Suze Woolf, Asparagi, 2019, resin over watercolor on paper mounted on cradled panel
The quiet existentialism of discrete fruits and vegetables
July & August 2019
It began in one of the landscape workshops I taught at Gage Academy. It’s a big jump to go from learning about the paints to doing a full-on landscape, even from a photo, so I’m always looking for ways to bridge that leap. One day I brought in some items from my fridge. I asked each person to pick one, place it on a white sheet of paper and point a small desk lamp at it. I’m fond of saying that people often draw the Platonic “class” of an object instead of the “instance” in front of them. That is, people draw from the idealized form in their minds instead of observing the precise individual in front of them.
Of course I also needed to give a demonstration. After several, I looked them over critically and realized they represented some fine work- unforced, loose, evocative. I began to puzzle over why I found depicting
vegetables so liberating:
There’s something unassuming about some leaves of kale, a kind of existential humility - “we are what we are.” They’re not grandiose.
There are relatively few examples of “Great Vegetable Works from Art History”—whereas try to paint sunflowers and a whole famous field’s worth is glaring at you!
It’s hard to get to over invested in painting a vegetable compared to, say, a beautiful landscape you’re sentimental about. Since you don’t have so many hopes and expectations attached to it, you paint more freely and the results are fresh. (Mind you, careful observation is still required.)
Maybe it’s a jolie laide or underdog kind of thing -- even in the foodie world they’re usually not the star of the meal.
Or my own semi conscious interest in getting viewers to look at what isn’t conventionally considered
And it’s not all subject matter that I get to eat afterwards…
About the Artist
Suze Woolf studied ceramics and printmaking at the University of Washington. An early adopter of computer graphics, her career has included print and interface design. Though known as a watercolorist, she explores a wide range of media from painting, paper-casting, artist books and pyrography to installation – sometimes all together.
She has exhibited throughout the Pacific Northwest but also in Utah, British Columbia, Maryland, California, Colorado, Oklahoma and Washington DC. Her work is in regional public collections as well as many private ones. She has curated a large traveling exhibit, juried competitions for municipalities and artist organizations, and contributed work to non-profit fundraising.
She has received grants, stipends and exhibits from Artist Trust, Shunpike, The Entrada Institute, Zion Natural History Association, the Museum of Northwest Art and the San Juan Islands Museum of Art. She has been artist in residence in Zion, Glacier, Capitol Reef and North Cascades National Parks. She was a test artist resident at the Grand Canyon Trust’s remote Kane Ranch. 2019 will be her seventh year in Zion’s annual plein air invitational. She has also been an invited resident at art colonies such as the Banff Centre, the Vermont Studio Center, Willowtail Springs, Jentel Foundation and Playa Summer Lake.