Susan Weil, a New York-based artist who specializes in painting, mixed media, and book arts, has been making art for the better part of the past century. During that time, she has studied under and worked alongside pivotal figures in the modern American art world. From the outset of her professional career, Weil’s art has epitomized the experimental spirit of her generation. Like other women artists starting out in the mid-twentieth century, her achievements were largely overshadowed by male contemporaries, including her one-time husband, Robert Rauschenberg. Fortunately, that biased historical record is slowly but surely being corrected, and the impact that Weil and her female colleagues have had on the trajectory of American art is being celebrated.

It was while studying painting at the Académie Julian in Paris that Weil met Rauschenberg in 1948. When Weil left France that fall to attend Black Mountain College in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Rauschenberg followed her there and enrolled in classes as well. As was the case with the majority of students at Black Mountain College, she studied under the school’s esteemed director, Josef Albers, whom she cited as her main reason for attending the school. Courses in art, poetry, music, and dance brought her into contact with composer John Cage and fellow painter Elaine de Kooning.

After Josef Albers left Black Mountain College in 1949 to teach at Yale University, Weil and Rauschenberg departed as well. They moved to New York, enrolled in classes at the Art Students League, and married in 1950. The union lasted just two years. Weil’s influence on Rauschenberg has historically been underappreciated, and she has often been relegated to the role of spouse or classmate, titles woefully insufficient to the complexity of their partnership. In addition to being husband and wife, Rauschenberg and Weil were creative collaborators. Weil taught Rauschenberg the blueprint method, a technique she had mastered as a young girl. That influence is evident even in Rauschenberg’s later work, like Time + Ties, which appropriates the aesthetic, if not method, of the blueprint. From 1949 to 1951, they created an impressive series of large-scale blueprints featuring imprints of the human body combined with elements of collage and surrealist decoration. One of these works was featured in an exhibition curated by photographer Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art in 1951.

The curriculum at Black Mountain College embraced progressive pedagogies that broke down the boundaries between the various forms of art, encouraged collaboration amongst artists, writers, dancers, and musicians, and broke away from tradition in unexpected, often radical, ways. Such innovation continued to inform Weil’s art throughout her career, as did her immersion in the dynamic mid-century New York arts scene. Weil recalled that “growing up in the 1950s when Abstract Expressionism was blowing all the rules, it gave you a sense of possibility: You didn’t have to be hemmed in by a square. You could really make these things move.” Investigations with alternative media have resulted in unique three-dimensional compositions that fracture the picture plane. She crumples and reconfigures paper, combines multiple media, and deconstructs and rearranges her subjects in ways that create new meanings. For instance, for the past forty years, Weil has been composing daily “poem mumbles,” works on paper that marry poetry with drawing, photographs, and other imagery.

In the 1970s, Weil became a member of New York Professional Women Artists, an organization that protested the discriminatory practices of some of the most prestigious art galleries in the city. The group also exhibited their work together and organized temporary public art installations in the city’s public parks.

Weil is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Grant. More recently, she has been the subject of several monographic publications and exhibitions, including solo shows at the Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center and Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain. Weil’s work is represented in premier permanent collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.