Dead Suzanne 11o2 oil on linen 78 x 36 inches

Dead Suzanne 11o2 oil on linen 78 x 36 inches

You too, my friend, need only wait.

Unburying the studio to work on Dead Suzanne

First I spent the morning putting all the paintings not back up in storage into the hall so I had enough room to work.

That took about an hour. Here’s what that got me.

But I was able to play in the mud and the dust, breathing solvents and smearing myself with lead paint.


Suzanne Dying 9wxx1 30 x 22 inches acrylic and charcoal on rives bfk
PLEASE NOTE: this is a preliminary IPHONE photo, filtered and sharpened and whatnot in photoshop, but STILL, ya know ! I will repost this after it is shot with the great lens and camera body. It will look better then.

The reference for this painting is also from December 20th, 2009, eleven days before Suzanne’s death from metastatic hemangiopericytoma. I have come to call them death paintings, but I often think of them as KADDISH which is the Hebrew prayer for the dead.

For one thing I know: that nine-year journey from the diagnosis of the first brain tumor to her final surrender was a holy path I was blessed to be allowed to share, and at the moment of death God shook the universe and I howled.

DEATH PAINTING: preparatory study

SUZANNE DYING 9d*** graphite on paper 18 x 16 1/2 inches (irregular)
So, in honor of my commitment to make this blog more of a view into my studio practice and personal process–foolish to try to separate in an artist, I believe–I am uploading a study, the second one for what may be my next DEATH PAINTING. The inspiration and reference for this image was probably shot on December 20th, 2008, eleven days before her death from metastatic hemangiopericytoma.

I’ve been asked why I’m making these paintings. Every time I work on one I must pay a huge emotional toll. Nor do I expect there to be a clamoring to decorate the living room with this work. I have to make them. It’s certainly a memorial; it is also part of my process of integrating and releasing this horrific and seemingly premature death. Suzanne was 51.

DEATH PAINTING: my wife died a year ago today

Suzanne Dying 9w074 conté and acrylic on rag paper 19 1/2 x 18 inches

A year ago this morning my wife, Suzanne Mauer, died after a nine-year battle with metastatic hemangiopericytoma. Her doctors, Ronald Blum at Beth Israel and Robert Maki at Sloan Kettering, were wonderful doctors and loving men. Suzanne’s death was long, lingering, agonizing, and included a vicious and very expensive legal battle to get treatment approved by her insurance carrier. She went, in a wheelchair, to Albany to talk to the lawmakers in the Capitol and, based on that trip and the incredible help of Mark Scherzer, there is now a New York State law that says that a person with a rare disease cannot be denied coverage based on a lack of “clinical studies”.

She was tough, loving and complicated. Her computer screen saver said “LOVE RULES.” These paintings are love letters. And I will continue making them until they stop demanding to be made. The hell with decorative painting.


When I was a young art student at the Museum School in the 70’s, I was moping down the hall one day, depression blaring from my every cell. I admit it was because I could not get my latest obsession du jour to do the horizontal mambo with me, but my mentor and friend John Thompson, Dean of Students, was unaware of that.

Dean Thompson assumed rather that I was troubled by a dip in my creative output. He took me into his office and said, “Jonathan, when others are lying in the park watching the clouds go by, they are goofing off. When you do it, you are working! Remember that every artist needs fanny time as much as hand time.” Those words, exactly.

In this dark December, the first after the death of my wife, I look at my studio, devoid of new work for a month or so, and remember John Thompson’s words. I know I am still in process on both the DEAD SUZANNE and the new MASTURBATION paintings. I’ll post some sketches I’ve just completed when I shoot them.


Suzanne Dead 9o007 35″ x 27″ oil on linen

This painting and other related SEX AND DEATH artworks can be viewed in that gallery on my website.