Susan Silverman: Painting in the Pacific Northwest


When Susan Silverman talks about painting in the Pacific Northwest, she talks about the light. “It’s a filtered light,” she says. “There’s a softness to it, from the clouds. It can rain all day but at the end of the day the light is there, coming through, beneath the clouds, down low.” 

Silverman, a New Hampshire-based potter and painter who studied pottery in Japan, says that “Pottery is held in that culture as a high form of art, like sculpture or painting would be in this country. There’s a sense and sensibility about the functional daily rituals of life, closely related with the vessels that you use. There is a presentation, and textures and shapes, and a certain understated look to Japanese art that is unique. And those are the kinds of things I look for, in my own work. I am trying to say more with less.”

Silverman heard about the Centrum creative residency program from a friend, Mayumi Tsutakawa, whom she had met in Japan. They had both grown up in Seattle, but never met. (“I went to Garfield,” Silverman says. “She went to Franklin. A different world. I would never have gotten to know her if we hadn’t gone to the same study program in Kyoto.”)

Much of Silverman’s work concerns bringing out the feelings that objects and
landscapes evoke. “For some reason, the whole time at Fort Worden I was using deep blue or this
incredible reddish orange,” she says. “Real emotional colors that weren’t necessarily related to the subject matter of what I was printing.” Silverman adds that “the process of the work is important to me—the little anomalies that come up, the places where you can’t quite control everything. Those are the places that I look for expression.”