Susan Michod

new art examiner, November 1986, page 86
Jan Cicero Gallery, Chicago

by Jeff Abel


Susan Michod’s work is characterized by two very distinctive elements. The first, and most noteworthy, is her intense lyricism. Although her work occasionally makes visual reference to natural objects, her technique is primarily metaphoric in its approach to natural world. She is more inclined to imply and suggest than to state, and her work is consequently more poetic in its examination of the world and it is specifically mimetic.

The second distinctive element of Michod’s work involves her additive approach to the pictorial surface. Most of the work included in this show uses such additions as window shutters, door fragments, or pieces of wood attached to the painting’s surfaces. In other cases, the canvas itself has been cut or stretched up over a piece of wood lying beneath the surface.

By juxstaposing lyrical content and structural additions, Michod has posed a considerable technical problem for herself. Her visual inclination is to avoid realism in favor of broader association to the real world. Yet the additions she makes to her paintings are indubitably real: her doorframes or louvered windows are not metaphors, but real things. Michod must therefore balance her delicately fanciful painting style with these real objects – a prodigious juggling act, but one worth the effort. Poet Marianne Moore described poetry as “imaginary gardens with real toads in them,” and the creation of such poetry seems to be Michod’s aesthetic goal.

As one might expect, Michod succeeds in her aesthetic juggling act to varying degrees in each work. In some cases, she comes perilously close to sentimentality, as in the large Matisse for Now, where rays of light and blowing leaves create an effect that is powerfully colored but compositionally coy. In other works, she comes closer to a genuine poetic achievement, as in De Kooning Meets the Lotus Eaters, or Vineyard Creep. Here, she succeeds in blending her painted reality with her real-world additions without a disconcerting break in compositional integrity.
Michod is attempting to resolve a major artistic dilemma in her paintings: the balance of the reference to the real world with her subjective artistic vision. She may not have completely balanced these elements in all of her present work, but she is occasionally triumphant, and her willingness to battle such dragons indicates that she is an artist worth watching.

Susan Michod
Jan Cicero Gallery
230 W. Erie St. 312-440-1904