American artist Suzanne Caporael takes the natural world as an inspiration for her paintings and related prints. Suzanne Caporael: The Nature of Things features nearly seventy artworks spanning three decades drawn from the Chazen Museum’s permanent collection, presented thematically rather than chronologically. Divided into five main sections, this exhibition highlights the inspirations for the artist’s visual explorations: color and chemical structure, flora and fauna, water and ice, the night sky, and perception and memory. While Caporael’s compositions may at first appear abstract, they are in fact steeped in close observation of the artist’s surroundings and motivated by an immense inquisitiveness. “Curiosity,” she has said, “has driven me to become my own teacher and my own student.” At the same time, however, Caporael’s compositions are not literal depictions of her research, but rather traces of her discovery process: she explains that “painting or making a print is something I do with my hands while I’m thinking.”
Caporael often works in series, creating groups of paintings clustered around one topic before moving on to another. She considers her painting and printmaking practices to have something of a sibling relationship. She typically makes prints in the middle of what she calls a “learning project” or painting campaign, when she is not yet finished resolving an image. All the prints included in this exhibition were published by the University of Wisconsin—Madison’s Tandem Press, where Caporael has initiated a transformation, working closely with master printers to translate her compositions from one medium to another. The Chazen Museum of Art serves as the official repository of the Tandem Press archive, from which these prints are drawn.
Image: Suzanne Caporael, (American, b. 1949), 379 (Elbe Estuary, Germany), 2002, oil on linen, 60 x 96 in., Carolyn T. Anderson, Frank and Roa Birch, Alice Drews Gladfelter Memorial, Alexander and Henrietta W. Hollaender, and Earl O. Vits Endowment Funds purchase, 2003.5