Susan Carr [Interview]

Interview with Susan Carr

I believe art saves lives.  The very act of making is a sacred act, an act of life.
— Susan Carr
...I always keep in mind that the work isn’t precious and to go for it. I destroy a lot of stuff, but that is okay. I would rather have something I am really proud of than something boring.
— Susan Carr

MHM: Your motto is “What if?” How has this mantra helped open new doors and passages for you? 

SC: "What if" helps to push my idea. I could very well be satisfied with some of my work but would have never made the mental breakthroughs, thus work breakthroughs. "What if," and "why not" can make or break a piece. but I always keep in mind that the work isn't precious and to go for it. I destroy a lot of stuff, but that is okay. I would rather have something I am really proud of than something boring.

MHM: What is your process like? 

SC: My creative process is doing. I have to start doing something, and right now I am carving wood and thinking about sculpture and ceramics. I am also drawing. I like to shake up my process so I don't become stale. I think a lot. I just realized that my head always has a poem being written or a piece being put together or a painting being being painted; this is always happening.

MHM: What is new in your creative practice since you began exploring your process? In what ways has your work changed over the years? 

SC: Over the years I haven't changed much, I have just been able to focus more due to time.

MHM: Who was the gatekeeper that inspired you to start making and creating?

I really just had myself as a gatekeeper, art was my magic carpet.

SC: I really just had myself as a gatekeeper, art was my magic carpet.

MHM: When did you decide to commit to art full-time? What propelled you in this direction?

SC: I committed full time when I was a kid. Honestly, I always knew I was an artist and this is what I would do. I really can't do anything else.

MHM: Do you apply any meaning to the texture of your paintings? The paint is layered so thickly that it becomes sculptural and it carries heavy weight, yet remains also playful and childlike. 

SC: I like thick paint. Paint applied over time carries with it a sense of history and time. It is like a journal or a private diary. It also becomes more alive if I can apply paint just right. That said, I use enamel paint for flat pieces.

MHM: How do you typically apply these pigments? Do you prefer brushes or types of interaction with your sculptures? 

SC: I use paint brushes and sometimes my fingers to apply paint

MHM: What is currently inspiring your practice? What contemporary artists do you keep track of, or from whom in history do you draw direction?

SC: Guston. Louise Bourgeois, Arp, Kishio Suga, Yoko Ono are artists I like especially, and also  many fellow artists on these [social media] platforms. Just by having them as an audience, artists here help to push me forward on these platforms and I am so grateful for their time.

MHM: You have recently been working with ceramics, creating figures that address sex, gender, ageism and abuse. Can you expand on any of these topics and how they are affecting your life and practice?

SC: I wanted to use ceramics to address ageism, sexism and abuse, but I am finding I need to use blocks of time to totally address these issues and not have them adjunct my other work. I need all of the work to address each thing to make the work totally coherent. And I may do that at some point but for now I am going to focus on my initial intent which is sculpture and painting. I think the work any woman does will ultimately address these issues because we are a minority and my need to communicate about this will seep back into the dialogue at some level.

MHM: Do you find art to be healing and therapeutic? If so, how do you feel this applies to the healing of others through art forms? 

SC: My work does address sacred therapy because my son passed and I need/needed to communicate about that. I believe art saves lives.  The very act of making is a sacred act, an act of life.

MHM: Do you have a favorite texture or color that appears thematically in these pieces? 

SC: I like yellow. I was thinking about that yesterday - how much I like yellow - but it can come off a bit brassy and loud like a shout. I love pink. It is reminiscent of birth; a mother's body, a baby's body, both pinkish. I love blue. I wonder about heaven when I paint blue.

MHM: Do you write your poems before or after you create a piece of art?

SC: I write poems in my head all of the time

MHM: What are some of your favorite words?

SC: My favorite words are Rebekah, Elijah, Joshua, Nick, Grace, Sky, Gunny and Ger.


In 2003 Susan Carr graduated with a MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and Tufts University with a semester also at Radcliffe. She is a mother of four children and three grandchildren having her first child at sixteen and starting college at eighteen. Susan finished college twenty years later after many stops and starts. Recently there have been challenges that have affected her life, and her children’s lives as well. And because of this her methods in art making has changed. Challenges always stretch and dare a person to live a little more courageously, to try things that perhaps had been too fearsome for some unspecified reason. She is now trying to use these challenges as stepping stones.

