Summer is settling upon Martha’s Vineyard like a picnic blanket atop a hill. As the sun’s rays grow stronger and friends and neighbors flock toward the shore, we are reminded of the awesome power of the sea to motivate and inspire. There is no better time than this moment to reflect upon Susan Swartz’s water paintings – the breadth and depth of which are not to be overlooked.
Susan’s water pieces are impressively diverse. They are bright, they are deep, light seems to reflect and refract within them just as on the surface of the sea. The Water Study series alone is a perfect snapshot of the mood swings of the ocean, capturing the color and movement of water as it flows and rages.
The evolution of the Water Study paintings is progressive. Water Study 1 through 5, are impressionistic, the horizon line is evident as radiant light emanates from the water’s edge. Water Study 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11 are more abstract and capture the rapid movement of lapping waves, bubbling brooks or rolling rivers. Water Study 10 interrupts the progression, returning us to the definitive body of water we were acquainted with before, with the horizon holding out against the motion above and beneath it.
Apart from the stylistic differences, the color changes from one piece to the next are notable and intriguing. The hues of nature are vast and varied, and Susan’s paintings leave no doubt that she embraces a nontraditional and yet realistic representation of the earth, the sky, the air and the water.
Glancing across a bay on a bright, sunny day reveals a scene of iridescent blue in the sky, a deep, resonating blue in the water, perhaps with a horizon line dotted with brilliant green. Looking at Susan’s Water Study paintings you know that she has visited that scene in her mind and in life, but she has dared to see the golden glow of the morning on the same bay, the warm pink tones of dawn. She has also seen the burning reds and oranges of sunset and the turbulent greens and grays that signify great depth below.
We could all appreciate the water in this way, seeing more than what meets the eye on first glance, maybe more so if we spend some time with the Water Study series this summer.