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Suzan Woodruff

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How a painter’s process mirrors that of a writer.

I’ve been struck by how many artists marry other artists. And in talking with them, I’m also struck by how much the process for visual artists mirrors that of writers. I’ve been talking with everyone from starving artists to book illustrators to Disney, Pixel and NYer artists – all interviews I’ll post on my blog in the weeks to come. Today I have Bruce Bauman‘s wife, the painter Suzan Woodruff. We talked about art and books and painter’s block and what it’s like to be married to a writer. I hope you enjoy the interview and check out the link to her page.


Describe your workspace and your work process?

I would say my work process is part mad scientist and part shaman. I read about physics, space and metaphysics and use that in my work. My method includes using gravity, evaporation, pigment and water. While I work I use meditation methods to control the chaos. Somewhat like surfing, using nature’s energy to move you along and not panic. And it’s done while its wet. (I call my method natural painting.) My new series that I’ll be showing next month at Berman/Turner Projects in Santa Monica is called The SuperNaturals. To me it sounds like a new number and a hero all at once. I have another show in the spring at George Billis Gallery in Culver City. My last series I called Buddha’s Dust. You have to know when to stop and move on, as the saying goes “There are no mistakes, it’s only Buddha dust.” My workspace is calm and light and at the same time entirely messy. It’s akin to the contradictions of chaos and control in my work habits.

And how about Bruce? How would you describe his workspace and his work process?

Bruce has recreated his room in NY in LA. It’s always dark and sounds like loud rock music even when it’s silent and books are everywhere. While he worked on the last book he put all the pages on the walls from floor to ceiling so he could look at it all at once. It was great. Like standing inside a book.

Thinking back over all of your training and the art you’ve created, what moment/piece of advice/revelation most changed you into the artist you are today?

I think growing up in the southwest desert with a bohemian family was hugely formative. My maternal grandmother was a mystic and my grandfather a gold prospector with some mountain men and Mayflower Euro trash thrown in on my father’s side.

David Lukoff said it is useful to differentiate mystical experiences from psychotic features, in other words art has kept me sane.

When/where do you get your ideas?

From my awe of nature, science, space, emotional memories and experiences. Physics, meditation, philosophy – the different approaches to spiritual questions.

Buddha’s Dust

Do you ever get what I would refer to as writer’s block (painter’s block?), and how do you work yourself out of it?

Painters block to me feels like walking though fog. I just keep walking and eventually I come out.

Do you have a favorite painting?

My favorite paintings change. I might keep one for a long time and then sell it if I think it’s going to the right person.

Who are your favorite artists?

I admire Georgia O’Keeffe , Georges Sands and other women artists when it was damn hard.

I love Pollock’s emotion on canvas, Rothko’s beauty – the meditative place in his painting’s. Anselm Kiefer’s power. Serra’s sacred monuments. Turrrell’s light spaces and big ideas. Agnes Martin for her mystic grids that you can get lost in. My friend Bronia Ivanaczak in Australia is a brilliant conceptual artist. These are a few.

Who are your favorite writers?

I read almost every night before I go to bed. Mostly novels so I’d say Richard Powers, Thomas Pynchon, Saul Bellow, Grace Paley, Iris Murdock and Bruce. I read The Great Gastby and Breakfast at Tiffany’s over and over. I read Mason and Dixon 3 times in a row. It makes cosmic sense that I would marry a writer.


What are the rewards and drawbacks to being married to another artist?

In our case one of the best things is that we get it; why we do what we do and what it means to us. Bruce and I support each other without having to ever compete. We are each other’s biggest supporters and best friends. The drawback is that neither one of us has a regular paycheck.

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