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Susan Rothenberg ( 2001 )

Abstract painting in shades of green with two eyes and arms playing a game of dominos
  • Period Twenty-First Century
  • Materials Oil on canvas
  • Object Number 2019.011.0001
  • Dimensions 86 1/2 in x 72 1/2 in; 219.71 cm x 184.15 cm
  • Credit Line Gift of Alice Phillips Swistel, James L. Phillips and Marjorie Phillips Elliott, 2019

I am afraid I am not a great explainer of why I do what I do.

The painting Dominos-Cold is an expression of how I fell in love with green— a color I did not know well before I moved to New Mexico in 1990. Dominoes was a prominent game in our house. My husband, Bruce, and I played frequently, sometimes with friends. I used cold and warm versions of green to represent the felt-covered game table, the site of our favorite board game. I like the fact that the hands aren’t anchored. They just float around the space of the painting. You really have to know that they are at a table. The hands are just these living things, moving around like the dogs or the horses.

When I painted Three Masks in 2006, I was toying with the idea of paper bag masks like kids wear for Halloween. The masks are painted casually hanging on hooks. One is like the face in my Self Portrait (private collection) from the same year. You know the old saw that everything an artist does is a self-portrait? I think it’s true. All of my work has a portrait element to it. But I still have a hard time allowing myself to make a complete human figure. So I guess it’s kind of a broken portraiture. Sometimes masks, like my later paintings with disembodied parts or prosthetics, can be considered puppets or marionettes.

Text by Susan Rothenberg, adapted from Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century (The Phillips Collection in association with Giles, 2021)