Confessions of a Florentine Pet Sitter

Self-portrait in black and white on canvas.
Self-portrait in black and white.

 “She” is a large painting done while I was in graduate school. It is black and white gesso on stretched canvas. Stalled on ideas for my thesis project, it was a product of frustration, a self-portrait done at a time when I had no concept for my big project.  It and another self-portrait painting in red and black sidetracked my mind for a short while.

It is also a product of, and testament to, my unhappiness during my first year in grad school. Having left friends behind in Chico, I had moved to San Jose, fought difficult, stressful traffic and parking situations on a daily basis, and to make my life less stressed, I simplified a few decisions – I wore black for an entire year! I wore this black skirt so frequently, its hem became ragged with rough edges, strings hanging. Those sandals became spotted with gesso, leather straps curled up, “souls” worn. When fellow students saw this portrait, they knew who was wearing those sandals!

A few months before I was to have my pre-thesis show a young man advertised his pre-thesis show by putting up photos of himself on the bulletin boards with a caption that said “He is Coming!” When my time came around for a show, I made a flyer of the above self-portrait with the caption “She is Coming!” and plastered it all over the walls. I thought it was the perfect response to his notice; one arrogant, pompous and over-confident response to another. I had arrived!!! Or so I thought… Apparently I had tacked my flyer up in forbidden places and was promptly informed I had to take them down. All of them! Oh, the evil of women…

Working with black and white gesso on canvas (and paper) led to the work I did for my final MFA thesis show – a body of work I like to refer to as constructions rather than paintings. One idea led to another and developed into a cohesive body of work for my exhibit.

And after grad school, I began to paint on paper with black and white gesso, an acrylic-based medium, as well as color gesso I had purchased at Utrecht Art Supplies. It was cheap paint at the time that came in 16 oz plastic jars. I combined and mixed it with watercolors. Now I combine the mixed media of gesso, watercolor and acrylic for most of my paintings.

© 2010 Susan Canavarro. All Rights Reserved – image “She” and text.

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