Monday, December 26, 2011

Featured Artist: Suzanne Hodes


First of all, please introduce yourself to our readers that might not be familiar with you and your work.

Featured artist: Suzanne Hodes. Photo: Irene Hodes Fisher

I am Suzanne Hodes. Growing up in New York City I attended the High School of Music and Art and went often to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to learn from Cezanne. As a student at Radcliffe (Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard), I met and was encouraged by Agnes Mongan, then Curator of Drawings at the Fogg Museum, and through her support studied for two summers at the Skowhegan School in Maine. This intense experience led me to transfer to Brandeis Unviersity and to major in studio art, taking courses with Arthur Polonsky and Mitchell Siporin. A summer studying with Oskar Kokoschka at his School of Vision in Salzburg was a major influence. Later I found work in New York, teaching science at the Fashion Institute of Technology and as a studio assistant at the Pratt Graphic Center.

As a graduate student at Columbia University, I worked with my advisor Meyer Schapiro, on my thesis The Comparison of Form and Structure in the Paintings of Vermeer and Mondrian, relating the tightly composed realistic space of Vermeer to the syncopated rhythms and abstract structure of Mondrian. I was very much inspired by the power and energy of the New York Abstract Expressionist artists.

Can you give our readers some insight into your work in general? What media do you work in? Would you like to share a bit your creative process with our readers?

I have worked for 30 years in my Moody Street studio (near the Charles River in Waltham, MA), with its tall windows and good north light.

Suzanne Hodes in her studio. Photo: Irene Hodes Fisher

Studio view

I start my paintings with line to shape the forms I need, then use oil wash and thicker pigment to construct an abstract and fluid space in the spirit of abstract expressionism.

Studio view

Having grown up in New York City, I am drawn to the constant movement, energy and rhythms of city spaces. My work combines images of the directly observed world with those from my memory and imagination. I work in a broad range of mediums, including oil, collage, watercolor, charcoal and monotype.

Suzanne Hodes, Times Square At Night, oil and pastel on paper, 26 x 40 inches
Photo: Pond Productions

Suzanne Hodes, Somewhere Midtown, oil on canvas, 32 x 48 inches, 2011
Private Collection. Photo: Pond Productions

There is a deep personal narrative in my work, as in portraits of people who have had a strong influence on me: my mother Helen Hodes, and the writers Primo Levi and I. B. Singer.

Suzanne Hodes, Mother in her Apartment at Night, oil on canvas, 46 x 56 inches
Photo: Dana Salvo

I have responded to several of the major events of my time: for example, the John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations in my American Ritual series, the threat of nuclear war in the drawing Hiroshima Mother and the Three Minutes to Midnight lithographs, and the September 11 Attacks in Shattered City With Arches among other works.

Suzanne Hodes, Looking North from World Trade Center, charcoal, conte, pastel,
57 x 44 inches
. Photo: Pond Productions

The peace group Artists For Survival, which I co-founded in 1982, organized over 100 exhibitions and worked for a nuclear weapons freeze, and now has its archives in the Museum of Modern Art Library in New York.

Suzanne Hodes, Self Portrait Drawing, in Blue Smock, charcoal, pastel and conte
on paper, 44 x 30 inches.
Photo: Richard Kiely

amily history is important to me, as have been the teaching and encouragement of Agnes Mongan at the Fogg Art Museum and Oskar Kokoschka in his school in Salzburg. Creating a painting over time, often over an earlier canvas, mirrors changes in my life as well as the ever changing face of the city: the demolitions and reconstructions, the old and the new, the past and present, the living and the dead. Often I use multiple images to suggest the passage of time, and optical reflections in which changes of form and color suggest the shifting aspects of our perceptions. Specific art works have inspired me: in my A Vision, after G. Bellini I transformed the Tuscan landscape into Central Park and replaced St. Francis with a self-portrait. Another example is my recent Times Square Boogie-Woogie series, with echoes of Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie-Woogie.

Suzanne Hodes, Times Square Boogie-Woogie, oil and collage on canvas,
34 x 44 inches
. Photo: Pond Productions

I'm particularly drawn to your works in landscapes. Could you tell us what are the inspirations behind the creation of this body of work? How does it all start?

I hope to share with the public my ongoing series of drawings, monotypes and paintings inspired by the changing seasons on the River. My ideas and imagery come while walking along the Charles River in Waltham, near my studio at Artists West and also near my home.

Suzanne in her studio. Photo: Irene Hodes Fisher

Waltham Mills in Waltham, MA.

Charles River in Waltham, MA

Suzanne Hodes, River Reflection #5, Monotype, 10 x 20 inches
Photo: Pond Productions

Suzanne Hodes, River Reeds Calligraphy, Oil and charcoal on canvas,
44 x 58 inches
. Photo: Pond Productions

In developing this series, I make many on site crayon and watercolor studies, and sometimes take photos. I have long been drawn to images of water, with its constantly changing depths and surfaces, its mirroring of sky, clouds and wind. The primeval power of nature is a source of energy, inspiration, fear, and often solace. Some of these paintings have also been inspired by Sebago Lake in Maine.