Susan’s motto is “What if?” What if is a great idea, as it dares Susan to think bigger and to take on art tasks that would have before dumfounded her. “What if” clarifies the dialogue in her art making giving her definition with methods and materials and confronts perceptions concerning completion in tasks. She is primarily a painter working thickly in oil paint addressing the ideas of sculpture and painting but has recently branched out into enamel to work in a more graphic cartoon like fashion. Susan is also working in ceramic and in both mediums, she is creating figures that address sex, gender, ageism and abuse. There is a push pull in her art as she defies categories working in several media on currently but always first and foremost a painter. Susan Carr is always trying innovative ways of communicating to her audience, she never sets limits on her art or herself and finds artmaking to be the most wonderful salve to any wound. Susan Carr believes in the transformational power of art making. Her favorite artists are Louise Bourgeois, Yoko Ono, Ana Mendieta, Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin to name just a few.



Painting a Poem

by Susan Carr

Painting is the moon and I am starting to howl
Painting floating inside my teacup six in the morning
Painting in dusky fingered roses the sea laps my ankle
Painting on the chalkboard, painting on the test, painting no cheating
Paint me another round and make it ultramarine this time baby
Bottom of the ninth bases are loaded and I'm up to paint
Painting fleshy pink knobby knees up to nose nipple coral red round the top
Painting faster and faster running out of paint
Paint flickers deep on cave wall images of paint in four legs and two
And the wind cries paint
Just one more paint, just one more paint, just one more paint, just one more??
If I only had a bit more paint
In the forest of paint chop wood carry water
Tricky, inclusive, ironic, clumsy, chewy, frenzied, subversive, highbrow, lowbrow, such a brute of talky,
talk talk
Paint is on the menu
Painting next time will be the best time because this painting is almost the one but not quite, not quite
Painting dressed in black without a sound snatching the jewels under the cover of night
I am not old, I am not young I am merely a painter
Painting between two pieces of day old bread instead of glass of milk
Watching painting it is a very good show
Sleepy now will cover myself up in old paintings to keep warm
Hey! how come, you so poor? Painting stole me away
The dream of more paint it started like this.


VOICES [Words I have been confronted with]

by Susan Carr

She shouldn’t her paintings are too small
her work is derivative
her imagery is too simplistic  
She shouldn’t I bet she doesn’t even know the difference between Pop art and Expressionism
She shouldn’t she’s too old
She shouldn’t she’s the wrong class
I don’t think she’s a feminist
She doesn’t fit into our clique
She shouldn’t she doesn’t live in New York City
She shouldn’t she doesn’t live in L.A
She shouldn’t she doesn’t live in Berlin
She shouldn’t she doesn’t have a gallery
she should try for a residency first
She should at least stop posting and give someone else a chance
She shouldn’t hijack the newsfeeds with her work it isn’t fare I’m sick of seeing it
What is she going for World Supremacy?
She shouldn’t go around thinking she’s all butter and honey because I remember a time when she was mustard and sour pickles
She shouldn’t beat her own drum our drum is just fine
She shouldn’t have such a sunny American attitude about her work it’s sickening
where does she get off I wonder? 
She shouldn’t because she doesn’t teach, and teaching is the best profession for artists
She shouldn’t because she has no grasp of art history
she still likes Picasso
She shouldn’t call herself a fine artist when she works in ceramics. Painting and ceramics are two different things. Ceramics is nearly a craft!
she doesn’t fit my mold
we have very high standards here and she doesn’t meet them
her ideas are stale
She shouldn’t, did you see the car she drives? Gas guzzler terrible for the planet
She shouldn’t her colors are too bright like clowns on acid and this is a time of sobriety
Frankly her work doesn’t reflect the moment we are living in
she doesn’t have the resources
her dream is so big it’s annoying
She shouldn’t she should find a brand and stick with that
She shouldn’t be herself its outdated. She should be what I want her to be and then everything would be fine
In fact, she shouldn’t be a woman, if she were a man, things would go better for us
There would be understanding and a sense of camaraderie
Her work would take on new meaning then and I could understand it much better
She shouldn’t have been born female it’s too bad
The work suffers from it
But I believe in the great discovery
In alchemy and magic
In years of work with one small window over my canvas
I have forgotten the calendar and have scattered the numbers
They lay at my feet I ride memory now
Those images are slippery
Soon the next painting will be my best



Mineral House