Review: Susanna Hoone's Ghostie House Stories 

A battle with cancer put her in isolation, and she coped by making art

click to enlarge Ghostie House, Mama Can You Hear Me
  • Ghostie House, Mama Can You Hear Me

During Susanna Hoone's battle with thyroid cancer, she was put in isolation for three weeks after undergoing radioactive iodine therapy, unable to have direct contact with her family, including her three-month-old daughter. As a way to cope, she took art supplies into isolation with her and made art. "I got to a very strange place," she said. Some of the work in this exhibition was composed on scrubs that she used as canvases when she ran out of paper. When these pieces came out of isolation, they had to be stored away for 30 days because they were radioactive.

The paintings that come out of her time alone are especially harrowing. In a series of self-portraits entitled "Quarantined" you see a pale white skeletal figure with black sockets for eyes, abstracted as anime, in various states of despair, sickness and denial. These states are reflected by the subtitles, "The Numbness," "You Should Have Seen the Other Guy" and "Afraid of Myself."

After Hoone left isolation, she took this line of work in a three-dimensional direction using mixed media materials: wood, clay and cardboard in addition to paint. The three wall-hanging "Ghostie House" sculptures are set against a puffy black cloud from which ladders descend to the floor; you see here dream landscapes made three dimensional.

"Ghostie House, Mama Can You Hear Me," is particularly notable, considering that Hoone lost her mother to cancer. You see here a house as black as the cloud it's set against; you see what appears to be a young girl in this house wearing a crown, her head resting on a chair. While this work recalls somewhat Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, this young girl's kingdom verges on a realm of death and emptiness.

Yet there are glimmers of hope in her work as well. It was, after all, in her dreams of haunted houses that Hoone's mother eventually appeared to tell her that things were going to be all right.

Through August 26, closing reception 6 - 9 p.m., Primary Gallery, Murphy Art Center

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