As a jeweler’s daughter, mixed media artist Susan Goldsmith has long had a predilection for things that sparkle. For more than three decades, she’s been seeking luster and light in the natural world—photographing glimmering koi fish and jewel-like drops of dew on flower petals, the glow of dawn illuminating wintry tree branches, the reflection of muted afternoon sunlight on the still surface of a pond. Using these photographed images as a base, Goldsmith works with a variety of materials, including oil pastels, metallic paints, gold and silver leaf, pigment prints, and mica powders, to create elaborate triptych and diptych paintings that seem to glow from within. Her luminous works take center stage this month at “Susan Goldsmith: Objects of Reflection” at Gallery Henoch.
Though Goldsmith’s works are striking in their natural beauty and simplicity, the process behind them is complicated and constantly evolving. Her artistry begins with the photographs—they’re not exactly point-and-shoot snapshots. Thanks to her previous work in the film industry as a rotoscoper, splicing together live action frames to create animation sequences, Goldsmith is a skilled photo editor. She easily manipulates color values and backgrounds to create ideal structures for her paintings—structures that express her current interest in the theme of nature’s dualities. Next, Goldsmith uses gold and silver leaf to build up a sort of grid on her wood panels before applying layers of translucent paint and multiple layers of resin.
The effect is visually striking. As Patricia Albers observes in a short essay on the artist, “as one angles around a Goldsmith, light as fickle and delicious as nature’s asserts the beauty of her subject, shifts, mirrors the room, and then fades.” Take a closer look—those tree branches in From Bitterness to Sweetness (Triptych) aren’t merely beautiful. They’re an exploration of light and shadow, a comment on the passage of time—a meditation on the cycles of glorious glow and inevitable fade in the natural world.
“Susan Goldsmith: Objects of Reflection” is on view at Gallery Henoch, New York, Sept. 4th–27th, 2014.
Stefan Sagmeister: What is Happiness