My recent paintings include portraits of couples based on black and white film stills as well as paintings that re-envision artwork by other painters. Some of my newest paintings are landscapes, interiors, and still lifes, in which I emphasize the expressionist and symbolic intensity of these compositions through the use of vivid colors, strong linear elements, and layered painterly textures. These paintings were inspired by Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse, Marsden Hartley, and other artists. In the landscapes, interiors, and still lifes, I am creating spaces for a drama to take place. The portraits focus on the relationships between the couples through the lens of films and still photos. These works weave together complexity, sensuality, and emotions. The paintings confront gender roles and power relationships. I believe in the power of painting to put forward a feminist and political stance, while not abandoning the joy of the painterly stroke and color and texture, and while continuing to address social, cultural and artistic structures.
Susan Bee is an artist who lives in Brooklyn. She has been a member of A.I.R. Gallery for twenty-one years. In 2017, she will have her eighth solo show at the gallery. Her first show there was in 1998. She had a show at A.I.R. of paintings from the 1980s in 2014. In addition, she had a solo show, “Monster Mitt,” at the Lisa Cooley Gallery in NY in 2016 of paintings from the 1990s. Her “Photograms and Altered Photos from the 1970s” were shown at Southfirst Gallery, Brooklyn, in 2015, and she had a solo painting show at Accola Griefen Gallery in NY in 2013.
Bee has also had solo shows at the University of Pennsylvania, Kenyon College, Columbia University, William Paterson College, the New York Public Library, and Virginia Lust Gallery, and her work has been included in numerous group shows. She has a BA from Barnard College and a MA in Art from Hunter College. Her artwork is in many public and private collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College, Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Princeton University Library, Getty Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Clark Art Institute, and Harvard University Library.
Bee has published sixteen artist’s books. She has collaborated with poets including: Johanna Drucker, Susan Howe, Charles Bernstein, Rachel Levitsky, and Jerome Rothenberg. Her artist’s book archive is at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
She is the coeditor of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artist's Writings, Theory, and Criticism, Duke University Press in 2000. She was the coeditor of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A Journal of Contemporary Art Issues from 1986-1996 and is the coeditor of M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online.
Bee’s work has been reviewed in: Art in America, The New York Times, The New Yorker, ArtNews, The Brooklyn Rail, Artcritical, ArtSlant, The Forward, Huffington Post, Art Papers, and Hyperallergic. She won a Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts in 2014 and has had fellowships at the MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Yaddo. Bee teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.
(excerpts from reviews of Criss Cross: New Paintings at Accola Griefen Gallery, 2013)
From: Miriam Atkin , “Longing Inside the Frame: Susan Bee at Accola Griefen,” Art Critical, June 28, 2013 “Bypassing a post-modernist disbelief in the sign’s capacity for truth, Susan Bee’s current show, titled Criss Cross at Accola Griefen, announces a sincere love for the image. Bee’s apparent faith in the capacity of the painted figure to truly say something flies in the face of stylish irony and dispassionate conceptualism. I see her practice as heroic: perhaps the devout image-maker in our climate of stagnant disillusionment is a post-millennial wanderer in sea and fog.”
From: Sharon Butler, Two Coats of Paint, Susan Bee Movies, June 15, 2013 “Her game was bright, vivid paintings inspired by film noir stills. She loaded her canvases with swirling Ab-Ex tropes. Casual viewers could take them for cheerful. They’d be wrong. A girl gingerly approaching a man who’s holding a paring knife, a doll slapping a rake in the kisser, two gimlet-eyed dames waiting in a car for trouble—all the color in the world couldn’t stifle the want or the fear in these paintings. That was the point. Look at them, sure, she said, but then drink them in.”
From: The New Yorker , Goings on About Town, “Susan Bee,” July 1, 2013 “Bee’s skills as a colorist and her stylistic abandon make the show worth seeking out. Flat figures are outlined in black, as if in the pages of coloring books, offset by bright backgrounds that loosely reference modernist painting (Pollock-like dribbles, Mondrian-esque geometries). In one picture, two young women cower in a backseat as bright daubs of abstraction fill the rear window. It’s horror vacui by way of film noir.”
From: Ann McCoy, “Susan Bee Paints the Spaces Between People,” The Forward, June 28, 2013 “The real nature of the relationships in Bee’s paintings seems to exist in the space around the figures. Much has been written in modern psychology about the interactive field, and field dynamics. Bee paints the dynamism of the interactive field and we see the energetic component in bold relief. The space around the figures is often applied with thick paint that does not resemble the paint handling used to create the figures. Bee’s application captures a palpable energy. This critic can think of no other artist who paints the way Bee does.”
From: Alexander Shulan, “Susan Bee: Criss Cross, New Paintings,” Brooklyn Rail (July/August 2013) “Looking at ‘Out of the Window,’ I couldn’t help but think about Pollock’s famous remark to Hans Hoffman: when asked if he worked from nature, he replied, ‘I am nature.’ In ‘Out of the Window’ something similar is at play—an abstraction, which comes from some private mental space, is juxtaposed against a figurative image that is overt in its psychology. In the unity of the two, something ineffable is expressed.”
From: Lori Zimmer, “Putting Paint to the Test,” ArtSlant, June 15, 2013 “Bee’s pieces are meant to be consumed at a close distance. From afar, they appear to be simply pictorial, almost child-like in their boldly brazen color palette. The gradation from one hue to the next reads as extremely deliberate, and at a distance her paintings feel like collage, as if each figure were on a different plane from the others. Bee herself embraces the feeling of collage, but not in the same way that her paintings read from across the room. When viewed close up and intimately, one can see that Bee uses collage methods in her layers of paint, texture and strokes, in the surface plane, fragmenting one color to the next like stained glass with varying criss cross or hatch marks.”