Rooftops, geography inspire creator of colorful pastel artworks

MIDDLEBURY — What do pastels, rooftops and Middlebury College have in common? For Montreal-based artist Susanne Strater, this combination is intrinsic to her signature work. After earning her bachelor’s degree in geography and mathematics at Middlebury College, attending grad school and working in computer mapping, Strater’s initial love of geography inspired her ultimate vocation as artist.
Strater is the May featured artist at Edgewater Gallery at Middlebury Falls. An opening reception for her exhibition, “Structure” is on Thursday, May 5, from 5-7 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.
For Strater, a map-like planimetric view is key to her compositions. She paints what she calls “the near landscape” from life and photographs — the neighborhood, her garden and the world around her, as well as Montreal and European cities. Inspired by a workshop with renowned American landscape painter Wolf Kahn, Strater developed her own personal and unique sense of color that is celebrated in her pastels.
In describing her process and upcoming Edgewater Gallery solo exhibition “Structure,” Strater says, “Structure pertains not just to the subject of these paintings but also to how they are constructed. To me, the process of painting is much like building — placing shapes, adjusting their colors, figuring out how to connect them or separate them from adjoining shapes. Realism is my starting point, but the process of painting gives me an opportunity for abstraction — finding combinations of shapes, colors and patterns that correspond to reality but not always, suggesting rather than describing.”
Strater’s work involves much time and thought. She carefully revisits her initial impression, paring down and applying many layers of medium. At times, this means that her completed painting differs entirely from her original intent. Though she has worked in oils, acrylics, even woodblock printing, she prefers the immediacy and versatility of pastels. Heavily layered and rich in color, Strater’s paintings explore coolness and warmth, and the juxtaposition between the two.
Strater’s collection includes dynamic groupings of related paintings including rooftops, figures, florals and interiors. Rooftops, her personal favorite of the series, will be the focus of her solo exhibition this May.
While she enjoys contributing to her vibrant Montreal arts community, Strater has developed a strong following on this side of the border. Through Edgewater, her work has been exhibited at the Affordable Art Fair in New York City, expanding her reach to a new group of collectors. Her fans are enamored by her bold and skillful use of color and form.
In her own words: “The thing that I hope my paintings share is a bit of ambiguity or a tension between realism and abstraction, between shape and form, between reality or fantasy — the feeling that it could be this, but it could be that, or it could be something else. Hopefully that helps the viewer keep coming back to the painting.”
For further information call 802-458-0098, email [email protected] or visit edgewatergallery-vt.com.

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