The first posthumous solo exhibition of late East Hampton painter Susan Tepper’s work since her death in 1991, Susan Tepper: Painting 1978-1989, is currently on view at Tripoli Gallery in Southampton.
The exhibition includes 22 abstracted faces called “Heads” made from a combination of acrylic, Conté crayon and collage on masonite. The faces display mostly bald heads and leave out specific gender features, blurring the lines between masculinity and femininity. As Tepper observed, “Sometimes we split just down the middle.”
A collection of works in different shapes and sizes, some collaged portraits are flat, while others are three-dimensional, displaying an amalgamation of metal and dried acrylic paint.
The exhibition also features Tepper’s “100 Women” series—another selection of acrylic and collage paintings on masonite portraying feminine figures in a direct frontal position. In this series, Tepper incorporated newspaper clippings and provocative words from tabloids such as The National Enquirer, The Examiner, The Midnight Globe and The Star. At first, the bodies in the artist’s work were recognizable, but eventually she evolved into painting abstract figures.
An ardent feminist, Tepper resisted stereotypical gender roles and traditional expectations for women. Her portraits, therefore, explore identity, gender and societal issues of the 20th century. “I am a painter of content—images of women swept into caves of isolation,” she wrote, “I paint the story of this condition.”
Tepper, who was interested in art and theater, attended Vassar College, but she left to receive treatment for an emotional breakdown. After her recovery, she pursued art education at several art schools in New York City, including the School of Visual Arts, Art Students League of New York, and the New York Studio School. Tepper also studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.
The artist participated in several group art exhibitions in New York City and in the Hamptons in the 1980s, but Tepper’s works have not been independently displayed since her death in 1991.
Susan Tepper: Painting 1978-1989 is on view through September 19.
Tripoli Gallery is located at 30 Jobs Lane in Southampton. Call 631-377-3715 or visit tripoligallery.com.