Susanna Coffey in Dialogue about Self-Portraits for Vasari 21

August 23, 2017


Me, Myself, and I Part 2


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American Genre: Contemporary Painting – Maine College of Art

July 23, 2017

The ICA at Maine College of Art is free and open to the public. Wednesday–Sunday 11:00am–5:00pm, Thursday 11:00am–7:00pm, and First Fridays 11:00am–8:00pm.

American Genre: Contemporary Painting

Hope Gangloff, After Party, 2015, acrylic and collage on paper

On view from July 20, 2017 – September 15, 2017
Exhibition Reception: Thursday, July 20, 2017, 5:00–8:00pm

The Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art is pleased to announce American Genre: Contemporary Paintingcurated by artist, writer, and curator Michelle Grabner. Grabner is the Crown Family Professor of Art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

American Genre: Contemporary Painting is an exhibition built on a triad of traditional painting genres: still life, landscape, and portraiture. Fifty-two paintings by fifty-two American artists offers a critical balance to the conditions of atemporality, affected responses, and the material turn shaping much of contemporary painting discourse. Alternatively, this exhibition employs historically recognized groupings of subject and forms. Genres incorporate and invoke structures of knowledge by performing classification. Deeply embedded in everyday life, genre is conspicuous and powerful in its ability to chart historical continuity and differences through its organizing forces.

Artists include: 

Still Life: Gina Beavers, Dana DeGiulio, Wendy Edwards, Francesca Fuchs, Hope Gangloff, Evan Gruzis, Angelina Gualdoni, Magalie Guerin, Jessica Halonen, Jonn Herschend, Tucker Nichols, Aliza Nisenbaum, Walter Robinson, Roger White, Griff Williams, Kelly S. Williams, Emi Winter, Mathew Zefeldt

Portraiture: Herman Aguirre, Lucas Ajemian, Deborah Brown, Kristin Calabrese, Brian Calvin, Susanna Coffey, Angela Dufresne, Andreas Fischer, Howard Fonda, Richard Hull, José Lerma, Keith Mayerson, Frank J. Stockton, Henry Taylor, Storm Tharp, Kehinde Wiley

Landscape: Dan Attoe, Peter Barrickman, Amy Bennett, Michael Berryhill, Patrick Chamberlain, Ann Craven, Paula Crown, Cynthia Daignault, Rackstraw Downes, Mari Eastman, Shara Hughes, Brad Killam, Eva Lundsager, Tyson Reeder, John Riepenhoff, Claire Sherman, Gail Spaien, Spencer Sweeney, Emily Sundblad

This exhibition will include an exhibition catalog that also functions as a genre reader. The exhibition will close with a one-day symposium hosted by Maine College of Art, and featuring a panel discussion moderated by Barry Schwabsky on September 15, 2017.

Due to limited seating, RSVP to the September 15th Symposium by emailing

For more information or to request an interview, please contact Erin Hutton, Director of Exhibitions and Special Projects, Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art (ICA), 207.699.5025 or

Masthead Image: Kelly S. Williams, Crystal Ball Terrarium (detail), 2014, Oil on canvas, 54×32 inches, Courtesy of David Lusk & Carissa Hussong

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Susanna Coffey with Brainard Carey

July 3, 2017

Susanna Coffey

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Catalog from “Going to Ground” at the University of Tulsa (DOWNLOAD BY CLICKING ON CATALOG)

January 23, 2017


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three degrees of latitude

January 22, 2017

My sister Jane Coffey has a new book out!

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 8.33.46 AM


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For WLD at SHFAP January 18 – February 12, 2017

January 16, 2017





works from The William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation

January 18 – February 12 2017

Opening Reception: Wednesday, January 18th, 6-8 pm

steven harvey fine art projects

208 Forsyth Street New York NY 10002


Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects presents a loan exhibition entitled For WLD, an homage to William Louis-Dreyfus, an extraordinary collector who passed away in September 2016. The exhibition includes 18 objects on loan from The William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation, many of which were acquired by him from Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects. Artists included in the show are: Lennart Anderson, Gideon Bok, Chuck Bowdish, James Castle, Susanna Coffey, Tara Geer, Alison Hall, Kurt Knobelsdorf, Stanley Lewis, Sangram Majumdar, Raymond Mason, Catherine Murphy, Graham Nickson, Stephanie Pierce, Eleanor Ray, E.M. Saniga, Beatrice Scaccia, and Stuart Shils. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog with texts by Steven Harvey, Fred Bancroft, Alison Hall, Beatrice Scaccia and Eleanor Ray. The exhibition has been organized by Steven Harvey and Fred Bancroft.


