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Susan Gersch-Supanich's Venice at The Dog Pit

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Susan Gersch-Supanich’s vibrant paintings of Venice offer an edge beyond surface and content.

/Susan Gersch-Supanich

Underwriting support from:

by Shelly Arnold, Hope College student

Exaggerated colors virtually explode from the canvases of artist Susan Gersch-Supanich’s Venetian Waters collection. Certain observers were mildly surprised to find that the medium was oil paint, not oil pastel—a drawing medium. “The colors grabbed me from the get-go,” explained Heather Nickels of Grand Rapids in response to one of Gersch-Supanich’s sunsets. Nickels indicated she had never before seen that palette of colors employed to describe a setting sun over water. Another observer knew exactly where she would like to hang it in her own home. As per her ArtPrize statement, inspiration for the series was a trip to Venice where she perceived her surroundings as something akin to an “adult Disneyworld.” This provides a context for understanding her choice of highly saturated colors.

Although ‘The Dog Pit’ may seem an unlikely venue, the series was suitably displayed against a wall painted vibrant burnt orange just inside the entrance. The artist’s choice of dark frames complimented the works and matched the venue’s woodwork. Viewers can easily meander in and out without affecting hungry patrons ordering their choice of ‘dog.’ 

Gersch-Supanich’s depiction of sky and water are intensely vibrant, but tempered by their juxtaposition of medium to dark earth tones within the compositions as well as her choice of single point illumination. The artist’s employment of blurry demarcation, and informal snapshot compositions are reminiscent of Impressionist Claude Monet’s paintings of Venice. 

While most comments from the viewers were positive, there was something incongruous about the Venetian drawings. The artist indicates that the sensorial intensity of Venice’s art, music, food and cobblestone streets with “things to do at every turn.” The exhibited series fails to fully convey the artist's envisioned “adult Disneyworld." There is little to no activity in the landscapes, and the occasional gondolier does not engage with each other or the viewer. It is only upon engaging with the work beyond the formal elements like the animated vibrant colors, that this slightly haunting disparity is revealed. That being said, there were other works by Gersch-Supanich at the venue, not part of the official ArtPrize submissions, whose subject matter seemed more appropriately matched with her use of vibrant color.

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