Suzanne Hodes, Sebago Woods in Maine, etching, 9 x 13 inches
Photo: Pond Productions

Suzanne Hodes, River Rhythms, oil on canvas, 48 x 52 inches
Private Collection. Photo: Pond Productions

Suzanne Hodes, Between Fog and Ice, charcoal and pastel on paper,
30 x 44 inches, 2010
. Photo: Pond Productions

I hope to suggest a correspondence between the marks I make on paper and canvas and the myriad elements of nature. I would also like to recreate in my work the feeling of immediacy and renewal I find in the natural world, and explore the deep connection I sense between my own life, the cyclic aspect of time and the rhythms of nature. Several of my paintings including Fall Reflections With Red, use rich, heavily pigmented and textured surfaces, towards this end.

Suzanne Hodes, Fall Reflections with Blue, oil on canvas,
52 x 44 inches, 2010.
Photo: Pond Productions

What is the most interesting comment about your work you have heard from a viewer?

This written comment on the freedom in my more abstract work points to the direction I am trying to go.

"In Hodes' River Reeds' a web of black arcs, punctuated by red, skirt across the canvas, pale white, blue and green tones stabilize these elements, suggesting the wildness of nature anchored by a placid sky .... Daubs of colors, nicely balanced, add warmth to the image's expression of organic growth, which alludes to the natural world of her title. In works such as these, Hodes achieves a graceful equilibrium between the natural world and the man made illusion of one. Even better are her pure abstractions. Devoid of an illusionist prop, the real subject of her work, when the artist is engaged with paint, she has more room to breathe, which is evident in these works' wider use of textures and visual complexities."

— Boston Herald, 12/99, Mary Sherman: Landscape Show

Suzanne Hodes, River Reeds and Memory, Oil and Collage, 48 x 60 inches
Photo: Richard Kiely

How have you handled the business side of being an artist?
Do you teach besides making art? If so, would you give us some details?

This is the most difficult part of my life as an artist. I worked in my home garage until my son went to high school. Gallery and museum people seemed to find it awkward to see an artist's work at home. When I moved to my current studio in 1980 at Artists West (in Waltham Mills) I found it much easier for the public to see my work, particularly since we had very popular Open Studios each November.

Artists West Association at Waltham Mills

I have taught painting in acrylic at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, collage and painting at the Frances Cabot Lowell Building in Waltham in classes for senior citizens, and watercolor at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. I gave a monotype workshop at Gallery Seven in Gloucester, MA.

Suzanne with her artwork. Photo: Irene Hodes Fisher

Now I am not teaching but am selling my work through galleries and from my studio. I have done a few commissions: a portrait of a judge who was retiring from Middlesex County that is now in the courthouse in Waltham, and a portrait of my husband’s mentor James Franck that now hangs in the James Franck Institute at the University of Chicago, and several landscape paintings.

Suzanne Hodes, Mesozoic Reflections, oil and sand on canvas, 50x70 inches
Photo: Richard Kiely

Several of my paintings of New York have been used to illustrate educational convention brochures. I served for 6 years as juror for On My Own Time employee art in the workplace.

What galleries have you recently exhibited in?

y most recent solo exhibition City Rhythms was held at Carney Gallery, Regis College in Weston, MA from September 6 to October 28, 2011.

Suzanne Hodes, Times Square Rhythms, oil on canvas, 36 x 50 inches
Photo: Pond Productions

I participated in two group shows at the Danforth Museum: Summer Show: Off the Wall curated by Susan Stoops; and the Boston Printmakers Print Biennial juried by Jim Dine, from February to April in 2011. My monoprint Hemlock In the Woods won an award.

Suzanne Hodes, Hemlock in the Woods, Monoprint, 16 x 12 inches
Photo: Pond Productions

In July 2011, I was in a group show Copley Masters on Cape Cod at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth, MA. I had a painting in the N.A.W.A. 122nd Annual Exhibition at Sylvia Wald-Po Kim Gallery organized by National Association of Women Artists in NYC, May 2011.

Suzanne Hodes, Leaves Falling, oil and collage on canvas,
46 x 50 inches, 2010.
Photo: Pond Productions

My painting was included in A Community of Artists exhibit at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, MA in 2010.

Suzanne Hodes, Fall Reflections, oil on canvas, 50 x 36 inches, 2010
Photo: Pond Productions

In 2009 I had a solo show Paintings at Fidelity Space, Fidelity Investments in the World Trade Center in Boston organized by Heather Roy of Artana Gallery.

Suzanne Hodes, Spring Breaks Through, collage, acrylic, oil, and charcoal on paper,
38 x 50 inches, 2010.
Photo: Pond Productions

Would you like to inform our readers of your current exhibits? Are you planning any exhibitions of your work in the near future?

I am currently showing in a group exhibit Scene/Un-Seen at Art-3 Gallery in Manchester, New Hampshire. This exhibit is on display through January 30, 2012.

