Susan Wicker on Hollywood and Faceless Starlets

Wicker graduated from the Arts University Bournemouth in 2012 after studying Illustration. She is a freelance artist and graphic illustrator who uses found ephemera to produce new studies of contemporary imagery. Her collaborations have been seen in shows that discuss social and cultural issues, and it has also been published in diverse magazines. The ideas behind her work are influenced by retro and vintage material that allow her to highlight socially relevant matters. Wicker is currently represented by South West Artwork in the United Kingdom.

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In this blog feature, MiddleGray's visual arts editor Catalina Piedrahita asked artist Sue Wicker about the process of creating her work and the meaning behind some of her artistic choices.

Catalina Piedrahita: When it comes to your Hollywood series, how do you select the images you use in your final pieces and how is the process of putting them together?

Susan Wicker: The Hollywood series was an extension of my work carried on from my graduate show in 2012. I had obtained quite a selection of images and had them all at my disposal. The images used for my final pieces were the ones that offered an atmospheric feeling and I felt fitted the brief of Hollywood life for young hopefuls. The process of putting them together was defined first by their shape, then their colour and lastly by how the pieces seem to fit together, much like a jigsaw puzzle.

CP: How was the process of finding your artistic media, and how do you know which one to use when working on a new piece or series?

SW: During my time at Art College, in one of the many workshops, I experimented with different media and enjoyed using visual imagery in my work. I was drawn by the impact of advertisement and graphic images seen in magazines and newspapers. When I work on a new piece or series, I arduously look through the material I hold, and I source new material that may enhance my visual idea and then file away the rest for another time. The images I use for my respective pieces are the ones that literally jump out at me when spread out on the table. 

CP: I see a lot of headless female bodies in your Hollywood series. Is this symbolic of something? If so, could you tell us more about it?

SW: I used headless bodies in my Hollywood series to give the work an anonymity, and to engage the inquisitive viewer. I tend to either use headless bodies or cover part of the faces of the women in my work. I do this as a symbolic respect of their identity or to highlight their vulnerability. 

CP: How does your freelance illustration work differ from your personal one?

SW: Sometimes my freelance illustration work crosses over to my personal work and vice versa. I believe I have grown within my work, and I've started to experiment more in a traditional way, which is more evident in my recent freelance work. This has been the biggest difference in the way I work for a wider audience.

CP: Are you working on any new projects right now? Can you share any details with us?

SW: The most recent project I am working on is for an exhibition under the heading Icons and Legends. I was drawn by the fascinating lives of strong and successful women in the limelight. I dismissed the idea of working on a piece on Marilyn Monroe and felt the need to portray other women who may have been overshadowed by the success of Marilyn in her quest for stardom.