Susan Mikula’s elusive art challenges conventions. Her physical subject matter is often abstracted, sometimes highly so, and typically portrayed within a tight chromatic range; one that, nonetheless, contains an expansive scale of tone and texture. Yet to call her art “abstract” is a misnomer—the end result often remains strongly figurative, even when no longer overtly identifiable with its origins. Distillation is a more apt description of her process.
Mikula’s creative roots rest deep in the aesthetic legacies of painting and photography, so it’s no surprise that her art is sometimes taken for painting—but it is photography. Shooting exclusively with Polaroid films and cameras, Mikula works in available light, and does no cropping or image manipulation after the fact. Her in-camera technique strips away detail and softens edges only to better reveal the underlying and essential form and feeling of her subject.
To capture and convey beauty as she sees it is always a present element in the work, but it is rarely only about the inherent interplay of shade, color and form. There is a conceptual underpinning as well, and a narrative within. Mikula also has an abiding concern with the physicality of the prints themselves: the materials and methods of their manufacture, the structure and character of their surfaces and supports, their scale and their modes of presentation, and how those all affect the relationship between the viewer and the art. Where certain aspects of her aesthetic reach back to the 19th century Tonalists, these other facets of her creative process put her very much in sync with contemporary practice. The result is work of depth and enduring impact.
Born and raised first in urban/industrial New Jersey, and then in a small New Hampshire town, Mikula now lives and works in rural Western Massachusetts and in New York City.