Susanne Doremus Road Trip (1996)
Oil on Canvas 65.0 x 79.0 x 0.0
University Club of Chicago

Doremus road trip

A professor of painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Doremus is known for hints of representation within her larger abstractions, which have calligraphic elements at times. Her parallel use of of location and dislocation has been a key element of Doremus’ abstractions for decades, in some cases integrating early moments in her life and career.

Doremus notes that she often starts with a clear image or subject: “Photographs of my studio, images collected from newspapers or T.V., or thoughts about a particular version of abstraction give focus and attention.” Additionally, she has been known to use current events as a starting point for some of her works, including explicit images of protesters in the middle east. This approach allows Doremes to create strong visual works that are inspired by life and events without forcing her to make literal or specific references to her inspirations.

Road Trip (1996) is an oil on canvas work from the latter stages of Doremus’ career. The linear, abstract quality of her earlier work is present, but in Road Trip Doremus creates a terrain of varying density, open space, and light and colorful lines.

These formal qualities come together to create a whimsical canvas of winding and bending abstractions. The focal point of the composition is in the upper left corner of the canvas where densely layered lines, shapes, and colors of paint create a concentrated web of activity.

From the left corner, lines and patterns radiate outward across the rest of the canvas and begin to fade away with an organic lightness into the right side and corners of the canvas.

The dense left corner does not directly reference any specific images, but the winding shapes and layers of lines that disseminate outward evoke a feeling of viewing an illogical map of jumbled roads, directions, and landscapes. This map reference is most evident in the upper right edge of the canvas where a light blue linear structure suggests a simplified representation of a bridge.

The bridge fades into a light blue stroke of paint that bleeds vertically down the canvas, which pulls the attention back to the surface and material quality of the painting. The background of the canvas is built with washes of varying warm off- white, light orange, pink, grey, and blue hues.

The background is non-descript and at times, as seen in the upper right corner of the canvas, a horizontal paint stroke bleeds and drips down the painting. This highlights Doremus’ mark, and the importance of surface across the overall artwork.

The balance between lines, space, color, and texture enhances the airy and loose quality of the overall composition. In this, Doremus’ career-long exploration of abstraction and formal composition becomes a personal signature on the canvas, allowing the viewer to ponder and experience each mark of line, shape and color.

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