Suzanne Hodes, Deep Color in Fall, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches
Photo: Pond Productions

I will be having a two-person show at New England Biolabs in Beverly, MA from January - February 2012; and a solo show Landscapes at Blitz Connects in Waltham, MA in March 2012.

Please share with us the awards and recognition you received in the recent years.

I received a Juror's Award for my monoprint showed in the 2011 Boston Printmakers North American Print Biennial juried by Jim Dine at Danforth Museum in Framingham, MA

On May 27th, 2010 at my 50th reunion at Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University I received an Honorary Phi Beta Kappa Award for my art career and peace activism at a ceremony at Sanders Theatre. There was a great irony to this because I had left Radcliffe half way through college to transfer to Brandeis since I could not major in studio art at Radcliffe. Life is full of surprises.

Suzanne Hodes, Charles River in Spring, conte, charcoal and crayon on paper,
10 x 18 inches, 2009.
Photo: Dana Salvo

n 2006, I received a Juror’s Award for the painting River Reflections at an exhibition titled Everything Begins in the Water sponsored by the Women’s Caucus for Art and Mayyim Hayyim.

Suzanne Hodes, River Reflections, oil and collage, 42 x 60 inches
Private Collection of Metcalf and Eddy, Wakefield MA. Photo: Pond Productions

In 2001, I received the Sagendorph Memorial Prize from Yankee Magazine for a watercolor Visions of Boston.

In 2000, I had a commission from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston to create a painting on paper and two large canvases of some of my favorite places in Boston which I called Visions of Boston.

Would you provide links to articles and reviews about your work for interested readers to learn more about your work? Are you available for commissioned works? Representing gallery if any?

The best place to find articles about my work is on my website in the section saying Bibiography. I have on occasion done commissioned work. I am currently represented by Art-3 in Manchester NH; Online Gallery and Boston Art Inc. in Boston.

Suzanne's business card.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Draw, Draw, Draw. Draw wherever and whenever you can. The world around you, your home, views from windows where you live and work. Your friends and family members. Your dreams or nightmares. Fleeting ideas, put it down in a small sketch book, so you can have a record of your visual thoughts. Take classes from teachers who like to teach. Either in college, art school or art centers. Go to many exhibitions, particularly shows of the masters: Courbet, Cezanne, Matisse, Van Gogh, Rembrandt... Don’t rush to enter the gallery system which is very fickle. Enter group shows when you feel ready. Network with other artists. Show each other your work. Try out all the ideas, themes, mediums that interest you.

Suzanne at work. Photo: Irene Hodes Fisher

Don’t let the commercial art world put you in a box like “the artist who paints teacups, or flowers, or football players.” A “brand” is a commercial selling device. One of the beauties of being an artist is that you choose what avenues to pursue in your work. Try not to take rejection personally. (Great advice, but extremely difficult.) As you enter competitions you will be rejected at least half the time. It is a crap shoot, like Las Vegas. Don’t be discouraged, but keep working and learning. Have fun with the mediums you are using. Learn about the lives and work of artists you admire.

Suzanne Hodes, Ice Melting, collage, acrylic, charcoal on paper, 38 x 42 inches, 2010
Pond Productions

Would you like to add anything?

I was early on drawn to other artists who were against war, starting with the small group AARW Artists Against Racism and War (the Vietnam war) in the late 60’s that I was a member of. I had to convince myself that painting for the sheer joy of color and the expression of my emotions was a valid endeavor when the world was so beset by militarism and social injustice. In 1982 I joined my colleague Mitchell Kamen at Artists West to form Artists For Survival. We had monthly meetings and attracted about 100 artists in the Boston area and in Maine to exhibit our work along with information about the insanity of building more and more nuclear weapons. We met with members of the Council for a nuclear weapons freeze and organized over 40 exhibitions to educate and activate the public to oppose the weapons buildup. We showed at the Harvard Medical School Countway Library and left a book for viewer comments. We showed at Framingham State College, the MIT historical Museum, the Senate and House Office Buildings in Washington DC with the support of Congressman Edward Markey and Senator John Kerry. We also showed at area churches, schools, galleries, the BVAU ( Boston Visual Artists Union) and libraries over a period of 14 years. Looking back on this period I am amazed I had the energy to do all this volunteer organizing and run most of our meetings. But it is this work of community organizing I am most proud of. About 4 years ago I donated the records, slides, comment books, newspaper articles and one of the lithographs I made to fund raise for PSR (Physicians for Social Responsibility) to the Library at MOMA in New York. They hope to digitize the material and put it online with other records about Political Art.

Suzanne Hodes, Portrait of My Husband, charcoal, pastel, conte on paper,
44 x 30 inches, 2011.
Photo: Pond Productions

ersonal note: My husband Henry Linschitz, a professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Brandeis University worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory on the lenses needed to build the bombs dropped on Japan, ending the war with Japan. He helped us with some of the technical information we provided to the public. He also worked with the peace movement, helping found UCAM, (United Campuses Against Militarism) which was active in the 80’s.