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A four year painting project
A four year painting project
168 backers pledged $28,568 to help bring this project to life.

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$28,568

168

THANK YOU to everyone who got this project over its original goal and made this campaign a success!! 

I have a new STRETCH GOAL! 

Original goal: $13,800 (all expenses for trips to 6 red states)

STRETCH GOAL:  $27,600 (all expenses for trips to 12 red states) 

BY ELECTION DAY, Tuesday November 6! 

Susanna Bluhm, "Lake Martin, Louisiana (Ahab)," 2018, oil and acrylic on canvas, 62 x 85 inches
Susanna Bluhm, "Lake Martin, Louisiana (Ahab)," 2018, oil and acrylic on canvas, 62 x 85 inches

Brief summary: 

While Donald Trump is president I am going to as many red states as I can and then making paintings about my experiences in those places. I’m using the project as an excuse to talk to people I otherwise wouldn’t have a reason to interact with, and I’m using painting as a way to insert myself in places I’m not sure I belong. Like Trump’s presidency, my project is at its midterm, and this Kickstarter campaign is to fund the second half.

In detail:

After the election of Donald Trump by the electoral votes of "red" states, I resolved to challenge my feelings of incredulity and animosity towards those states by visiting as many of them as I can while Trump is in office and making paintings about my experiences there. From January 2017 through January 2021, I am taking short trips to several red states each year. While there, I talk to people, take pictures, and make notes and drawings. Then I come back to my studio in Seattle and make a group of paintings based on my experiences in each state. My primary goals for this project are to make contact with red states (specifically the people and landscapes they contain) and to make paintings. 

In each state I visit, I am asking people who live there where they think I should go in their state. I ask them to choose a place that they think is important in some way - which I have left open to their interpretation and has varied widely! Some have told me to go to popular tourist destination landscapes like the Grand Canyon. Some have told me to go to places that have been significant to them personally, like the oldest restaurant in Savannah where a young man’s disbelief in ghosts was bluntly put to an end. Some teens in North Carolina told me I should visit the projects where they live. Some have told me stories about important people in their state. In Natchez, Mississippi, the director of the Natchez Museum of African-American History and Culture told me the true story of Miss Nellie Jackson, who ran the longest-standing African American business in Natchez: a brothel. She was a loved, trusted member of the community and bailed freedom fighters out of jail. One night in the 1990’s she denied entry to a drunk white man. That night he burned her house down and she died a few days later. 

When I go to the places people have told me to go, I'm thinking about those people and their stories. I'm also having my own experience in the place. All make their way into the paintings, sometimes in an abstract, minimal way, sometimes in a more recognizable way. For example, some of my Mississippi paintings feature Miss Nellie with a large "N" and with the red and white awnings of her house. 

Susanna Bluhm, "For Miss Nellie (The Spouter-Inn)," 2017, oil and acrylic on canvas, 60 x 86 inches
Susanna Bluhm, "For Miss Nellie (The Spouter-Inn)," 2017, oil and acrylic on canvas, 60 x 86 inches

With this project, I am not attempting to summarize each state. I’m not trying to have the quintessential experience of each state. I’m not observing from a distance. I am having an experience in each state, as myself. I’m doing this out of a personal need to not spend four years hating half of my country. As a painter who often bases projects on a sense of place, I know that I end up feeling connected to the places I paint. As a queer, feminist artist from a blue state, I’m using painting as a way to insert myself into places where I’m not sure I belong. I’m using this project as an opportunity to interact with people I normally wouldn’t have the excuse to meet. 

The resulting paintings are usually landscape-based and somewhat abstract, with a personal narrative running underneath. My goal for the paintings is for them to communicate something about the place they represent, so that the person experiencing the painting ends up feeling connected to the place in some way they weren’t before.

I am reading Moby-Dick while I do this project. Part of the title of each painting (the part in parentheses) is a chapter title in Moby-Dick. I am on a journey of intimacy with our country. I must be stalwart as I pursue my whale so as not to be slain in the process.

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball."

- Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, 1851

Susanna Bluhm, "Grand Canyon with Theo, Queequeg and Lunchtime Squirrel (Biographical)," 2017, oil and acrylic on canvas, 86 x 135 inches
Susanna Bluhm, "Grand Canyon with Theo, Queequeg and Lunchtime Squirrel (Biographical)," 2017, oil and acrylic on canvas, 86 x 135 inches

BUDGET & LOGISTICS

Since February 2017, I have been visiting several states each year in various capacities. I am applying for artist residencies and grants, giving talks at universities and cultural institutions (contact me if you'd like to connect about this possibility!), staying in Airbnbs with my wife, renting rooms in Airbnbs alone, visiting friends and their families, and staying with friends of friends. There are thirty red states in all. I would like to visit and paint all thirty, but I've set fifteen as the minimum for this project. Having already been to seven, and traveling to two while this campaign is in progress, I'll need to visit at least six more states before January 2021. At this point, being unable to predict how many residencies I'll be awarded or which grants I'll receive, I need to secure funding for all necessary travel expenses. Lodging, meals, airfare, rental cars and gas add up to  approximately $2300 per state; six states will cost $13,800. 

