John Mitchell interviews painter Susanna Coffey whose exhibition Crimes of the Gods is on view at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, New York, through June 30, 2018.
Coffey recalls: "I began to paint self-portraits from observation in order to be a better teacher. To learn about, not a subject, but rather a process of making, I got a mirror and looked into it and tried to paint what I saw... After almost ten years of trying to make decent observational work only in order to be a better studio teacher, I finally made one picture that seemed different, seemed complete. Even though it was a “practice painting” I suddenly saw how this motif could fulfill my expressive needs! The mysterious act of seeing, a mask-like face, the vocabulary of a figure-ground relationship, evocative scale juxtapositions, more subtle color relationships, and some things I can’t name, offered me seemingly endless possibilities to show what I felt. It seemed to me each picture could have a theatrical face and that a series of faces could tell the kinds of stories I care about. I imagined a whole group of paintings to be made in front of a mirror and so I made a deal with myself to just go with it."