We had the good fortune of connecting with Susiehyer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Susiehyer, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I spent the first 18 years of my life in the burbs of northern NJ. Born to lower middle class folks, making art as a career choice was never encouraged, even though I knew from the time I was 4 or 5 that I would be an artist. It was like I came in knowing that. Always being steered away from it made me more determined to have a career in art. I studied art at a small liberal arts university in PA. One semester break I was at home with my parents. My father turned to my mother and said ‘what the hell is she going to do with an art education?” My mother quickly replied, “Oh Fred, don’t worry, someone will marry her and take care of her”. I bristled, but didn’t respond to this with expletives or the finger. Rather, it made me more determined. I thought ,”I’ll show YOU!” While it didn’t happen overnight, maybe I acquired some level of success out of spite, who knows. My upbringing did however, instill in me basic life values that at least kept me honest and willing to work for what I wanted. My folks didn’t have money to send me to college, so I begged, borrowed, stole, cried, and worked my butt off.
I had amazing instructors at Moravian University who really gave me a great background and the confidence to pursue a career in art without having to think that I would need to rely on teaching for income. I was rabid. I became an art model to be around artists and students, and worked at the 7 colleges in the Lehigh Valley. It paid twice as much as minimum wage and helped me pay the rent. I lived with a bunch of other people to afford the lifestyle. At 22 I took an epic road trip around the country with 2 other room mates. I had never really travelled anywhere. My parents were freaking out. This trip was a big factor in alleviating hidden fears, affording me a lot of amazing experiences. It gave me the confidence and trust in life to bring to me what I needed in order to achieve what I wanted. It was huge.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m not exactly sure what led me to travelling around and painting in Plein Air events. Being an outdoor type person, I think I just preferred to paint outside in nature for practice. I got invited to some shows which I really liked because of the opportunity to travel and paint in places I had never been. I started applying to those shows and it became a machine of sorts. It helped me sharpen my skills. It brought a lot of amazing people into my life, it was super fun to paint and hang out with other artists, regardless of their skill level. I loved the fact that in doing it, I was helping to raise funds for art centers, and art organizations. It was a win win. I never looked at those shows as competitions as some artists do. It takes an enormous amount of energy to put together a wall of paintings in a week or less. During which you do demos, paint outs, and talk to the public. It bruises my brain. We have to be entertainers or performers of sorts. And it can wear you down trying to survive financially on those shows…. Every show is a crap shoot whether you make or lose money. Its not sustainable unless maybe you have a gimmick. I quit that circuit last year, as I had been invited to other kinds of shows. It was a stepping stone of sorts. I kept it up way too long because I missed the people. I wanted more time to do more studio work, not be on the road so much, do larger more involved, more “thoughtful” work. More directional. And continue to explore the 4 or 5 other directions of work I have been doing but have no where to show or sell because they are such a departure from what people expect from me..
I hear many people say about my work, that it’s the light in my paintings that grabs them.. I don’t know if that sets my work apart, many artists are attracted to the same things and see things the same way. Our expressions are different. I AM attracted to and get excited about dramatic light conditions, that’s true.
One of the things that excites me the most about painting has to do with composition, and arranging value shapes in a way that creates strength in a painting. Its about designing a 2 dimensional space with these value shapes. Maybe I’m just a designer at heart. I’m not that concerned with color except to do experiments with. I do like playing with the light, and prefer light and shadow paintings for myself. But really its all about experimenting and trying to set up some kind of painting exploration for myself, if I’m left to my own devices. I mean, not having to produce work for a gallery to sell, and making paintings that have to be, what one gallery owner described as ‘appealing”. For me I need to have a balance between the business of painting and joyful explorations in paint.
I’m learning to be more truthful in what and how I want to paint, to trust that the paintings I want to do will speak or resonate on some level with art appreciators.. I think the most important lesson I’ve learned for myself is that I very much value what I do, I am extremely grateful to have the life I have, and sometimes I can’t even believe I get to do this. So I’m not willing to sell myself short anymore. And I mostly trust what shows up, although doubts creep in when I’m not paying attention.
And what I’m really proud of, is that I have been honored to receive the 2022 Comenius Award., Moravian University’s highest Alumni Award, the lifetime achievement award. I never would have thought……
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Denver Botanic Gardens …besides the gardens , they have brand new facilities that feature art Denver ARt museum if they were art lovers
not sure what great restaurants there are anymore in Denver since covid but I’d take them to one of our really great farm to table type places….where food is art as well….Mizuna Denver is a fav. Also like the Bistro in Evergreen for the mountain atmosphere, and 240 Union in Lakewood. Stoic and Genuine restaurant is awesome and the area at Union Station is pretty cool (or was, Ive heard tales)
Sorry I’m not much help here, everything I really want to do is on my own property, LOL.. My studio is pretty fun for our guests and I’m a killer vegetarian cook and gardener at 7900 ft. Friends refer to it as Susiehyer’s restaurant, gallery, retreat and spa.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I couldn’t say there would be any one particular person or thing , there are so many. ….my art professors in college, particularly D W Tereshko, who I consider a mentor. My first husband who was completely supportive financially. My current husband, who has put up with living with an artist for 37 years, is probably the person who deserves the most credit. He’s a saint..
In the 1980s I was a national vice president of the Women’s Caucus for Art, and organization that worked to make opportunities for women artists. I was also a coordinator for the New Orleans chapter where I lived at the time. It made a big impact on me, the fact that I could help other women at the same time I was helping myself, putting on exhibitions, making connections with successful women artists, and networking with whoever and wherever to have more exposure and opportunities.
I would also have to give a shout out to the Art Students League of Denver. How fortunate we are to have a facility like that with the quality of instruction that is available. And the excellent program at the Denver Botanic Gardens for Botanical Illustration. I think they are one of the top 5 in the world. Those 2 institutions created a perfect storm for me.
Facebook: facebook.com/susie.hyer facebook.com/SusieHyer/studio
Other: Susiehyer Studio, Evergreen CO firstname.lastname@example.org
Krista Steed-Reyes (head shot)