Saturday, January 1st, 2005

Susan Shatter: New Watercolors From Maine

511 West 25th Street

January 6 – February 5, 2005

Susan Shatter White Spine 2004 water color on paper, 27 x 60 inches Courtesy lyonsweirgallery
Susan Shatter, White Spine 2004 water color on paper, 27 x 60 inches Courtesy lyonsweirgallery

Susan Shatter’s painting is not seen often enough. The last time I looked at her work was at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. It was just two years ago at the Academy’s annual invitational. The two small oils were on view were among my favorite paintings in the exhibition.

Ms. Shatter has built a career as a painter of nature’s grand motifs: deserts, canyons, volcanoes, rivers and the sea. She is unintimidated by the untamed immensities that John Marin insisted every artist needs to confront from time to time. In this exhibition, Ms. Shatter tilts the other way, concentrating on more intimate, less ambitious views of the shoreline at Schoodic, Maine. Works are smaller and mainly in watercolor, with only two wavescapes approaching heroic length .

Every New Yorker who vacations in Maine will greet these works with a certain recognition. Familiarity derives from the cold, dense blue that is the base of most of the paintings, not from scenic effects. Indeed, there are no scenes, no identifiable spots or favored vistas. These are not the artist’s concern. Eddying water over rocks viewed at close range is a pretext for studies of movement and reflection, which are the true subjects here.

The five-foot long watercolors “White Spine,” (2004) and “Sea Inside,” (2004) are my favorites; here is the dynamism, reflective intricacies, and drama of her traditional large oils. The first captures beautifully the liquid dance of a sudden swell, reflecting the values and colors of the sky while throwing into relief  reflected sunlight and white trails of foam. The second depicts the irresistible momentum and pounding weight of a moving mass of water.

Smaller pieces study the elusive echoes of light that ebb and spill over rocks at the the edge of a tide pool.  In abstract terms, the reflective capacity of moving water provides a vehicle for extending color and its effects across paper. The entire ensemble is a masterful performance.