“I am a painter of content—images of women swept into caves of isolation,” wrote painter Susan Tepper in the mid-1980s. “I wish to speak to all of us...who cannot decide just how much space we want to displace.” In her “Heads” series, raw, distorted faces, often dominated by a single cyclops eye and expressionistic swaths of heightened color, roil with psychological intensity. The full-scale female figures in her “100 Women” series each employ the frontal stance of a Greek kouros
. Within that limitation, though, each figure can morph into mechanical-looking aliens or abstracted creatures with giant lobster claws and fierce gaping mouths; they seem to devour the space in which they are contained. Installed as a group, they look like a ragtag tribe of she-warriors. Paintings from both series go on view later this month at Tripoli Gallery in Southampton, in what will be Tepper’s first solo exhibition since her death from cancer 25 years ago at the age of 47.
“I think my mother felt that she couldn’t always speak her mind and that the paintings did it for her,” says Arielle Tepper Madover, a Tony Award winning theater and film producer, whose Broadway credits include Annie and Red and this fall Les Liaisons Dangereuses. “The world is a very different place from when she painted them. She would have loved what’s going on right now in terms of women talking about women and standing up for themselves.”