“Medieval alchemists sought personal transformation through the injection of spirit into matter. The soul’s struggle was externalized in the physical transmutation of lead, a poisonous substance symbolizing the human shadow, into gold, the royal treasure. Alchemists risked their sanity and their lives in this elusive search for spiritual transcendence.
Susan Weinreich was blowing glass, a material made from lead, during her sophomoreyear at the Rhode Island School of Design when she suffered a psychotic break and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Her 25-year-long recovery was possible only due to her process of creating art that transformed her internal chaos into order as her style migrated between figuration and abstraction. Indeed, her imagery amounts to an implicitly body-centered psychological art that is as illuminating as it is disturbing.
This Stamford native has been on a journey to an internal hell and come out the other end. The Casola Gallery in Peekskill, N.Y. is presenting a selection of Weinreich's works on paper in 'erotica', 38 works completed over a broad spectrum of time - from the early '70s right up to the present. "The Bell Jar Series," completed before her 1974 psychotic break, and "The Midnight Series" of the early 1990s are preliminary to a recent breakthrough in which she transmutes the gender opposites into startlingly original interpretations of the hermaphrodite, an ancient symbol of integration.
The viewer is challenged to participate on a journey that requires remaining as present and open to new possibilities as Weinreich did in preserving her surface for automatic expression. Her hooded figures and big, rounded bodies are vessels of containment for the primitive power that threatens psychosis even as it drives creativity in the individual.
This is the art of transmutation where psychological growth is mirrored in the body. Breasts become handles. The penis spirals into snakelike forms. The vagina is an explosive terrain harboring forbidden forces that can send the body out of control. The task of the artist is to master this erotic power for the purposes of creation. Weinreich provides us with an entry into the process by which the power of the feminine finds its form.
The time is ripe for a new dialectic regarding the erotic, and the art of Susan Weinreich is a revelation to a new order in which genders are equal, and a new archetype, the Hieros Gamos, or sacred marriage, replaces the struggle between the opposites. Through the dark psychological and physical hell this artist has traveled from her experimentation with lead, we arrive at a virtual gold mine. The ancient passage of the alchemist is made visible in the body of a woman through her extraordinary unforgettable imagery.”
L.P. Streitfeld, The Advocate & Greenwich Time, December 26, 2004