artist, Fishgold recalled being so moved by her viewing of an exhibition of Vincent Van Gogh's at the Brooklyn Museum in the 1970s that she considers it the turning point for her commitment to her art. By the late '70s, she was exhibiting figurative work, often depicting women and portraits, and executed in either oils or pastels. Although she had been exposed to working with monotypes as an undergraduate, it was not until the early 1980s that she became intrigued with the possibilities of this printmaking technique.
"Conversations with Dracaena" is a book of verse containing the poetry of Susan Chapman and reproductions of Fishgold's monotypes that present variations on the theme of the dracaena plant, an African water lily. It was published in 1980 and favorably praised by the poet and novelist, May Sarton.
In 1985, Fishgold executed her first major commission for IBM's new conference center in Thomwood, NY. She produced 50 layered monotypes based on the theme of flight, symbolized by the image of a leaf gracefully floating through space in three different flight formations.
Although the monotypes Fishgold creates are usually similar in size to Monhegan Abstraction Vll, a few years ago she designed and painted a 45 foot screen for an installation in an exhibition.
As for her aspirations for her art, Fishgold explained: "I just want to continue growing as an artist and discovering forms in nature that excite me. I also want the opportunity to collaborate with other artists. For example: I would love to do set designs for dance groups. And, of course, there are still other mediums I'd like to explore."
The Downton Paper, NYC, "Heights Woman Gets National Artistic Nod," by Valerie J. Mercer, Dec. 14, 1991.