| Susette Billedeaux Gertsch M.F.A.|

Why I Paint for Museums



Good museums are mentors to their artists, and the Springville Museum of Fine Art, fulfills this calling to the "t".  Dr. Vern Swanson, retired curator, once counseled me to paint every tenth painting for the museum.  At first I didn't understand what he was talking about because to me every painting seemed as important as every other painting.


In retrospect Dr Swanson gave me very good advice and it changed my perspective.  I realized that the museum, particularly through its annual Spring Salon, offers a much greater challenge on every level for imagination, skill and presentation than daily painting. It also creates kind of haven for risking and being "out there" on the proverbial limb with experimental adventures.  I may not paint one-in-ten for the museum, but I do specifically shift my priorities a few times a year to plan and paint for it.


The salon project has to be very provocative to sustain my full focus and energy.  For weeks or months prior to painting I do a lot of reflection and musing before committing to a particular theme and subject. Extra time goes into building the support (the canvas). And on the first day of painting, there is a discernible emotional 'rush' while laying-in those initial big areas of color, as I experience a kind of free-fall into the unknown.  Following that, most paintings go through a certain "ugly" phase while the work evolves and emerges.  It's a bit like a plane in a dive pattern, but hopefully the painting will take on a life of it’s own and pull out before it crashes and burns. Years of experience have taught me that persisting hour after hour through that phase will eventually result in work that is substantive and becomes something powerful enough to lift me to higher ground.  It's literally quite exhilharating at times.


My largest museum paintings have been 48"x72", which is a huge change from my small Plein air sketches or the medium sized studio work. I love launching into space with a large format.
These big paintings are expensive to frame and require a truck for transportation. The studio time is weeks instead of days.  And except for essential functions, many ordinary things at home are put on the back burner for the intensive project. It really takes a committment andI confess that sometimes I'm stepping over piles of untended items near the finish, but not to worry. They have never once failed to wait for me. 


Framing, crating, transporting, unloading and finally registration at the museum, leads to that strange moment when the entry paper is signed and I walk out of the museum empty-handed.  Every single time that occurs I experience a haunting tinge of loss, a bit like the first day my youngest child entered school.  At the moment of separation a strange concoction of sadness mixes with relief that it's safely done and delivered. This moment is soon followed by a new emotion involving anticipation of news about the jury results. All told, fuzzy emotional cocktail can be rather disorienting.  The only antidote I've found, is to get back home, have a warm conversation with someone I love, fix dinner, tidy a few things and relax.  But by the next morning, you can be sure I'm right back to my easel, and that's a very good place to be.



pg_107131393460203.jpgClassic study of anothers accomplished work - Springville Museum of Fine Art

pg_107141393460436.jpgAwards at one of the Salon openings. 







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