BCA Art Gallery

SURGICAL LIGHT

Paintings by Susan Shatter
Poems by Denise Duhame

For the past five years I've kept a journal about coping with my breast cancer. I liken what happened to me as being thrown out of a helicopter into the jungle with no survival skills, no knowledge of what was to come or how to get out. I hauled myself through the cold world of medical technology and the heightened realm of emotions that comes with facing one's own mortality on a daily basis. I explored the worlds of mental and physical therapy desperately searching for support and community that would replace my collapsing personal life. I never intended for anyone to read this journal. It was my own point of reference; a way to get all this emotion out. It was through painting that I was able to transform the pain into images that people would take notice of. If this work sustained me perhaps it would touch the anguish, the fear, the joy that I went through being ill and recovering.

--Susan Shatter
February 1996

 
I met Susan Shatter after she had recovered from her breast cancer surgery so I did not go through the everyday struggle and terror of her disease... And yet her paintings are so vivid to me, so emotionally raw and inviting and wild, I am able to step into them and viscerally experience a pumping fearful heart. I had nightmares about breast cancer while working on these poems. I had sweaty palms and stomach aches. I stook naked in front of the mirror and imagined two Frankenstein scars instead of my breasts. Susan Shatter's paintings were also my mirror, a way to see, a way to look at the body, my body and hers and everyone's. I do not know of a woman who is not afraid of breast cancer, who has not thought about what losing a breast would mean to her life, her intimate relationships, her self-esteem. I do not know of a woman who has not read articles about Nutrasweet or body fat or the Pill or fiber or exercise and worried that she wasn't doing enough to combat those cancer cells which she dreads are living in her body. Facing all those fears, going deep into them, wading through the muck of anger and hurt, I was able to accept the gift of Susan's paintings which are illuminations, which are a way into her recent past. Susan and I met at Yaddo, an artists colony in Saratogo Springs, NY, in November of 1995. The poems in this book were written between that month and January 1996.

--Denise Duhamel

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© 1993, Susan Shatter
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© 1993, Susan Shatter
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© 1993, Susan Shatter
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© 1993, Susan Shatter
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© 1993, Susan Shatter
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© 1993, Susan Shatter
Surgical Light Loss II Heart Creature I Recurrence Empty Heart
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© 1994, Susan Shatter
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© 1994, Susan Shatter
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© 1994, Susan Shatter
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© 1994, Susan Shatter
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© 1994, Susan Shatter
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© 1995, Susan Shatter
Torso Breast Buds More Tears Puzzled Yet Defiant Cactus Spine Arabesque


Susan Shatter is a nationally known painter who has been exhibiting her work since 1972. Ms. Shatter has had eighteen one-woman shows and numerous group shows. Her watercolors are included in Twentieth-Century Watercolors (Abbeville Press). She is the recipient of two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, an Ingram-Merrill Award, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, a Bunting Fellowship, and a Massachusetts Council for the Arts Grant. She is represented by Fischback Gallery in New York City. Her work is in many private and public collections. She is a member of the National Academy of Design.

For more information about Ms. Shatter's work, you may write to her at

26 W. 20th Street
New York, New York, 10011

Denise Duhamel's poetry has appeared in literary magazines such as The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, and Partisan Review, and in anthologies including Mondo Barbie, The Best American Poetry 1994 and The Best American Poetry 1993. She is the author of four full-length poetry books: Kinky (Orchises Press, forthcoming 1997), Girl Soldier (Garden Street Press, 1996), The Woman with Two Vaginas (Salmon Run Publishers, 1995) and Smile! (Warm Spring Press, 1993).




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