Visiting Professor Susanna Coffey has Solo Exhibit in Boston

BY Audrey Deng, October 16, 2019

Visiting Professor Susanna Coffey has a solo exhibit at the Alpha Gallery in Boston, MA, titled Night Light: 1995-2019. Coffey also teaches at the School of the Arts in Chicago as the F.H. Sellers Professor in Painting.

Coffey was born in New London, CT, and she graduated from the University of Connecticut at Storrs and the Yale School of Art. Her work in portraiture began with questions about beauty: “What is a beautiful appearance? Why do conventionally gendered images involve caricature? Can inchoate feeling-states be adequately portrayed?” Asking these questions produced some of Coffey’s most well-known works today: her paintings of heads, often self-portraits, some of which were acquired by the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art. In a review on Hyperallergic, her portraiture has been described as “[...] not self-portraits in any conventional sense. They seem, rather, like inspired inquiries into the nature of portraiture.”

At the Alpha Gallery, Coffey’s work includes 29 pieces painted over a span of years, from 1995 to 2019. This solo exhibit features her landscape painting, rather than her portraiture. Coffey views her landscape painting as more private than her portraiture. In the artist’s statement, she says “This practice renews my eyes, forces me to sidestep conventional ways of using chroma, and gives me a quiet time to observe the appearances of darkness. I don’t often exhibit this work. They are studious pictures made only for the love of doing them.” These paintings, says Coffey, frequently followed long days of teaching, as a way to relax amongst greenery. And all of them were made at night. “I began ‘night painting’ in 1995, and still love going to work when darkness, in its way, reveals beautiful shapes and colors.”

The show runs through Oct. 30, 2019 and also includes a book signing for Coffey’s book Night Painting.

Night Painting
, published by MAB books earlier this year, is a collection of Coffey’s night paintings, poems, and prose. This book includes an essay by Dr. Carol Becker, Dean of the School of the Arts as well as a prose/poem/story by Mark Strand, who once taught at Columbia, and poems by Jane Coffey and Jane Kenyon.


'Night Painting' by Susanna Coffey, courtesy of the Alpha Gallery in Boston.