For almost three decades, Suzanne Caporael has created spare but evocative paintings inspired by the natural world and the human desire to control it. In these palimpsest landscapes, she employs a minimalist aesthetic as the language of suggestion. The allusive shapes occupy quietly contradictory spatial realms, and—as with words in poetry—we encounter shifts in meaning. The richness of color and composition belie the problematic contradiction inherent in a deep love of place also haunted by an underlying narrative of loss.
The paintings’ titles, implicit rather than descriptive, reveal an engagement with such questions. The large, cool blue- infused 719 (D. Balmori island) pays rapturous homage to the recently deceased architect Diana Balmori and her work on phytoremediation (the treatment of environmental problems through the use of plants). 720 (read the spill), with its seven-foot expanse of red, was inspired by the artist’s friend (a NASA scientist) and his daily updates on his exploration of an oil leak that has persisted for over twelve years.
Naturalists say that the purpose of beauty is to call attention to its subject. Caporael concurs, and as a painter since early childhood, she brings the forces of skill and mature intellect to the process. Concise and incisively rendered with simple lines and shapes, her work has been called astonishingly lush.
The subjective experience of attempting to hold one of these deliberately elusive paintings in an aesthetic embrace returns one to the notion of place—and of the painting as a repository of ideas. As Carter Ratcliff writes, Caporael “has invented a pictorial repertory that focuses the generalizing, synthesizing power of abstraction, not on metaphysical absolutes but on the shifting, enveloping world that we experience from moment to moment.”
As noted in The New York Times, “Caporael’s paintings are a curious mix of the aesthetic and the conceptual...the paintings are sensuous and lyrical as well as rigorously formal.” Caporael continues to create paintings that both display and invoke a discipline of thought.