Susan Copich: Processing Normal

30 December 2020 - 31 December 2021
Video
Overview

Copich succeeds in creating art that is distinctly ultimately relevant to our time and is a stark take on being a woman in America.

Drunken mothers, a pool boy lover, a woman pushed down the stairs in a red ball gown, the photographs of Susan Copich present a wry and cruel world. There is a simmering rage beneath her female protagonist’s icy beauty all who happen to be modeled by the artist herself. Like a chameleon, Susan Copich changes costume and character, drawing on her dance and performance experience to create dramatic moments frozen in time. With a supporting cast of husband and her two children, the choreography of the actors are posed in tableaux-vivants creating enigmatic, open-ended stories.

 

Copich’s two series Domestic Bliss and then he forgot my name dovetail together to present a voyage from the outside perception of the “All-American” superficial life to the more secret, inward gaze of crumbling interiors occupied by isolated female subjects.

 

The short film, The Cupcake, joins the two series together as it bridges the themes of false appearances and rituals seen from the outside versus the interior, emotional realm of the inner psyche. The artist creates a world of suburban privilege and its accompanying banalities and pursues it to the endgame of breakdown and alienation.

 

Both series of photographs and the film embody the struggle against societal roles that must be defied or risk being devoured.  The constant of the female actor either dressed as a middle-class accessory, a traumatized victim or a defiant warrior are portraits of our own personal collapse and resurrection cloaked in social symbols and mythology. No matter what kind of distance is created by the formalized, staged tableau of the "portrait", this space is undermined by an uncomfortable intimacy which inevitably illuminates the pain of living.

Since Susan Copich's first exhibit of Domestic Bliss in 2014 (Umbrella Gallery, NYC), her photographs rapidly travelled over the internet generating tremendous response. Her images flashed across countless computer screens worldwide. The elegant scenes depicting suburban privilege are at first glance banalities found in lifestyle magazines. Like advertisements for an ideal life, the photographic quality and composition mimics a marketing illusion. However, the carefully composed veneer is part of Copich's message: a fur coat, a swimming pool, an elegant dining room with picture windows, a dream kitchen are a stage set prepared for actors posed in a "tableau vivant”. But the challenging gaze of the female protagonist demands closer examination revealing darker ironies: the pain of parenting, the cruelty of intimacy, the ache of ambivalence, the recklessness of desire, and ultimately the loss of illusion.

The best way to comprehend the irony of Ms. Copich's storytelling is to understand it as an imagined moment while the story-line continues to roll past the stills. The pretty blonde woman staring out at the viewer is the only moral compass throughout the photo series. She challenges us to experience the discomfort of the tableau and dares us to recoil from the scene. Presenting the taboos of our society, she acts as the silent narrator of a morality play caught by the camera's eye. The overarching lie of Copich's staged photographs tells a harsh truth by peeling back the veneer of civilization to reveal the danger of denial.

Susan Copich writes about her work: “I dwell in the dark thoughts and recesses of my mind to create character and subject...(and) navigate both my own personal imperatives as woman, artist, mother and wife, as well as those – personal, social, and cultural -that are imposed by others. My work is my commentary on how a family can live a public life that is far from their private life, even within the family; how secrets are kept, coddled and nurtured"

Susan Copich’s direct gaze challenges the viewer to choose their path.

 

After her break-out solo exhibition at Umbrella Arts in New York City (2014), Susan Copich’s photography became an instant internet sensation garnering press from Daily Mail, Huffington Post and Bored Panda as well as other international magazines for her stark take on being a woman in America. Use of herself as the protagonist in her photographs is in the tradition of Cindy Sherman, her family as supporting actors echoes the work of Sally Mann and the composed environments evoke Gregory Crewdson, Copich succeeds in creating art that is distinctly ultimately relevant to our time and is a stark take on being a woman in America. No matter what kind of familiarity is created by the formalized, staged tableaux of the portrait format, this space is undermined by an uncomfortable intimacy, which inevitably illuminates the pain of living and the struggle for change.

Works