Susan Sills

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Susan Sills is an American artist who has been involved in the international art scene since the early 1990s. Although she created abstract ink drawings[1] and painted commissioned portraits,[2] Sills is best known for her life-size painted wood cutouts based on the Old Masters. Sills has produced over 100 different wood cutouts, and finds innovative ways to bring these well-known icons of art into the present day.[3] Her work is found in collections in Japan, New York City, and throughout the United States. Sills has had 20 solo exhibitions and participated in numerous group shows.

Most of Sills′s work consists of life-size wood cutouts of Old Master subjects. While preserving the character and style of each iconic figure, she reimagines it in the context of today's world.[4] As noted by Marilyn Becker, Sills′s works have been "painstakingly painted in the style, technique and manner of each of their originators."[5] In order to bring each two-dimensional character into a three-dimensional space, Sills reproduces them on the scale of actual humans and surrounds them with props, some of which are deliberately anachronistic. For example, her wood cutout of Princess Margarita from Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas is the same size as a real child. Sills′s cutout of the young subject from Édouard Manet′s The Fifer (1994; Rowan University Art Gallery, Sylvia Sleigh Collection) is also the same size as a real child.[6] In Utamaro, Utamaro, I’ll See Utamaro, Sills′s cutouts of Kitagawa Utamaro′s Geisha with String and Geisha with Mirror are "seated" on a real straw mat before a few empty McDonald’s containers, two empty Pepsi cans, and pairs of chopsticks. The two life-size figures are painted in Utamaro’s style, but reimagined in the context of the 21st-century world of fast food and carbonated beverages. In After Rivera, The Flower Carrier, the man from Diego Rivera’s painting is kneeling on an artificial patch of grass and flowers. Another work, What Sybil Saw, features the prophet from Michelangelo's Delphic Sybil. At her feet are several scroll-like photographs of David, which were obviously not a part of Michelangelo′s original.

Sills also enlivens her life-size cutouts by relating them to each other. Figures from different lands, from diverse periods, and by different artists meet for the first time in surprising, clever combinations. In Sills’ The Three Musicians, the bagpiper from Pieter Brueghel’s The Peasant Dance, the violinist from Marc Chagall’s Green Violinist, and the guitarist from Édouard Manet’s The Guitar Player are joined to form a musical trio. A real, open guitar case in front of the musicians suggests that they are accepting donations from passersby. Sills’s The Nanny unites seven figures from different paintings: Keisai Eisen’s Woman with Parasol and Baby seems to be keeping a close eye on two girls from Pieter Brueghel’s The Peasant Dance, and on a little girl from Norman Rockwell’s Marbles Champ, and on a little boy from Francisco Goya’s Don Manuel Osorio, and on the young subject of Diego Velasquez’s Infanta Margarita.

Although artists have been painting “after the Old Masters” for centuries, Sills “has been recognized as owning the art form of the painted cutout.”[7] Ed McCormack has suggested that Sills′s cutouts show “how great works of art come into our lives to stay” and “make the world a better place by their presence.”[8] Her work demonstrates that “the work of painters long dead can continue to have a vital presence in the life and work of contemporary artists”[9] and that even in the 21st century, artists and viewers can find a way to relate to art from centuries ago.

Sills is based in Brooklyn, New York.[10]


  1. ^ Lombardi, D. Dominick (July 18, 1999). "ART; Abstract Ink Drawings and Photocopies". New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
  2. ^ "Susan Sills: Rethinks and Recreates the Old Masters". Viridian Artists. April 1991.
  3. ^ "Susan Sills:...and so the party continues". Viridian Artists. April 1994.
  4. ^ Dorsey, David. "Moving". Represent: The Painting Life. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
  5. ^ Becker, Marilyn (April–May 1991). "Susan Sills: Twists on Time and Place". Manhattan Arts.
  6. ^ Hottle, Andrew D. (2011). "Groundbreaking: The Women of the Sylvia Sleigh Collection" (PDF). Rowan University. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
  7. ^ "IllusionAllusion: Sculpture by Susan Sills Reinterprets Old Masters via Life-size Wood Cutouts". Queens College. 2010. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
  8. ^ McCormack, Ed (April 1991). "Susan Sills and "friends" from art history". Artspeak.
  9. ^ Dorsey, David. "Moving". Represent: The Painting Life. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
  10. ^ "Six Brooklyn artists to exhibit at fifth Contemporary Art Fair NYC" Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Retrieved 2017-08-01.

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