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Air Patterns: Susan Davidoff and Rachelle Thiewes


El Paso artists Susan Davidoff and Rachelle Thiewes have long interpreted the stark West Texas landscape and vegetation with a singular eye to its harsh beauty. Air Patterns: Susan Davidoff and Rachelle Thiewes is both a continuation of their individual work, and a combination of the artistic visions of these two artists. Air Patterns is on view through January 11, 2004.

Thiewes' work is a reflection of the raw nature of the mountains that rise, unclad, out of the desert Southwest. Best-known for her wearable sculpture, Thiewes examines the structure of nature and the human body through a repetition of forms.

Taking inspiration from many desert and marine environments, Davidoff employs found organic materials that are both a source of visual inspiration and often comprise the pigments in her work. She distills plant imagery into its essential shapes.

Air Patterns: Susan Davidoff and Rachelle Thiewes is part of the El Paso Museum of Art's Focus series devoted to artists from the Border region. The exhibition is organized by the Museum's curatorial staff and is supported by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts.

There will be a Zip Tour of Air Patterns, 12:15-12:45 p.m., Wednesday, December 3, with Amy Grimm, assistant curator.


Following is the essay for the Air Patterns: Susan Davidoff and Rachelle Thiewes exhibition brochure written by Amy Grimm, assistant curator:


"Works of art are not purposely conceived. The response depends upon the condition of the observer. In our minds there is an awareness of perfection and when we look with our eyes we see it. The adventurous state of mind is a high house. To enjoy life the adventurous state of mind must be grasped and maintained. The essential feature of adventure is that is a going forward into unknown territory. The joy of adventure is unaccountable. This is the attractiveness of art work. It is adventurous, strenuous and joyful." [1]

- Agnes Martin


El Paso artists Susan Davidoff and Rachelle Thiewes believe in the equality of collaboration. Both artists share a passion for and an "engagement with the landscape."[2] Each creates work based on their connections with the environment - specifically the natural terrain of west Texas. For some years they have explored the commonalities of the ideas that inform their work while hiking the mountains together. In 1999, Davidoff and Thiewes worked with another artist, Beverly Penn, to create eight unique artist books. From that experience they discovered a method for their separate works to coexist yet relate in profound ways - a symbiosis that continues in the current exhibition.

From an early age, Susan Davidoff traveled a great deal and this visual experience of the changing terrain continues to play an important role in her imagery. Employing a variety of media she realized, "My prints were getting larger and larger in scale, less about multiples and more about individual images."[3] This understanding helped shape her focus toward drawing and painting. Taking inspiration from the environment, Davidoff creates images inspired by and from the earth. Found organic materials are both the source of visual inspiration and are often used as pigments in her work. Primarily using charcoal, she transforms plant imagery into its essential shapes.

Thiewes was influenced by her father who worked as a master hand-engraver. Sitting by his side and watching him work she established strong work ethics and high standards for herself. Thiewes came to El Paso in 1976 and she recalled, "I saw for the first time the desert and the mountains and how incredibly dramatic and how strong visually they were."[4] Her encounter with the southwestern desert marked a turning point in her career as she began to work with a new clarity of form and materials, which push traditional boundaries. Thiewes creates designs inspired by her examination of the structure of nature and the human body through a repetition of forms.

Building on their earlier partnership and looking for a cohesive artistic dialectic, Davidoff and Thiewes again joined forces. In this current collaboration they have layered elements of their work. As they began to work together, Thiewes explains, "The idea was essential, but we needed to find the correct materials."[5] Technical and material logistics proved challenging to the artists. Davidoff and Thiewes, for example, explored the application of charcoal on very sheer fabric and the reduction of three-dimensional designs to create geometric flattened forms in steel. As Davidoff states, "We do not view our work separately, but as one installation."[6]

Air Patterns is a celebration of two artistic voices addressing the natural world. Recognizing that each approaches her work in unique ways, they also understand that their engagement with the landscape is varied, experiential and subjective. For the viewer, we move through the installation like an encounter with the earth. As in geological strata we see the layers of pattern and form changing as we move, one element obscuring the other. Davidoff and Thiewes' work suggests an exploration into the ephemeral nature of visual experience. With this new installation, the artists have not only challenged themselves but challenged the viewer to become an engaged participant.


1. Agnes Martin, Writings, (Stuttgart: Edition Cantz, July 1998).

2. Interview with Rachelle Thiewes on July 10, 2003.

3. Interview with Susan Davidoff on July 15, 2003

4. Interview with Thiewes. Thiewes discussed that her father was a master hand engraver. He would engrave various metals such as gold, silver, brass, crest rings and guns, often creating monograms.

5. Interview with Thiewes

6. Interview with Davidoff


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