Susan Blackwood

What's Happening, 2012
16 x 20 in
For many years I have been aware, as an artist, "I" don't find my subject to paint, it finds "me." As I paint, I am always painting for someone I don't yet know, or may never know. As I make each stroke, I am painting for myself but I am also aware that I am painting for someone else in the world. Someone in the future, when this painting is hanging somewhere or is seen online, someone will feel the passionate feelings I have painted and know it is "theirs." In 2012, I felt compelled to paint this image. I positioned my model with this questioning, startled look as she stood at the window. She is caught off guard, maybe seeing something that she didn't expect. In my mind she was standing at the window; looking outside, maybe her gaze was on the birds or squirrels... but was it? I passionately painted this young lady, yet all the while I was creating it, this image felt uncomfortable to me. When I paint, I always express my feelings in my images, but this painting does not seem about me. Somehow, it felt like I was expressing someone else's feelings. Flash forward eight years, I have kept this painting in my own collection, but I have never found a title that fit. To my surprise, now I understand this painting. I wasn't expressing myself in 2012, and I was somehow expressing my future self and my feelings in 2020, now living through this awful worldwide pandemic. As I have gone through the various stages of this pandemic, the overwhelming feelings that I have experienced are exactly the emotions I feel when I look at this painting now. I am finally identifying with my painting. It feels as if I was inspired to create this painting in 2012 for my future self: my future self experiencing this pandemic in 2020. This painting was painted, not for me then, but for me now. Now I understand this painting and I now relate to this painting. We have all been through quarantine, watched the numbers climb, many hospitalized and many lost loved ones. We have stayed inside our homes. We have had so many unanswered questions, not sure what to believe or trust, feeling locked inside like prisoners behind bars (symbolized here by the bars on the window), all the time searching and searching (symbolized by the binoculars) the internet and TV for news of what is happening to our friends, family and our world. Our worlds have come to a startling halt. We feel incredibly isolated, alone, terrified of coming in contact with the germs of this virus. We have so many questions and behind all of our questions is fear. In our innocence (symbolized by the young woman in the white dress), we stand at the windows of the world and feel helpless. Our lives are changed forever.