Name: Suzanna Fields

Born: Abingdon, 1975.

Education: B.A. in art and English, Mary Baldwin College, 1997; M.F.A. in painting, Virginia Commonwealth University, 2001.

Where you can find her work: Fields has five pieces in 1708 Gallery's "Plane Text" group show, running through July 28. 643-1708.

What she makes: Fields says she's an abstract artist who thinks like a painter. She loves experimenting with the limits of her materials. For three of the works in the show, she covered a canvas by dropping paint out of a squeeze bottle to create long, antennae-like extensions that pop off the canvas like a colorful sea creature.

"For me, it's all about the materials and the process," Fields says. "I love to find out what the material is going to do."

She has two other paintings with intertwining lines in an elaborate pattern and colorful sections built up under layers of paint -- some parts of it seem to recede and others protrude off the canvas. She explores patterns and themes of elegance, often mixing in humor.

Why she uses bold colors: Fields likes what she calls "acidic, jarring colors." She pairs tones that are not exactly opposite on the color wheel, but close to it. "My partner says, 'Honey, all your shoes don't need to have polka dots — you can do beige,'" she says, laughing. "I just like it. Color makes me feel alive."

How her focus has changed since grad school: Fields exclusively made installations in grad school and afterward. Only recently has she been making works on canvas and vellum. "I like to work within a boundary, and it's nice to have a record of what you've done," she says, "not to go back to a work and it's in 40,000 pieces."

Why she likes to make her work funny: The humor in her work is often what makes it accessible, and Fields likes that you don't need a degree to appreciate what she makes. But she also likes that humor can hint at deeper things: "A lot of humor relates to pathos. I'm also interested in how humor can hint at unease, a sense of bewilderment."

Under the sea: "It's hard for me as a very verbal person to let it alone and not explain it," says Fields, who works in public relations by day. Many people see sea urchins or other underwater creatures in her current work. She likes the ambiguity and enjoys hearing the interpretations, but says she wasn't necessarily going for specific images. "I don't want to be literal because how can you compete?"

Her connection to craft culture: Fields says she grew up in the '80s making puffy paint sweatshirts she jokingly describes as "tragic." Her mom was very creative and used to make all sorts of things. Today her mom sells beaded flowers at Quirk Gallery, right next door to 1708. Fields — who sees a connection between the squeeze bottles filled with a mixture of acrylic paint and medium she uses today and the puffy paint she used as a kid — likes the idea of turning craft on its ear.

Accidents happen: Fields says her work is intuitive. She doesn't know how it will turn out: "It's always about what happens when I didn't think it was going to happen. Sometimes I think, wow, did that come from me?"

Why she doesn't go crazy with all the repetitive work: The 30 to 40 hours spent making each piece, Fields says, "calms down the little hamster wheel in my brain. Building a frame, trying to fit four pieces together, would be my idea of hell." —

Add a comment