As a working artist, bringing the two seemingly disparate worlds of art and boxing together has opened new truths to me. Photography is a very solitary undertaking much like that of a fighter in training. Focus and trust in my own vision are prerequisites for me to work. When a fighter enters the ring, it is ultimately a test of his own strength, stamina and inner voice. No one else can join him in that ring to help him. He is alone. Everyone else, the referee, the judges, the fans, is spectator. Each time I approach the ring with my camera, I feel the fear, the heightened sense of energy and anxiety that I imagine the boxer feels as he prepares to step through the ropes. We both risk public failure.
There is incredible beauty in boxing that is simultaneous with brutality. Physical perfection and the glistening strained muscles of each boxer has its own unique beauty. The exquisite sense of history is always evident at a boxing match, from Roman gladiators to street fighters to the rich visual images of the great fights of the 20th Century. The spectators at the fights offer a parade of humanity that is completely democratic. People of every class, men and women, each come with their own relationship to the sport. Many rush to their feet at the first sight of blood. They smoke, drink and cheer, while others look on with calm detachment. Although the boxing world seems far removed from my daily life, it is not much different from the world I read about in the paper each morning.
I love to capture the movement and energy of that slice in time in my photographs which I take ringside. I remember in detail the exact moment I took each shot. As I am pressed against the ropes, sprayed with the aftermath of each blow, I stretch to capture what remains in human nature after pain. It is those experiences and their effects on me that I try to impart in my work. The colors, the intense theater of the lights, the physical anatomy, the smell of fear and even the sensuality of the bodies in motion, all combine to create what you see in my work.
The New Yorker
GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN, PHOTOGRAPHY
A series of color-saturated pictures of boxers that owe more to Caravaggio than to Sports Illustrated. In one image, a boxer is laid out, perhaps knocked out, and the referee lurks in the corner of the frame; the foreshortened perspective leaves the boxer headless, his feet scrambled and his gloves touching as if in prayer. The chiaroscuro effect of these pictures—nary a fan can be seen in the background—forces you to concentrate on the bodies in the ring.
Kathy Suder: Knockout! ARTnews Review
Kathy Suder's color photographs of boxers provided an intimate and dramatic perspective on life inside the ring: glaring lights, blackened auditorium, glistening muscles, contorted faces, visible pain. In Melting (1997) the sheer energy of the fight is captured in the boxers' swinging arms, shiny torsos, red gloves, and black shorts-all a blur of movement. The furious expression of the boxer facing us, his brow menacing and lips swollen, epitomizes the drama.
Suder's father was a boxer who taught her the sport, and her appreciation of it pervades the photos. Alone (2003) is a reverential image of a boxer. His body, like a figure in a Caravaggio painting, is defined simply by light piercing the dark. His face, barely visible through the shadows, is illuminated by the pale red reflection off his red gloves, poised before his chest, while the top of his shoulders and the tip of his left ear glow in the same searching light.
Considering His Options (2003)-both vividly realistic and seductively abstract-potrays a felled boxer. His outstretched legs jut towards us; the referee's foot is beside us. The drama of defeat is framed by the blue and red sections of floor and ropes cutting the space above his gloves, which cover his gut. Suder dignifies his despair by allowing him space in the corner of the ring, his head hidden, his body prominent, but not the only element defining the composition.
Suder's photographs are mesmerizing, and when printed in large format, 40 x 60 inches, they hint at the artist's history as a painter as well. They are textured and nuanced records of their dauntless subjects.
Beauty and Brutality: Strong, metaphoric and sometimes erotic photographs shot ringside of fighters at championship and amateur bouts held around the world resulting in a solo exhibition in Bruce Silverstein's Gallery in Chelsea, New York and William Campbell Gallery in Texas, work in the permanent collections of the Amon Carter Museum and Miami Art Museum (donated by Charles Cowles), and numerous private collections.