William Louis-Dreyfus was described by Karen Wilkin in Hyperallergic, “as a passionate lover of art, an eager collector, a published poet, a committed supporter of the underprivileged, a defender of social justice, a lover of trees, an ecologist, a fruit farmer, a maker of excellent preserves, and a plain-spoken, unpretentious man of ineffable, self-deprecating charm – among many other things.”

Dreyfus was born in Paris in 1932. He moved to America with his mother in 1940. He studied law at Duke University. He was the Chief Executive Officer of the Louis-Dreyfus Group. He began collecting art in the early 1960s, gathering works that were diverse yet encyclopedic. Today, his collection includes over 3,500 objects by some 170 different artists. His collection is held in a beautifully renovated warehouse in Mount Kisco open to visitors by appointment. One of the missions of the Foundation is to teach visitors the importance of finding new, emerging, and self-taught artists. In 2014, Dreyfus was awarded the Robert Mills Architect Medal from The Smithsonian American Art Museum. Also during that year he received an Advancement of American Art Award from the National Academy Museum and School.


The works in this exhibition consist primarily of small format paintings and drawings, many of the which were acquired by Dreyfus from Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects. Dreyfus believed in the continuing relevance of traditional subjects in contemporary art including the figure, still life, interior, and landscape. The works chosen here expand the conception of what is traditional and what is new in contemporary painting. They are characterized by the obsessive observational work and a lush painterly quality apparent in Gideon Bok, Sangram Majumdar, Catherine Murphy, and E.M. Saniga. Elements of visionary art are evident in Chuck Bowdish’s tiny figure by the shore watercolor and James Castle’s ragged farmhouse interior. Dreyfus’s interest in contemporary landscape may be seen in Stuart Shils’s vaporous Italian hilltown, Graham Nickson’s early 70’s roman sunset, Eleanor Ray’s snowy window scene and Stephanie Pierce’s fragmentary window sill.


The gallery will be closed on January 20th in observation of the J20 general strike, acknowledging William Louis Dreyfus’s anti-voter suppression activism.


Please contact the gallery at or 917-861-7312 for further information or images.

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Review of “Outside In” in Hyperallergic by John Yau

December 23, 2016


Susanna Coffey, “Late Snow” (2015), spray paint on panel, 36 x 27 inches


“….One of the interesting things about “Snow Blind” is that you feel as if you are looking at something and nothing. Wallace Stevens begins his poem “The Snowman” (1954) with one of the great first lines:


One must have the mind of winter….”


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Outside In: Andrea Belag, Susanna Coffey, Elliott Green, Stephanie Pierce, Eleanor Ray November 30 – December 31, 2016

December 23, 2016


Outside In is an exhibition of five painters whose work explores the tensions between spaces. Andrea Belag does this with a reductive painterly vocabulary, where physical movements of color demarcate one space, and provide entry into another. Susanna Coffey makes portraits that verge on abstraction: melding her depiction of the person with his or her interior life, and a fictional landscape space. Elliott Green’s work is characterized by a feeling that disparate elements and means are combined into an unlikely, but synthesized, whole. Stephanie Pierce shows us, simultaneously, interior space, exterior space, and the in-between of reflections on the window. In Eleanor Ray’s paintings, depictions of doorways or framed views give us access to two worlds, with together feel like a dream-space.

Andrea Belag studied at Bard College, Boston University, and the New York Studio School, and has been a faculty member at the School of Visual Arts, New York, since 1995. She is known for her abstractions where liquid, saturated color is applied with a broad, transparent stroke. She uses a variety of tools, including custom made, wide brushes, rags, knifes, and spatulas. Recently, she has been painting on wood panels, and allowing the surface and grain of the wood to become an element in the work. A solo exhibition of her work was held at DCKT Contemporary in 2014. The title of her painting “Krushenick (After Hokusai)” is a testament to how diverse visual sources and suggestions of varied emotional states can inform one, very immediate, direct painting.

Susanna Coffey studied at Yale University and is the F.H. Sellers Professor in Painting at the School of the Art Institute, Chicago. She is known for her portraits and self-portraits, and also works across the genres of still-life and landscape. In recent work, she has utilized spray painting with stencils, to explore the ideas of masking, symmetry, mirroring, and abstract signifiers. “Late Snow” is densely worked, with a blue-white form, textured like snow-covered earth, but also suggesting a ghostlike, obscured head and face. She has been the subject of two solo exhibitions at SHFAP, in 2012 and 2014.

Elliott Green studied at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and lives in upstate New York. He was the G in Team ShaG, a collaborative art trio with Amy Sillman and David Humphrey. But even his solo work can feel like collaboration with himself: as biomorphic forms, knifed swaths of paint, and cartoony, graphite-drawn characters all converge in an Asian-feeling landscape space. Solo exhibitions of his work have been presented by D’Amelio Terras and Postmasters Gallery. This is the first time the artist’s work is being shown at SHFAP.

