Sue Bartfield is a painter from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Bartfield is not an Outsider artist in the strictest sense of the term—she holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin and has benefited from extensive formal training. Nonetheless, her artistic practice can neither be reduced to a set of formal influences, nor understood only in relation to the contemporary art scene. Rather, for decades, and often at a distance from the goings-on of the art world, Bartfield has been persistently mapping an altogether unique aesthetic universe.
Across styles, propelled by evolving interests, the unity of that universe lies in the intricate density of surface, and the resulting destabilization of the boundary between positive and negative space. Depth, in Bartfield’s interminably layered paintings, does not disappear. It is rendered profoundly indeterminate, converted into a set of relations between background and foreground that is reconstituted each time a painting is seen from a new perspective. At times, her paintings seem to approach visual chaos. At the razor’s edge of such chaos, however, the meticulously intuitive order of those paintings is realized, and is endlessly realizable in the participatory gaze of the viewer.
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