Artist Spotlight: Susan Mikula
BY Christopher Harrity
October 22 2011 3:00 AM ET
Susan Mikula's photography — especially the American Bond series — is as quintessentially American as the iconic regionalist painters' work of the last century: Charles Sheeler, Edward Hopper, and Grant Wood. Like those artists she finds the poetry in industry. Paradoxically, the more stripped back her photos become, the more the emotion vibrates.
In this portfolio there are nine images from the "American Bond" cycle which is comprised of three series: "American Device," "American Vale," and "American Breakbulk." All are archival pigment prints from a Polaroid original. The portraits at the end of the portfolio are from the show, "desidero." All three are chromogenic prints from a Polaroid original.
Born and raised first in urban/industrial New Jersey, and then in a small New Hampshire town, Mikula now lives and works in rural Western Massachusetts and in New York City.
Two current shows of interest: "American Bond" at George Lawson Gallery, Los Angeles, runs though November 19; and "desidero" at William Baczek Fine Arts, Northampton, Maine, runs through October 29.
See the link at the bottom of the page for previous coverage on Advocate.com of Mikula and her girlfriend Rachel Maddow.
The Advocate: Why are you a photographer?
Susan Mikula: Every day, I make pictures in my head. It could be of the wet patch of pavement I can see from the bedroom window, of the light — that light! — angled out and splayed all gold and sparkly, of the broken bench, the mossy stone, the gas can. Right? Pictures — photographs are part of how I see and how I think. They are, I guess, my way of speaking.
What catches your eye?
Time passing and the movement of light. The bounded infinity of unfilled space.
Tell us about your process or techniques?
I shoot from a dwindling stock of expired Polaroid film using vintage cameras. I use available light and don't crop the work in any way. I am very slow to take a shot. I have thought and thought about what I am working on, sometimes for months, because when I finally start taking the pictures, I want to know what I am looking for, which camera to use at what time of day and at what exact moment.
What artists do you take inspiration from and why?
I am in love with painters. Big explosive beauty like Julian Schnabel, Joan Mitchell, Cy Twombley; complexity and manipulation like Gerhardt Richter or Agnes Martin. Closer to home, I would be very sad not to look at the work of Maggie Mailer, Charlie Hunter, TJ Walton or Ward Schumaker.
What makes a good artwork to you?
Good artwork is unknowable, unruly, numinous.