Susan de Witt: STARK Melissa Horton
here is something inherently beautiful about a woman’s figure, especially when all outside influences and elaborations are taken away. We are left with a curvy form—and our imagination. The possibilities of what we are able to create in our own minds relating to that form are nearly endless. Susan de Witt in her series, STARK, potrays the power of this phenomenon and the artistic oblivion that is traveled when invoking a single, beautiful subject, devoid of all extraneous context. STARK was birthed from curiosity rooted in the mind of a young child—the need to understand and be embraced by the adult world on a deep and intimate level. De Witt speaks intently of the curious nature of her youth, specifically reminiscences of the glamorous—and equally mysterious—cocktail parties her parents would attend, both inside their home and in others’. She has fond memories of watching her parents transform into host and hostess, dressed, appropriately, to the nines. De Witt distinctly recalls the small booklet that her father referenced when making drinks for their guests. A handheld cocktail bible, the booklet illustrated not only recipes for adult beverages, but angular black and white graphic drawings of party goers enjoying those drinks, with detailed images of women drenched in elegance wearing gloves and hats and long flowing dresses. Those images that de Witt studied for so long began her love for lith printing, and the subject matter of her early memories emerge in this series.
Billy in Lace Dress 2013
The same curiosity that kept de Witt intrigued as a youngster has stayed with
her through adulthood. It can be witnessed in each of her bodies of work, as there is an inherent challenge posed as it relates to lith printing as well as black and white development. Each of the pieces in the work exemplify the artist’s need to explore the range of possibilities when details in the negative are removed. Simple outlines are highlighted beautifully, creating an ethereal space in which the viewer can determine for him/herself what it is he/she is viewing. Lith printing allows for overexposure to create drastic dark and light opposites, a process de Witt is clearly well versed and comfortable in. This graphic version of printing permits the artist to relay her message, even if the content is ultimately left to the imagination of the viewer. For example, in “Billy in Lace Dress” passion is difficult to escape. The brunette’s seemingly half-shut eyes, her elongated neckline, accompanied well by the deep plunge of the model’s lace dress, leads to an internal longing in the viewer. The journey from face to body is effortless, beautifully and simplistically so, and creates a safe space for the viewer’s mind to wander from lust to pure adoration for the shadowy, black and white form. The subject of this particular piece is not “Billy,” but a universal woman with a perfectly proportioned silhouette, and, generally, pleasing body form. The contrasts of light and dark push the viewer into a deeper sense of who this woman is—an understanding that she is beautifully unreachable yet somehow equally available to those who may be able to meet her needs. Paradoxically, the more control the art-
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