Susan A Christie
THE PLAY OF LIGHT ON WATER REPRESENTS THE MEETING OF TWO INVISIBLE elemental entities. Science, time and again, uses the movements of the most essential of liquids as a metaphor for light, while the brilliant, elusive beauty of H2O’s transparent, formless reflectivity is best grasped through means of illumination. Water captures and holds light (and heat) in ways that no other substance on earth does. Water is the main vehicle for our bodies. Fully fluid from birth to death, we deny our lack of solidity every bit as much as we pretend that we are rational rather than emotional creatures. Associated naturally with the conjoined psychic seas of creativity, procreativity, sexuality, and madness, water is the birthplace of the goddess of love, just as our mother’s inland ocean of embryonic fluid is for mere mortals. Water is our ontology and our destiny, evolutionarily, empirically, and metaphysically. Who and what we are, how we live, where we come from, where we’re going, how we’ll get there, and how we’ll feel, well over two-thirds of the answer is almost always water.
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, located between the Elephant Butte Lake recreation area and the still-getting-off-the-ground Spaceport, having recently received a new grant from the state, is heating up as the premier gotta-get-there destination in the region, if not (yet) the world, for geothermal hydrotherapy. In other words, if maxing the relaxing of your hot springs satisfaction is the goal (tape it to your mirror) you got no excuses. Naturally superhot, boasting an incredible range of soothing and beneficial minerals, having no vile sulphuric odor, and having been used for ceremonial chillaxation continuously by natives of the continent for millennia, these springs are as therapeutically redemptive as a journey to the underworld and back, minus the stress.
If high is your style, stay perhaps at the lovely Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa, built in 1929, listed on the national historic register, and fully restored in 2006. Recently purchased by Ted Turner, the place is steeped in blissful peace and tranquility with large indoor, outdoor, and in-room pools of sumptuous steam and sparkle. The staff is attentive and the architecture ennobles. The hotel brochure states synchronistically that the ancient ones of the region referred to the springs as the “place of truth” long before the early fifties media stunt when Hot Springs reclaimed and renamed itself after the game show (pre-Bob Barker) in exchange for hosting a program broadcast. Truth is in the water.
Truth for Susan Christie is liquid, too, in a good way. Her career retrospective at the bedrock gallery of T or C, Rio Bravo Fine Art (originally artist-founded by Joe Waldrum and generously kept afloat after his death by Eduardo Alicea who inherited and directs the gallery), flows seamlessly into her recent collaborative dialogue with glass artist Deborah Klezmer. The two artists’ works share surprising organic qualities of color, form, reflection, and construction, and their exhibition together is enlightening. Christie’s artistic career involves a decades-long obsession with Asian brush painting pursued with numerous Japanese and Chinese teachers here in the United States, and ultimately in China, too. The best work in the show comes out of her incorporation of the knowledge of this tradition. All painting involves the skillful control of liquidity, though as anyone who has painted for a time knows, control is the wrong word here. Collaboration not only between artists, but also between the artist and her materials, is the key.
Finding the space where the inks, paints, papers, words, or whatever can do what they want while also somehow doing what you want them to do is the meditation.
Christie’s black-and-white light on water running down rocks pieces, made through aleatoric procedures similar to those employed by Santa Fe–based artist Zachariah Rieke succeed. Cascade is especially brilliant at balancing abstract mark making with suggestive landscape depiction, a là Chinese ink painting traditions while producing a stunning work of contemporary art. But her most recent works on paper in the Pentimento series demonstrate a new freedom and confidence. They harmonize elegantly with Klezmer’s liquid-lace glass bowls. These colorful abstractions can also be read as bright zips of sunlight spinning atop a deep horizonless watery surface.
The morning sun flashes ten million times atop each ever-so-slightly reverberating rise of clear water. Ten million suns slip into a white-hot dance of instant, erratic liquidity upon contact with the warm, transparent surface. Smoothly, swiftly enter their current. Swoop, turn, spiral, and disappear into that vast inner part of yourself. Sink your soul into the liquid center of the planet and empty out your head among the stars. These slippery, white-hot, undulating highlights on the glass surface of the water are your open invitation; an invitation people have accepted since humankind began to flow. —Jon Carver, THE Magazine April 2014