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The depth of a painting: Susan Metrican’s art pops in the Mazmanian Gallery


Adrien Gobin / THE GATEPOST

By Raena Doty

Arts & Features Editor


Arts & Ideas hosted the first Mazmanian Gallery installation, reception, and lecture of the school year Sept. 13. The installation, by artist Susan Metrican, was called “No Head No Tail.”


The art, mostly acrylic on canvas, pushed the boundaries of the canvas into the third dimension. Many of the pieces were layered, had sewn-on cutouts of canvas sticking off, or pleated to add depth.


Many attendees were struck with Metrican’s use of depth in her work, and picked the dimension of paintings out as their favorite aspect of the art.


“I like how the physicality of the canvas or these kinds of manipulations can also be pictorial. They’re often representational of something like that water,” Metrican said, referencing the art piece “I’ll Come See You,” a dark gray and black painting of plants around a body of water.


Kate Carpenter, a junior studio art major, said “I’ll Come See You” was her favorite piece because of the use of the third dimension in the painting and the way everything stood out, even though the painting is monochrome.


Metrican also had a few vinyl installations - one, a large mural painted on small areas of vinyl, and the rest plants cut out of copper vinyl.


Metrican said she didn’t consider the vinyl leaf cutouts to be proper art pieces, and in fact had never made anything like them before, making the vinyl cutouts unique to FSU.


Even though she said she didn’t consider them art pieces, Tim McDonald, a professor of Art & Music, said he was interested in watching her create them.


He added he thought it was incredible to see her bring the vinyl from her home in Fairfield, Iowa, and “improvise” cutting the shapes out and taking them down.


“They activate the whole wall so it’s not just paintings on the wall. They continue the story,” he said.


Aside from inspiration from the possibilities allowed when manipulating the canvas into other shapes, Metrican said she gains inspiration from art pieces that blend cultures together.


During her lecture, she showed a clip from a Thai film called “Tears of the Black Tiger,” and noted it was a big inspiration for her work.


She said the movie blends together influences from theater, ’60s Thai films, and spaghetti westerns, and this is very significant to her.


Metrican said recently she’s been interested in the cultural art exchange between France and Japan when both countries began to mimic the other’s art.


“It’s a reminder that what seems new rarely is, and that even strange and enchanting things that come from far away are often in the end merely returned to them,” she said.


A few of Metrican’s pieces gained titles or inspiration from what she learns and does with her family.


She said her mother’s side of the family had many sailors in it, and she named the painting “Red Sky at Night” after a saying she learned from the sailors in her mother’s family - “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.”


Metrican also showed an image of a painting not displayed in the gallery called “I Saw It First / But I Touched It First,” which has a vivid red background and depicts a landscape reflected by a pond.


She said she took the title from a ’60s children’s book she read with her daughter, where two dogs find a bone and both try to lay claim to it.


On top of that, she showed a few art pieces she’s studied and replicated in her own art. For example, one painting currently displayed in the Mazmanian Gallery, “Patrick’s Grave,” is named in honor of Patrick Caulfield, Metrican said.


She explained Caulfield designed his own gravestone in the shape of a four-step staircase with each letter in the word “dead” written on a step. Metrican’s painting has two layers, with a panel cut into the top layer to reveal a staircase on the bottom layer.


Metrican added she likes to categorize the principles of design she uses to create her paintings - categories of flora and fauna based on nature, “vessels” where one part of the painting may be held inside another part, paintings with “pants” where a strip of canvas or fabric covers the bottom, and weaving.


Though she displayed many paintings which inspired her own work as an artist, Metrican added she’s always looking for inspiration from art from different mediums, especially functional, decorated household items.


She showed a picture of a French ceramic bowl by artist Georges Pull decorated with animals, most notably a snake, then a picture of her piece “Sea Snakes,” which she described as “fan art.” The painting had 3D snakes wrapping in front of the canvas, much like the molded snake in the center of Pull’s art.


When finishing up her lecture, Metrican considered what it is that connects her to the world with her art.


“My mother passed away last spring, and so I’ve just thought she didn’t see anything that I did since then,” she said at the end of the lecture. “But it’s just this idea that art, making art, and putting things out there is the opposite of death.


“That brings me a lot of hope,” Metrican said.


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