Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hump Day Artist: Suzanne McClelland

This week's Hump Day Artist is Suzanne McClelland.  McClelland is a painter whose work deals with language in all of its variations; how it looks, how it sounds, its implications, meaning, text and sub-text.

As I was researching McClelland's work for this post, I stumbled across many pieces that I had never seen before; many of which were very different than any I had seen prior.  I was struck by how her work has grown and developed over the years, while still maintaining a constant theme.  The piece above really surprised me.  It was painted in 1994 and it is so much more rough and aggressive than her later work, which I had always thought of as very lyrical and almost girly.  Yet her most recent work, which was also unfamiliar to me, is antiseptic and almost cold.  See the image below:

The work that I was familiar with was more like this:

I admire artists that really allow themselves to grow and change.  That's why Picasso's early career is so much more interesting than his later years: the paintings were constantly changing.  McClelland holds true to her subject, but allows the work to go where it needs to go.

I think the hardest thing about being an artist is finding your subject.  Most artists, young artists especially, know they want to make art, but not what they want to make art about.  I do believe that a good subject can keep an artist engaged indefinitely, which is obviously true with Suzanne McClelland.   It took me six years to find a subject that I can really dig into.  But how long will that last?  Is this my final subject, or is this just another stop on the journey?  Is it necessary for an artist to stick to their subject or should they be open to it changing throughout their career?

Any artists out there?  How do you deal with transitions in your work?  Do you keep your technique and change your subject?  Or do you keep your subject and change your technique?  Or, are both constantly changing?  How about art viewers?  Do you admire artists whose work is constantly changing?

Just a few questions that Suzanne McClelland's work brings up.  Check out more of her work at  All images from

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