Eleanor Ray studied at Amherst College and the New York Studio School. She is known for small paintings (often 4 x 6 inches or 5 x 7 inches) of places and spaces she has visited and photographed. The studio of the artist (hers and others – for example, Donald Judd and Cézanne), and the depiction of other art are subjects of ongoing investigation. Her precise, clear mark, and specificity of light, gives the paintings clarity and resonance that extends way beyond their literal size. At the same time, the painterly gesture and the way they are cropped makes them feel like portals into dreamscapes. In this exhibition, she includes paintings of a barn-studio she occupied during a residency in Montauk, Long Island; Iceland landscapes; and museum rooms with Mondrian paintings.

Stephanie Pierce was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and studied at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her paintings — of rooms, windows, textiles, and plants (outside and in) — are composed of a multitude of small marks and shards of color, each one distinct. It is a record of a devotional, patient form of looking, translated into a painterly process of responding, accruing, and removing. The resulting paintings feel like an almost magical synthesis of light, time, place, and surface – shimmering and in constant flux.



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An Interview with Rich Fisher on Tulsa Public Radio

December 23, 2016


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Going to Ground at the University of Tulsa School of Art

November 1, 2016



The exhibition “Going to Ground” includes over 40 paintings from over the past 30 years. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue featuring this essay by Jennifer Samet

Figure in Place: Paintings by Susanna Coffey

by Jennifer Samet


The recent work of Susanna Coffey synthesizes multiple dichotomies, including figure and ground; abstraction and representation; life and death; beauty and violence; male and female; skin and interiority; masking and individuality.


Three paintings in the exhibition are representations of Coffey’s late father.  The earliest work in the show is “My Father is Sometimes a Mystery” (1980). This phrase is scrawled as text at the bottom of the painting.  Her father’s face is shown in a form resembling a waning moon.  The right half is in shadow, melting into dark painting ground. “Edwin R. Coffey” (2003) is a frontal portrait of her father, his head and shoulders set against a camouflage-patterned ground.  The painting “Late Snow”(2012-15), although seemingly abstract, was inspired by a memory-vision of her father in a field.


Other paintings are more oblique, yet poignant references to her father. “Dad’s Camo Poncho” (1999) is a self-portrait, also with camouflage-patterned ground. More generally, Coffey’s explorations of landscape are rooted in childhood experience.  Her father was involved in developing and building roads, so Coffey moved frequently with her family, and wandered through countryside that would have otherwise been inaccessible.


Coffey’s paintings become investigations of the inherent problem of portraiture: the capturing of likeness, versus showing “lifelikeness” – the spirit or feeling of a person. Coffey has continued to grapple with this question.  She has taken it to the extreme of representing person and place in an entirely tactile and visual way — through the matter of paint itself, rather than image or text.  They are metaphysical portraits.


Coffey probes the questions of difference between a person’s external and internal life, what remains hidden from sight, our connections to larger societal identity, what we become after death, our spiritual presence versus our material one.


In the last few years, Coffey has engaged with two media: acrylic spray painting using stencils, and slower-paced oil paintings. Her newest paintings bridge the media.  This is one aspect of the idea of “Going to Ground” (the title of the current exhibition), where portraits are allowed to dissolve into ground and matter – visual manifestations of “dust to dust, ashes to ashes.”


In “Ringers” (2016), Coffey merges the two modes of painting within one portrait.  A self-portrait in a backwards baseball cap is vertically mirrored by a vertebrae-like formation, rising from the more naturalistic head. It becomes the mask-twin to the self-portrait. Coffey used an enlarged ink-jet print of one of her spray-painted, stencil pieces to work from, to create the ground around the portrait, and the mask-twin.


“Late Snow” is densely worked, with a centrally and symmetrically placed blue-white form, textured like snow-covered earth. At the lower corners and sides we see touches of green and red peeking out from below.  The painting has a “spine” – a subtle vertical line of whiter-white.   It might represent a part of the landscape – the top of a small hill, or a path running through a field.  However, the white line can also be read as a nasal skeleton, so that the painting reveals a ghostlike, obscured head and face.


These spinal, vertical forms can be found in several of Coffey’s paintings – the stencil works and also the more naturalistic portraits.  They suggest common markers between human and non-human beings – skeletons, gene structures, and replicating strands of DNA.  They suggest connections that run deeper than our daily lives.


Coffey recognizes that the visual flood we experience in our image-saturated culture puts us constantly in the position of existing in two places at once. Imaging figure and place is an opportunity to be in a place we are not. Here, that alternate place is metaphysical.  It transcends the image we project of ourselves in the world, the surfaces we willingly share, and what we know of another.


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