Appreciations of Paul Suttman and his work
MFA degree exhibition, Cranbrook Academy, Michigan, 1958
--From a story by Paul’s first wife, Lucia Berlin, Lead Street, Albuquerque, in Home Sick: New & Selected Stories, Santa Rosa, Black Sparrow Press, 1990:
He was an exciting man. Young, only twenty-two, but his talent and skill were incredible even then. We all accepted the fact that he was destined for fame...
He wasn't handsome. Big. Red-haired with sort of buck teeth and a weak chin, a jutting brow over piercing beady eyes. Thick glasses, pot belly, beautiful hands. He was the sexiest man I ever knew. Women fell for him in a second .... It was power and energy and vision. Not like a forward-looking vision, although he had that too. He saw everything. Details. Light on a bottle. He loved seeing things, looking. And he made you look, made you go see a painting, read a book...
The Lady of the Garden, American Academy in Rome, ca. 1967
--Memories of Paul Suttman at the American Academy in Rome in the 1960s, by Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, Department of Art History, Princeton University:
The model for The Lady of the Garden (for Michigan) was the first thing I saw. It struck me as having all the good things of Rodin (direct macho attacks on the clay resulting in aggressively three-dimensional form), Medardo Rosso (sfumato surfaces penetrated by atmosphere and light), and Matisse (the celebration of feminine beauty at its most seductive and vulnerable). Around the hands, perhaps more than the fingers and knuckles, and at the jaw line, there was a skeletal boniness involving a series of concavities, some extended, some miniature. In this beautiful girl stepping out into the future, there was her future, in fact there was our future. For shimmering beneath the richly textured surface, there was death, not as a menace but as a celebration. In this life-sized monument, Paul had figured our beautiful gift, and told us to treasure it through all its brevity.
For the next twenty-five years or so I learned repeatedly that Paul could bring anything he wished out of the shadows of thought into the visible world. Indeed, perhaps his greatest problem was deciding, not how (that came naturally), but what. I always suspected his mind was a jumble of things trying to push into first place, and that it was the embarrassment of riches that clutched his heart....
Teaching bronze casting at
the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, 1976
--From reminiscences by Peter Walch, Director of the University of New Mexico Art Museum:
In the 1970s, returned to the Department of Art and Art History for three years as Visiting Associate Professor of sculpture....All of a sudden, there were all these students sitting around polishing bronzes! A foundry was built, casting methods unexplored for decades were revived, an atmosphere somewhere between that of a William Morris workshop and a Zen monastery reigned. Paul had arrived.
Paul was Postmodern, before PoMo was cool. He revived both forms and subjects from disparate sources in earlier art, ranging from classical antiquity to the High Renaissance to icons of early modernism, and gave these forms and subjects new, and highly personal, life. What separates Paul from most Postmodernism, I think, is that he created without irony, and instead, with absolute conviction and sincerity. He was not being "hip" or a show-off; he was being himself....
This was one truly wonderful human being. Infectious in his high spirits, learned and intelligent and wise, enthusiastic about art and about life, Paul loved people and people loved him.
At Connecticut Studio,
--From Apples for Paul Suttman (1977),
by Anthony Hecht, from Collected Earlier Poems.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1990:
Chardin, Cezanne, they had their apples
As did Paris and Eve-
Sleek, buxom pippins with inverted nipples;
And surely we believe.
That Pluto has his own unsweet earth apples.
Blooming among the dead,
There in the thick of Radamanthine opals,
Blake's hand, Bernini's head…
Cooking in Connecticut, 1989
--Jacques Kaplan, Kent Good Times Dispatch, July 2, 1993:
He was a very cultured, kind man with a great sense of humor.
And the best pasta I ever ate was made by him.