Center Stage

Susan Lisbin at the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery in New London

NEW LONDON — “I’m interested in relationships, how we relate to each other, whether it’s standoffish or tensioned,” said artist Susan Lisbin, whose solo exhibition,” The Human Side, opened Thursday at the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery and Center. 

Her pieces — oil paintings and clay sculpture — explore organic and anthropomorphic forms that reflect a sense of experimentation, tenderness and humor. 

The show has been curated with “pairings” of her paintings and sculpture that relate visually — but her work as a painter particularly stands out. 

Beginning with “Overload,” a painting depicting a figure on its side atop a pile of objects with an imposing figure standing nearby, Lisbin creates worlds of color, line and form that are, at times, reminiscent of the abstract expressionists, at others reflective of a world all her own. 

Her painting, “Center Stage” is sensual in color — pink, peach, coral and red — and includes a particular visual vocabulary that she has created. 

“I like to have odd appendages in my work — and a lot of times and lots of times people think of them as sexual, but I think having appendages really livens up the whole space so that’s something I often do,” she said. “The way the top of the red image comes up [in “Center Stage”], I think of that as an appendage and I think it creates a lot more tension.” 

Appendages can be seen throughout the show, particularly in “Opening Up,” a painting of two organic shapes that seem to embody the serious and not-so-serious nature of humans attempting to relate to one another. 

Lisbin has been profoundly hard of hearing since age two, which she said allowed her “a lot of time to silently observe people and her relationship to them.” 

She earned a B.A. in painting from Ramapo College of New Jersey and a M.A. in painting from Montclair State University. In the 1980s she began to sculpt in clay using a coil technique and terra sigillata, an ancient glazing technique that produces a high gloss patina. 

Next to her paintings, Lisbin’s sculptures, particularly “Blue Stance,” which was paired with “Overload,” convey the vulnerability — mixed with a little fun — of what is to be human. 

“My sculpture and my painting really do relate. It took me a long time to see it but I do now — I think that there’s a little more humor in the sculptures, but there’s a relationship,” she said. 

The show runs through June 5 in Atrium 102 at the Catherine Fosnot Art Gallery and Center, 165 State Street, New London.

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