Elemental art from the inner worldPosters by Susan Brown prefigure the August Arts Walk.

"When artist Susan Brown could not see the physical world, she had to look to the world of the imagination. Now, the two visions unite in a series of paintings Brown exhibits during the Aug. 5 Arts Walk, also on view as Arts Walk's poster art.It's the first public showing of her work since Brown suffered a debilitating eye illness that lasted three years.During the periods when my eyes were too painful to open, my creative energy - which would not shut off - turned to my inner world, she said. "

  • Saturday, July 21, 2001 7:00pm
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“When artist Susan Brown could not see the physical world, she had to look to the world of the imagination. Now, the two visions unite in a series of paintings Brown exhibits during the Aug. 5 Arts Walk, also on view as Arts Walk’s poster art.It’s the first public showing of her work since Brown suffered a debilitating eye illness that lasted three years.During the periods when my eyes were too painful to open, my creative energy – which would not shut off – turned to my inner world, she said.For months, Brown sat in a darkened room in a meditative state as mental images formed the personal and transpersonal explorations that became part of the healing process. Over time, she recovered her sight. She adjusted to the visual challenges and earned a graduate degree; her studies – depth psychology, the world’s wisdom traditions and the creative process – were inspired, in part, by her illness.The ability to make art also returned.The paintings represented on the poster took six months to complete.The images – Earth, Air, Fire and Water – depict the four elements essential to life on our planet, Brown says.They are archetypes retrieved from the private imaginings that Brown calls interior landscapes, manifest imagination and tangible visions. I was not interested in realism, Brown said. Instead, I searched for stylized, symbolic images. Those four elements sustain life on our planet and I really wanted to honor them. Being a woman, I gave them feminine faces. It’s my human imagination’s representation.While the insights that inform Brown’s work may have been deepened by her temporary blindness, artmaking has been a life-long pursuit.After earning a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1968, Brown worked as an illustrator and graphic designer. She spent many years casting paper to form sculptures. She also taught art to both children and adults.Then she became ill.Now Brown works again with both children and adults to foster their creativity and skill. There are a lot of people who find their creativity has never blossomed, she said. Making art can be a threatening process.For Brown, though, making art is a delight rediscovered, as she realizes work that is the distillation of the gifts of her illness.Where I am in my life is feeling just an incredible joy that I am here, she said. The paintings express my gratitude for the power and grace of that which sustains life, our lives, here and now on this small speck of a planet spinning in space. “

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