Susan Bartlett Rice’s work will be featured at our 2015 Art of Giving Gala, September 17 in Portland.
Susan Bartlett Rice’s realist paintings mostly depict small town and country life — the woods, birds, boats, harbors, fishermen, and villages of midcoast Maine. Though Rice cites the brooding paintings of Edward Hopper as one of her primary influences, her Maine is colorful, sunny, and upbeat. A Massachusetts native, she and her family moved to Walpole, Maine, when she was a teenager. She studied art at the University of Vermont and California College of Art, then she worked at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Rhode Island School of Design Museum. In 2003, she moved back to Walpole to raise a family, farm, and paint.
How did working for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in your 20s influence you as an artist?
Traveling as a courier with these famous paintings was like being on the road with rock stars. I met Robert Rauschenberg and worked on exhibitions with Jasper Johns and Sol Lewitt. I learned so much about modern art and was able to study the original works of many great modern painters up close.
What inspires you as a painter?
My winter body of work for the past few years has been primarily large scale paintings of bare-branched trees, most of which are visible from my house or studio. In the warmer seasons, almost any subject matter is fair game — the chicken in my yard, gear on a dock. or radishes from the garden. I enjoy painting in my own small town over and over. I immediately notice when someone re-shingles their roof or paints their house, because I have painted the same places from different angles so many times.
Your Art of Giving painting, Good Morning, Portland, is 48 x 60 inches. Do you always paint this large?
I used to paint on sugar packets, Altoid boxes, and matchbooks while traveling. As my life settled down, my work became larger in scale and more representational. Most of my work now is 30 x 30 or 36 x 36, but I like working larger. It feels like you are in the painting when you’re painting it.
How did you happen to paint a rooftop view of Portland?
This specific painting came from the view out my window at Maine Medical Center, where I stayed while having my youngest daughter. I was adjusting to a brand new baby and all that that entails. And at the same time I felt compelled to sketch and photograph my view. The hospital window framed the outside world to me as the perfect composition for a new painting. It is a sentimental painting to me and fitting for the Art of Giving.