“So . . . it’s the Queen of England, holding a wishbone and swimming in a bowl of alphabet soup?” I ask visual artist Susan Mulcahy, offering a faux interpretation of her charcoal piece Magic Garden. Although we joke about far-reaching analyses of abstract art, Mulcahy’s Color of Black series on view at LeQuire & Company is far from trivial. In the scope of thirty drawings, Mulcahy boasts elegant charcoal works that encourage the audience to engage with each piece through their own exploration rather than under the umbrella of a dictated theme.
A practicing artist and arts professor who has shown in venues including Cheekwood, the Parthenon Museum, and the Tennessee State Museum, Mulcahy has an established technique and process. Although she began working twenty-five years ago with a focus on printmaking, she transitioned into drawing with charcoal in the early stages of her career and has been working in black-and-white ever since.
“I like charcoal because it’s so immediate,” says Mulcahy. “Charcoal seems delicate, fragile, and simple, but out of this fragility there is endless texture, structure, and movement.”
Mulcahy begins each piece with relation to her mood or surrounding environment rather than with a predetermined final image in mind. She adds velvety strokes and mottled shapes, then erases marks with a smudge of her wrist, run of the vacuum, or splash from the garden hose. Her process of creation and subtraction produces full-bodied, complex works whose abstract themes are left to the viewer’s interpretation.
“I am having a conversation with the artwork,” says Mulcahy, “I cannot tell you what the end result will be. When people look at my finished work they respond to it in ways I haven’t even thought about. My pieces are ambiguous enough for the viewer to find what they will see.”
Visit Mulcahy’s Color of Black, on view at LeQuire & Company from January 9 to February 9. The artist’s reception will be held on Friday, January 11, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
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