Artist Susan La Mont captures the quiet moments in everyday life with her wonderful oil paintings. Visit her website to see more of her artwork.
We’re all fascinated with stories: what’s going on around us, what are other people doing and how does their experience relate to our own? While cable television has much to answer for in the dumbing-down of the populace, the current fascination with reality shows bears me out on this point.
I come from a family that has a strong story-telling tradition, with uncles and cousins who can spin a yarn at the drop of a hat. I’m not gifted with their verbal abilities, but I like a good story as well as anyone, and at some point realized that what I was doing with my paintings was unconsciously creating my own narratives, but visually, rather than orally.
Much of my influence has come from an appreciation of the great genre painters of the past. The slice-of-life works by artists such as Vermeer hold our attention with depictions of ordinary people in the business of going about their lives, and even centuries later we recognize these quiet moments and find we can relate to them.
I feel it’s important to document the stories of our time: incidents of grace and beauty, our struggle to keep up with technology, the diversity of our great culture, celebrations of life, the appreciation of the natural world and fashion and its influence. All these and more reveal our humanity and connect us not only to each other but also to generations past.
Many of the scenes I paint involve light in a way that focuses our attention on the main element of the painting, or becomes an allegorical symbol. A bartender, for example, uses light for clarification while the man on the television behind him tries to tell him something questionable.
The shadow on a museum wall from a woman’s gesture creates a focal point not unlike the handprints made 30,000 years ago in the caves of Lascaux.
The warmth of candlelight on a dessert in a restaurant signifies the loving atmosphere at a family member’s birthday celebration.
A spotlight illuminates a lone diner and emphasizes his temporary solitude (a second coffee cup on the table reveals the fact that he has a companion nearby).
Stories like these sometimes become springboards for the imagination. Upon seeing “Navigating the Stones,” (an image of a young man wading in shallow water), a viewer once told me she was certain she knew the story behind it, and had renamed the painting “The Jilted Bridegroom” in her mind. Time and again I’ve had people tell me embellishments of the stories I’ve painted that are completely different from my original intention. I find it fascinating that art seems to be like a mirror when hearing these tales. We each bring our own life experiences to art, and see the work through our own lens.
News programs show that there are forces that are— for their own selfish ends— trying to create divisions among us and tear us apart; I hope that my work will illustrate the common experiences that unite us.