Deirdre Sullivan Beeman’s recent Heavy Water solo art show was held at La Luz de Jesus Gallery showcasing thirteen paintings and a beautiful art installation which included a huge seahorse, wave motif wallpaper and a live model dressed as a mermaid.
Deirdre Sullivan Beeman’s art work evokes the imagination and takes you into a fantasy world of her delightful and whimsical characters of little girls and their animal counterparts. Her artwork is dreamy, creative, surreal and beautiful. Her art style combines 14th century techniques and romanticism with magic realism.
I met Deirdre years ago when I was an art model in a life drawing class. Deirdre was one of the artists drawing me and I was a nude art model. I never did see her art drawings of me but I wonder which spirit animal she would give me as my counterpart?
I asked Deirdre a few questions about her Heavy Water show, her art work and of being an artist.
Explain the title of your show “Heavy Water” and its significance to your paintings, the wonderful installation on display and the pretty model dressed as a mermaid at the show.
The live mermaid was an essential part of the installation to me. She represented one of my girl characters physically. She embodied it perfectly. She added depth and brought the installation to life. She also showed viewers how they could engage with the space, and actively beckoned them to come inside. Her costume was this incredible dress from the 1920s that I loved and also represented the lushness of that era. Parties of the time would regularly feature women in costume who entertained guests and I saw her as a part of that narrative. I chose a girl with a super bubbly and effervescent personality because that was the personality I imagined that girl character had, if that had been a painting. She did a fantastic job and I loved everything she added to the installation.
- I know you have a dream journal but explain the process of how you create your drawings or sketch your composition on the canvas before you apply the egg tempera to the paintings?
My style is figurative pop surrealism. I paint in an archaic tradition using a 14th century old master’s technique with oil paints and egg tempera. I use 20 to 40 glazes of oil paint in between the layers of egg tempera. On my website www.sullivanbeeman.com I have a technique page.
- This was the list of your paintings in your show:
Gas Mask Girl
Finding Marilyn Girl
Snow White Girl
Out of the list of paintings in the show which is your favorite and why?
It’s a very difficult choice for me because I love the entire show but I suppose I would choose Alchemy Girl. It was the first piece I finished for the show and I love the way it came out. Alchemy Girl as a character is very emblematic of the themes of the show. She’s so strong and very in control of her situation. She’s the mastermind of her domain, mixing her chemicals and ignoring her daemon in the background.
- How many eggs have you cracked in your life as an artist? What do you think is the symbolism of an egg and explain why this 14th century technique of combining egg tempera and oil paint to your paintings appeals to you so much? Is it because of the visual beauty, romanticism, etc.?
I use one egg per session. Tempera goes bad quickly, so each time I paint I make new tempera with one yolk. The amount of sessions per painting varies per size, but I feel like I can’t even estimate how many I’ve used in total. The symbolism of eggs runs very deep for me. In short, it represents rebirth. I’m attracted to Mischtechnik, the combination of oil paint and egg tempera, for lots of reasons. One is definitely the beauty I find in the materials and the way they look in finished paintings. The illuminating glow of the bright white in egg tempera is an essential facet of my work’s appearance. I use it to make my girl characters glow from within. Another thing I love about the technique is the earthiness of it. My color palette and my methods are grounded in earth tones, lots of sienna shades. Egg tempera made from super fresh farm eggs feels feels very grounded to earth, too, so it feels harmonious for me.
- Why do your paintings typically depict a young girl with an animal? What is the significance of both and together?
The heroines that make up my subject matter are all in transition. They encounter / illustrate choices and happenings that shape all women, and all people. They are accompanied by daemons, which are spirit animals that metaphysically connect them to their source of power. These daemons are simultaneously part of the heroine’s own soul and an entity entirely separate from her, even antagonistic in persistently persuading her to their, or society’s, ends.
- You studied film at college but what made you decide to be a painter or artist instead? What is it about painting you enjoy more than working in film?
Time in the film industry definitely provided a foundation for my art practice in a lot of ways. I love how my work in scenic design made me think about 2D and 3D space as compliments to each other; I use that a lot in my paintings with the way I emphasize flat background space. I’m more drawn to fine art because I enjoy the control I have over the finished creative process, and I really enjoy working alone. I like to silo myself and work in isolation; painting works well that way.
- What was the most someone paid for your painting and which one?
Ascending Girl from Heavy Water sold for $3,800.
- How long does it take for you to complete a painting and explain what takes patience or a lot of time when you are working on a painting?
My painting process is very slow. Small pieces can take a few weeks but larger pieces take many months or longer than a year. Egg tempera is a slow medium and the layers of oil glaze that I add on top of figures takes a long time and a lot of patience. Each layer must dry before the next goes on top. I also like to add a lot of fine detail, so I spend a lot of time adding those in with 000 size brushes that only consist of a few hairs.
- Which famous surrealist artist do you admire the most and why?
Dali is my fav. His themes inspire me incredibly deeply. While I studied with Robert Venosa, who was Dali’s assistant, I heard the most absolutely ludicrous stories. I think he was utterly crazy and a complete genius.:
What message or legacy you would like to leave behind to the world as an artist?
I would like people to remember me as someone who was dedicated to her craft as an artist, and someone who tried to elevate women with her artwork.