I am visiting states faster than I can paint them. I will be visiting states through January 2021, but I will be painting them as long as it takes. So far, I have completed four bodies of work representing four states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Arizona, and North Carolina). From 2019 onward, I plan to complete three states each year. The number of red states I'm able to visit will directly determine how long it takes me to complete the full Red Country series! 

REWARDS

Images below are examples of the works on paper featured as rewards! Each piece is postcard-sized (approximately 4.5 x 6.5 inches) and represents an experience I had, or something I saw, in a red state. Media used includes gouache, watercolor, collage and colored pencil on archival paper. Each piece is titled and signed on the back. 

You can choose the state(s) you want! The pieces themselves will be a surprise. I will ship these to you as soon as they're done, which depends on the state and when I visit, January 2019 - January 2021. 

Susanna Bluhm, "Arizona: Mobile Gardens #1," 2017, gouache and collage on paper
Susanna Bluhm, "Arizona: Mobile Gardens #1," 2017, gouache and collage on paper
Susanna Bluhm, "Louisiana: Swamp Tours with Butch & Shawn," 2018, watercolor and gouache on paper
Susanna Bluhm, "Louisiana: Swamp Tours with Butch & Shawn," 2018, watercolor and gouache on paper

Risks and challenges

Careful planning and preparations have made the first two years of this project a success, with accomplishments following the anticipated timeline. I expect the second half of the project to proceed much like the first half.

WHAT IF

If Trump is impeached but his administration is still in office, I will carry on with the project as planned.

If there is a natural disaster occurring in a state at the time of my planned visit, I will still go as long as it is not a glaring threat to personal safety.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    Appreciation & Recognition

    Thank you! Every bit helps! Your name will be included on my list of Red Country participants & supporters on my website.

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Postcard from a Red State

    I'll buy a scenic postcard from a convenience store in a red state, write you a note on it, and mail it to you from said red state. Delivery date anytime between now and January 2021. (Plus appreciation and recognition on my website.)

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Letter from a Red State

    I'll handwrite you a personal letter about my day in a red state (including sketches), and mail it from said state. Delivery date anytime between now and January 2021. (Plus appreciation and recognition on my website.)

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Work on Paper

    Art! A postcard-sized work on paper (gouache, watercolor, collage) representing an experience I had, or something I saw, in a red state. You can pick the state! Delivery date depends on the state, anytime between now and January 2021. (Plus appreciation and recognition on my website.)

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Work on Paper + State Chapbook

    Art! A postcard-sized work on paper (gouache, watercolor, collage) representing an experience I had, or something I saw, in a red state. AND: a chapbook of my trip diary for that state. You can pick the state. Delivery date anytime between now and January 2021. (Plus appreciation and recognition on my website.)

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Work on Paper + Chapbook for 2 States

    Art! Two postcard-sized works on paper (gouache, watercolor, collage) representing experiences I had, or things I saw, in two red states. AND: a chapbook of my trip diary for each of those states. You can pick the states! Delivery date depends on the states, anytime between now and January 2021. (Plus appreciation and recognition on my website.)

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    Pledge $400 or more About $400

    Work on Paper + Chapbook for 4 States

    Art! Four postcard-sized works on paper (gouache, watercolor, collage) representing experiences I had, or things I saw, in four red states. AND: a chapbook of my trip diary for each of those states. You can pick the states. Delivery date anytime between now and January 2021. (Plus appreciation and recognition on my website.)

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    Pledge $1,200 or more About $1,200

    Red State Collector

    Art! For EVERY red state I visit (whether the final number is 15 or 30), you'll get a postcard-sized work on paper (gouache, watercolor, collage) representing an experience I had, or something I saw, in each red state. AND: a chapbook including my trip diary for each state. (Plus appreciation and recognition on my website.)

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    Pledge $2,300 or more About $2,300

    State Supporter

    Immense gratitude to you for funding ALL necessary expenses (lodging, meals, rental car, gas, airfare) for my trip to a red state! You can pick any painting up to 24" (longest dimension), and you'll get a chapbook for the same state as the painting. I will also write and mail you a personal letter from each red state I visit.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    Red Country Collector

    Immense gratitude to you for funding ALL necessary expenses (lodging, meals, rental car, gas, airfare) for my trip to TWO red states! You can pick any painting up to 24" (longest dimension), and you'll get a chapbook for every state I visit. AND I will throw you and your friends a private party in my studio where we will eat and drink and share stories about traveling around the U.S.

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Funding period

- (35 days)