An interview with artist Susan Lizotte

Seeking Treasure, Oil and Spray Paint on canvas 40×60 inches

Let’s get right to it. The body of work you are currently producing has an important story and message. Can you tell us the origins of this work?

There is dyslexia in my family and I was curious about Autism, what is it that creates that shift to the right that is so devastating. Some of my friends have children with Autism and that frustrated me. I read Mark Blaxill’s book The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine and a Man Made Epidemic and I had my inspiration. His book tells the story of mercury in a historical setting which I felt I could parallel in paint. Painting what I wanted to say and being able to mine art history to do it was very appealing!


What sparked your interest in the issues of abuse of power, control, information, mercury and mythology?

As I investigated the misuse of mercury I found I was actually looking at much deeper issues, so it all came together pretty organically. I took a lot of time to research mercury’s use/misuse over the centuries. It did become on it’s own an intriguing story of power and control and greed.


Have you always focused on political and social issues in your work?

No I did not start with politics at all! I was painting a lot of landscapes, mostly just because I loved the colors.


1500, oil on canvas, 40 x 60
1500, oil on canvas, 40 x 60 inches


Tell me about your art career? When did you first realize you wanted to be/were an artist?

I’ve always loved art but as a child I thought that you could only paint from your memory. When I discovered that looking at something and painting from observation wasn’t “cheating”, then I was off to the races!


What is your daily painting schedule like?

I have a studio downtown and I usually paint at least three or four days a week. When my kids are in school I paint every day. Summer is a bit more laid back.


Three Primaries, Oil on Canvas 30x48 inches
Three Primaries, Oil on Canvas 30×48 inches


How would you describe your technical/formal artistic approach?

I collage (with paper and scissors) my ideas out and play with composition ideas. If I love it then I’ll start painting off of my collage. Then usually I paint other paintings riffing with the same idea, only in different ways. Some work some don’t! Each painting has it’s own color scheme and most of my Mercury series paintings share a very specific color palette, which I feel is important to the work.


What’s your philosophy on the nature of the painting today? What do you think it fulfills within society and what should its purpose be?

I only know how I personally feel about those questions. Painting to me seems alive and well. Painting makes us feel what the artist felt, great painting gives an emotional response. It’s purpose is to remind us of our humanity.


Edge, 48 x 30 oil on canvas
Edge, 48 x 30 oil on canvas


When someone sees your work, what do you hope they will grasp about the paintings?

I hope they see beauty within a bigger dialog!


What was the best advice given to you as an artist? 

You have to be willing to fail if you want to make a good painting, being able to risk failing is what will allow you to succeed.


What materials would you like to explore in the future?

I would love to work with real parchment (as in the animal skin) and I’d love to work with more linen!


Anghiari, 30 x 48, charcoal and oil on canvas
Anghiari, 30 x 48, charcoal and oil on canvas


What are you passionate about besides your work?

I’m passionate about my four children and spending as much time as possible with them before they are all grown up and leave. I was adopted and I treasure my own children!!


What advice would you give to artists working today?

I would encourage them to stay close to each other, to collaborate and network together as much as possible. Each artist might want to be an art star but even more opportunity comes from groups.


Divine Right  oil and spray paint on canvas 40 x 60
Divine Right oil and spray paint on canvas 40 x 60


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