Chicago

Susan Michod

Artemesia Gallery

In Susan Michod’s paintings—“metaphors to my feminism”—overlapping ribbon-shapes are juxtaposed, inverted, and turned inside out with few, if any, individually oriented boundaries. Shimmery close color-values cancel distance between figure and ground. Isometric perspective eliminates hierarchic structure and position. No particular unit excels as visual master.

A traditional climactic composition would arrange subordinate details around some unexpected, odd appearance, number, structure, or proportion. But in feminist terms, this mastery would symbolize an overactive personal control, possibly extended to a tyranny over others. Michod’s structuring, though still a system, replaces an internal Big Boot with an egalitarian Having Things in Common.

Making paintings is, in the first place, a fundamentally assertive gesture. An internal network might symbolize—as Michod’s PR puts it—“an absence of absolutes in our culture”—but the culmination of a lot of equal-stress, continually repeated notes is in itself an intense climax. And with not too much diligence, Michod as person can be detected in her work. The meticulous technique, whimsical detail, and symbolic content are her own. The baby-block quilt motif gives her work a non-slick, non-mass-produced effect. The trim-like, decorative detail, so often considered pleasant but incapable of anything solid or essential, does introduce an opinionated metaphor for coexisting rationality and whim. Candy-stripes in a military regiment: a fine paradox.

Eventually, Michod’s overall group-order wins: her individual details, personal technique, and pivotal climax all depend upon the regimental pattern—no confusion, no counterpressure, no dissociation. All ambiguous relationships with qualities of individuality are subordinate; the eye is carried by equal-stress commands from bouncing color-juxtaposition to flip-flopping perspective to regular rebound to collapse. Sheer density of lovee-dovee detail says, “KEEP OUT!”

Only one of Michod’s paintings moves away from regimentation. In this work, a focus on detail is precipitated, rows of enlarged structural pieces become eye-orienting motifs, variety starts to offset order, and the artist does not entirely close us off.

––C. L. Morrison