SUSANNA COFFEY (USA, Connecticut, New London b. 1949 / act: Chicago & New York)
Susanna Coffey was born in 1949 in New London, Connecticut. She studied painting at The University of Connecticut (BFA, magna cum laude, 1977) and Yale University School of Art (1982).
Reflecting upon her self Susanna Coofey said: "There is a great deal about my artwork that is traditional, straightforward and easy to describe. I make my art from direct observation. Every color and image that you see in the work is before me as I paint or draw. Each image is developed through careful measurement. I attempt to match every color in front of me. I am searching for balance between the paint, my vision and the world. Sometimes a painting can resolve in a matter of weeks, but often a piece may take as long as seven years to finish. No matter how much time is required, I love the extreme concentration that comes with my way of working, as well as the slowness of both the process and the resulting image. The images that concern me the most are figurative. As the world and its media seem to move with ever increasing speed, my work calls my viewers to take time and to look in depth. I am not interested in realism, but rather, in the real image. Most of my work can be categorized as self portraiture. In each canvas there is my head, facing front and center, wearing hats, makeup, or glasses. Perhaps there is a room or a landscape depicted behind the portrait, sometimes there is no definite location, just color in space. Usually I work on several canvasses at one time, with each group having a central theme. While my image appears in each of these paintings, I do not think of them as expressing something particular to me; the individual. Rather, I seek to explore my plural identity. It seems to me, that within each self there are many selves. Some of these we abandon or repress, still others are forbidden by society. By using my image over and over I am hoping to set up comparisons between the paintings. By doing this I hope to suggest that the person pictured in these works exists in multiplicity, and is not a singular individual. One of the themes I have insisted upon concerns appearances of gender. While men and women have more similarities than not, most imagery emphasizes the differences. Visual stereotypes of masculine or feminine appearance exist in every culture. There are rules, and we know what these rules are from birth. They control many aspects of behavior and are enforced both from within and without each individual. In an attempt to make the images of myself somewhat ambiguous with regard to gender, I get to play with colors, textures, scale relationships, props, facial expressions, environments, spaces, etc. that are used as signifiers to convey a female or male look. In my most recent paintings I am working with landscapes of war and devastation. By placing my figure with closed eyes in such situations, I am responding to a dilemma of our time; we see devastation, maybe through newspapers, television or the internet. Perhaps we are physically there as a perpetrator or a victim. I am a witness of these events and this group of paintings is a response to what I have witnessed. To accompany these larger works, I have made very small paintings of flowers. These serve to balance the mood of the more dramatic scenes. They are reminders of a more prosaic cycle of life and death. We pick them, they are beautiful, they will pass."
Susanna Coffey is currently represented by Tibor De Nagy Gallery in New York City as well as galleries in the US (Boston, Chicago, and New Orleans) and in Europe. She has had many personal exhibitions in Athens, Barcelona, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, New York, Sevilla, and others. She has also taken part in many Group exhibitions at The Kwanju Biennale in Korea, The Art Institute of Chicago, The National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, Exit Art NYC, and others. Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artists Award, A John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, Award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, Member of the National Academy of Arts, The Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Space Grant, and others. She is a faculty member of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (F.H. Sellers Professor in Painting endowed chair since 1996) from 1982 to the present. Other teaching and lecturing experience at The Yale School of Art, The Royal Academy in London, The Glasgow School of Art in Scotland, The Rhode Island School of Design, Harvard University, The Maryland Institute of Art, Tyler Schoolof Art and others. Resides in New York City and Chicago where she also dances Samba, Sabar, Djembe, and many dances of the Afro-Carribean tradition!
Currently Susanna Coffey lives and works in Chicago and New York City.