In the late 1940s, Susan Weil enrolled at Paris’s Academie Julian to study painting. There, she met Rauschenberg, who became her friend, collaborator, and lover. The pair soon sought out a more experimental, multidisciplinary environment; by 1948, they had arrived at Black Mountain College.
While Weil was initially surprised by what she remembered
as the “authoritarian, exacting [teaching] style” of Josef Albers, she also admitted that this instruction deeply influenced her work—paintings and sculptures that explore the female body through various modes of abstraction and fragmentation.
But perhaps more influential to Weil’s practice was the supportive, diverse community that Black Mountain offered. “It was so lively,” she remembered. “When you had finished your classes, and you went to the dining hall in the evening to have dinner, then you’d sit around and talk with all the other creative people about their day.” Weil noted, in particular, how the poets and musicians at the school informed new directions in her work.
She and Rauschenberg famously scavenged for unorthodox materials during trash duty, one of the chores required by all students and teachers. This detritus made its way into the paintings and sculptures the duo made while at Black Mountain—and, later, informed the use use of found objects in both artists’ individual practices.