Susan Jane Belton
Susan Belton retired in June of 2020.
Susan Belton, who teaches painting and professional practices, is a painter of the American landscape and student of its culture. Currently, Belton is working on images of logo-emblazoned, take-out coffee cups and their non-drip plastic lids. She investigates these collections of cups as icons of corporate culture and talismans of contemporary rituals. Belton is a graduate of Colby College and studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. There she received the Clarissa Bartlett Traveling Fellowship and traveled to California to continue her investigation and fascination with American suburbs. She was a Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant Recipient and Finalist, and received two Boston Cultural Council Grants and a Museum School Faculty Enrichment Grant. Her work is in many public and private collections. She teaches at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and maintains a studio in the South End neighborhood of Boston. Her work can also be found at the George Billis Gallery in New York and Los Angeles and the Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston.
For years I have been drinking coffee, collecting take-out coffee cups, and making them the subject(s) of my paintings. I am fascinated by these contemporary icons of the timeless social ritual of “having coffee." In elevating these throw-away objects to a status worthy of an oil portrait, I appreciate the industrial design of the plastic lids and the advertising aplomb of the logos. The cups conjure a nostalgia of recognition and the comfort of familiarity and brand loyalty. We accessorize ourselves with brands we carry. Our coffee becomes personal. Like all still life paintings through the ages, one could read these objects as symbols of a personal world or as disguised self-portraits.
Over the years I have rendered these vessels singly, in groups, dramatically lit, or seen from above. I altered the perspective by packing the cups tightly into view with no horizon line or created piles of them on a surface. I painted these over and over as they shifted, settled and leveled themselves. As the collections accumulated, the piles of cups grew. In these images all the diverse logos seemed to be shouting for attention, a babel of choices, and also a conversation about time, and the ultimate amassing of discarded things. In the cut-out paintings, the figure is literally removed from the ground and they occupy the space of an object again. Objects can tell a story. Indeed, the things we own, collect, and the things we discard may reveal something about who we are.