In The Beginning There Was Only Water

Susan Hoffman Fishman

East Gallery  |  November 12 – December 19, 2021

Sponsored by: T&M Building Co. Inc. | Torrington Downtown Partners

In the Beginning There Was Only Water represents a reframing of the biblical creation story in which “man” is given “dominion” over all the plants and animals on Earth. It is very likely that the emphasis in Genesis on the superiority of “man” over the environment and the centrality of “man” in all of its chapters has led to attitudes and behaviors suggesting that we are separate from the natural world and can therefore manipulate and use its resources in any way we choose. Although human beings have been on Earth for only a small fraction of its evolutionary history, we have cast ourselves as the main character in its story. 

In the Beginning There Was Only Water is an abstract and liberal interpretation of what scientists have determined really happened at the creation of the planet and for the billions of years that followed. (Note: In the beginning there really was only water!) It speaks to the importance and beauty of all living beings. Each of the 39 paintings on paper contains the element of water, which is so vital to life on this planet. Consisting of oil pigment sticks and mixed media, each measures 30 in. x 15 in. Shown together as a running narrative without any space between the 39 panels, the piece measures 584 inches or approximately 50 running feet.

Susan Hoffman Fishman is a mixed-media painter, public artist and arts writer whose work has been exhibited widely in museums and galleries throughout the U.S, including the Alternative Museum (NYC), Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, MA), the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford, CT), the William Benton Museum of Art, (Storrs, CT), Allegra LaViola Gallery (NYC), the National Aquarium (Baltimore, MD), Ethan Cohen KUBE (Beacon, NY), the Kingsborough Art Museum (Brooklyn, NY), the New York Hall of Science (Queens, NY), Google Arts and Culture and numerous others. 

Fishman has received grants, awards residencies and commissions from Planet Labs, (San Francisco, CA and Berlin, DRG), Cel de Nord (Oresta, Spain), Connecticut Office of the Arts, Invoking the Pause Foundation, Awesome Foundation (CT), City of Stamford (CT) and others. Fishman's latest bodies of work focus on water and the climate crisis - rising tides, plastic oceans, the threat of water wars and most recently, rampikes - dead trees along our shores whose roots have been exposed to salt water from rising tides. 

Although all of Fishman’s works present a narrative relating to the nature of water, they are in no way didactic. Instead, her paintings are snapshots of imagined interior and exterior scenes on paper that she creates using bold, vivid colors, abstract shapes contrasting with recognizable images, often with skewed perspective. 

Her intention in presenting visually appealing pieces is to draw the viewer in without being immediately turned away by the seriousness of the subject matter. World War II tanks, empty chairs, images from the Holocaust and closed doors often appear in her paintings as metaphors for human memory, violence, presence and capacity for destruction as well as an overwhelming sense of waiting for an unknown intruder or unforeseen event. Using acrylic, oil pigment, graphite, documentary photographs, plastic, glue, her own photographs and other collage materials on paper, she is building an imaginary environment from which we can emerge if we choose to do so.  

With her monthly column, “Imagining Water,” Fishman is a regular contributor to the international blog, Artists and Climate Change that documents the work of visual artists, playwrights, novelists, poets, dancers, public artists, musicians and performers, etc. around the world who are focusing on the critical topic of climate change. 

Fishman Is also the co-creator of two, large-scale, community-based, interactive public art projects: The Wave, a national installation which addresses our mutual need for and interdependence on water and Home, which calls attention to homelessness and the on-going need for affordable housing in our cities and states. To date The Wave has been installed in 24 museums, galleries, libraries, parks, schools and festivals. 

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