Big Question

Is Perspective a Matter of Surroundings?

Susan Rothenberg gains an exterior point of view

There are few paintings that come fast and sharp. I’m interested in this idea of looking down at a scene to get a different perspective within the painting. I’m sure I got that from Matisse. I can’t say what makes me say, “that’s wrong, that stays, that goes, this should be longer.” Sitting there and looking and going, “I have to do something, and do something, and then do something else,” that’s how a painting gets made.

My walks and the geography here inform my angle of vision—the creek bed, the arroyos. Some times, while walking in the creek, I can’t see the tower of power clouds because the cliffs cut them off, and other times I’m on the top walking along and looking down into these bays and meadows that have resulted through erosion of the creek bed. It inspired a whole series of other paintings where I deliberately used different perspectives. Mysteriously, there was a dead cow in the creek once, which I saw from about forty feet above—which became the painting Galisteo Creek. So I’ve taken what I learned from being outside and brought it into the interior scenes of my life. I want to have a sense of where I’ll be going, but not know what the image will be. Where you start is the biggest problem.

Susan Rothenberg

Original interview conducted by Susan Sollins in New Mexico, 2005.