Susan Jamison Biography
Susan Jamison is a visual artist who paints in egg tempera and creates sculptural forms and installations that focus on feminine subject matter. She holds a MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design, where she received the Award of Excellence. Her undergraduate work at James Madison University was primarily in printmaking and photography. She is represented by Page Bond Gallery in Richmond, VA and The George Gallery in Laguna Beach, CA.
Her distinctly feminine imagery has been exhibited in museums and galleries nationwide including solo exhibitions at the Taubman Museum of Art, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Second Street Gallery, Spanierman Modern and Irvine Contemporary. She has been included in numerous group exhibitions including Cleveland State University, American University Museum at the Katzan Center, Skidmore College, Eleanor D. Wilson Museum and Nancy Margolis Gallery.
Jamison's works are held in the collections of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University, POM International Corporation, and many highly regarded private collections. She has been featured in three volumes of “New American Paintings” and recently in two national publications, “Garden & Gun” and “Local Quarterly” magazines. She was awarded a fellowship from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation for a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. In 2013 she was given The Karen Shea Silverman Endowed Fellowship to return to the VCCA for another residency. In the Summer of 2012 she attended an International artist residency in the city of Opole, Poland which was fully funded by the host city and The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge. She will be an artist in residence at Santa Fe Art Institute in late summer 2014.
She has curated exhibitions in her hometown, "What's Inside" at Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, "Circus Pony" at Liminal Artspace, and "Sew Me Up" Dialog Gallery, each included artists with national recognition. She has lectured at Second Street Gallery, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Wake Forest University, East Carolina University, Ferrum College, and the Taubman Museum of Art among others.
Jamison was born in Willimantic, Connecticut in 1965 and her family moved to Carmel, Indiana shortly thereafter. Her childhood in the 1970's was spent exploring the woods around the small house where her family spent weekends and summers living "wildness family style" off the grid in Southern Indiana near Kentucky. During this time, Jamison learned about plants, birds, and other wildlife from her mother during frequent outings into the remote woods. These memories and her sense of connection to nature strongly inform her thought process as an artist. From there her family migrated to Northern Virginia just outside of Washington, DC during the explosion of suburbanization in this area in the 1980's. The soulless, chaotic feel of that place still haunts her. Jamison now makes her home in Roanoke, Virginia nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains where bears are known to walk through city neighborhoods and there is a giant neon star on the mountain overlooking downtown.
Susan Jamison Statement
My mother passed down to me her secret feminine knowledge of plants, birds and wildlife during frequent outings into the deep forest during my childhood. She instilled the symbolic meaning of spotting a fox, an orb-weaving spider or a trillium. We had a library of nature guides to identify unknown creatures and flowers. The illustrations in these books fascinated me in their precise clarity. I was allowed to play outside wearing my fanciest dresses sewn on mom’s old singer that had been converted from treadle to electric. I would sit next to her while she sewed looking out the large picture window into the bewitching wildflower filled woods that was our backyard. I was constantly chastised for picking the flowers, yet could not resist. These memories and my lifelong sense of connection to nature strongly inform my imagery.
My work is quite intentionally feminine. The women, animals and symbols in my allegorical egg tempera paintings are taken from personal narratives, myths, fairy tales and dreams. I play with concepts of interior and exterior beauty by replacing my character’s face with a medical illustration of the veins in the head in contrast with her skin which is decorated with a hyper-feminine, hot pink flowery pattern. Her identity can be like a Pictish warrior woman decorated for battle, like Mother Nature who’s skin is literally blooming or a Fascinatrix luring through spells. Animals are drawn or compelled to attend to this character as the woodland creatures were to the enchanted princess Snow White. Combining amazement with revulsion, alongside the tattooed lady, are curious animals, many displaying forms of albinism or who are conjoined twins. The women can also appear as twins representing her various psychological aspects or perhaps older and younger self having a conversation. The dialog is for the other, the freaks and the ones who are different. Resisting a specific narrative, my paintings are enchanted moments from my highly feminized vision of nature.
Sewing implements, thread and lace used as connecting elements, or that become banners bearing messages within the paintings honor traditional women’s arts of sewing, lacemaking and embroidery. There is a sense of hierarchy between fine art and fine craft which I seek to blur by depicting these intricately made things. In the spirit of this, my mother’s old sewing machine, given to her by my grandmother, now has a home in my studio and in the same place that I paint these references, I also actually sew and do embroidery.
I’m incorporating these crafting techniques into sculptural forms that echo the themes in my paintings in a more open way. Using fabric, embroidery floss, horse hair, recycled fur along with well used domestic tools and women’s clothing such as kid gloves and bridal gowns, I’m making sculptural objects that memorialize, are social commentary or simply delight. Hands, bouquets, anchors, veils, hoop skirts, and women’s tools such as chatelaines are forms I am working with. In the midst of all this the sewing machine remains a constant connection to my personal history.