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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

Forging a Path of Her Own

“To create one’s own world takes courage.” Georgia O’Keeffe Yes, it takes courage, focus, creativity, and a vivid imagination for artist Susan Gillette's worldview. Born in 1960 in Youngstown, Ohio, her parents soon moved to a small farm near Woodstock, New York, before settling in Ossining, New York, where Susan would attend high school. Her father, as a professor of Math and Physics at Bard College, Columbia University in Manhattan, and Pace in Westchester, Mass, provided Susan a unique opportunity to experience farm, suburb, and big city life. Susan attributes her mother to encouraging her to draw, create, and gather her inspiration from frequent trips to nature.

Susan attended SUNY at Purchase, New York, for a BFA in Printmaking and the School of Visual Arts in New York for her master's degree in Fine Art and Art Education. During her college years, Susan worked as a makeup artist and taxidermist, providing her with an extensive education in physical form. After graduation, Susan found a position teaching art at Washington Irving High School in lower Manhattan and Saint Mary’s Grad School in Yonkers, New York. In addition, she taught adult workshops at the School of Visual Arts and advanced summer programs in art for children in Connecticut. On her 31st birthday, Susan took advantage of an opportunity to move to Phoenix, Arizona, with her "best friend," both girls seeking a new adventure and a fresh start.

When Susan arrived in Phoenix, she had no trouble landing a job as a designer, painter, and printmaker with the Phoenix Art Group. She met her future husband, Ron, soon after. He was an engineering student at Arizona State University on a runner’s scholarship and owned his own t-shirt printing company. Susan initially met with Ron to design images for his company’s t-shirts. Ron soon found out Susan could produce an endless array of images and understood the printing process. The collaborative environment fostered a professional relationship and a personal partnership with a creative foundation.

Susan’s work has its roots in the natural world; however, she’s intrigued by the secret symbols of cultures and the nuances of cityscapes from her childhood and adolescence. Susan remembers a time in college when she had an opportunity to work on a project with Sir Desmond Tutu addressing apartheid in South Africa. Her mentor, Antonio Frasconi, was heavily involved in the social movements of the day; as a result, his students became the generation that provided an up close and personal look at injustice in communities. Today, Susan is grateful for the experience of broadening her awareness and worldview.

Art has been Susan’s grounding element her entire life, she delights in using new techniques and seeking out diversity in subject matter. Susan works from her studio in the Rio Verde Foothills, north of Scottsdale, Arizona where she has a large etching press. The press enables her to “push the envelope” in incorporating printmaking, painting, and collage into unexpectedly large exhilarating panels. Her recent series has adopted a contemporary format incorporating wildly vibrant color choices. It works; her collectors and clients are snatching them right off the press! Susan has attracted the notice of popular publications such as Décor, Veranda, and the annual Top Doctors Issues of Phoenix Magazine. Artist Susan Gillette regularly exhibits at The Art Department in the Scottsdale Airpark, Finer Arts Gallery, Cave Creek, Arizona, and Grand Image in Seattle, Washington. She is a member of the Sonoran Arts League and participates in the league exhibits throughout the year.


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