Susan Jamison

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Biography:

Susan Jamison (American, b. 1965, Connecticut) is best known for her intricate egg tempera paintings, which present a mystery cult of florid women who foray into the wild and commune with animal spirit guides or familiars, acting as avatars for the viewer’s imagination. These figures combine vulnerability and strength, sexuality and innocence, the magical with the natural. They are often tied or bound with delicately painted threads or lace and other references to domestic crafts. Jamison’s feminine iconography spans several media, including painting, drawing, textile based sculpture, and installation, all steeped in ritualistic and mythological associations. 

Jamison received a B.F.A from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia (1988), and a M.F.A in painting from Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI (1991). Her works are held in the collections of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Mint Museum, The Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University, Try-Me.org, POM International Corporation, and numerous private collections. Jamison lives and works in Roanoke, Virginia.

Statement:

My mother passed down to me her secret feminine knowledge of plants, birds and wildlife on walks into the deep forest. She instilled in me the symbolic meaning of spotting a fox, an orb-weaving spider, or a rare trillium. These memories and my lifelong sense of the sacred in nature strongly inform my imagery. 

The figures presented in my allegorical egg tempera paintings are like Pictish warrior women decorated for battle, like Mother Nature whose skin is literally blooming, or akin to a Fascinatrix luring through spells. They project innocent sensuality, strength, and vulnerability. Alongside the enchantress are fauna and flora native to my region in the Blue Ridge Mountains, her familiars which serve as agents for her communion and receptors for her enchantments. Sewing implements, thread and lace banners bearing messages delicately rendered within the paintings connect and bind the figures and animals while honoring traditional women’s crafts such as stitching, lacemaking, and embroidery. My images come to me in visions which coalesce my attractions to Renaissance portraiture and naturalist illustration, my interest in folk tales and myths, and born of my own biography. Resisting a specific narrative, my paintings are enchanted moments from my highly feminized vision of a woman re-wilded.   

In my sculptural and installation work I’m using crafting techniques such as sewing and embroidery to create poetic, symbolic forms which are feminist social commentary, that memorialize, or that invoke magic rituals. I want to make things as women who came before me have made things. I have an impulse to dig in the dirt as I did when I was a child and sift it onto the ground like flour. As in my paintings, women’s bodies or parts of the body are my primary interest. My materials including textiles, lace, horse hair, domestic tools, powered milk, and sifted soil, are methodically chosen to create my reimagined artifacts and scenes of secret ceremonies.