As a true introvert, Susan Wahlrab has always found her sanctuary in nature. “It is where I go to be recharged, nourished and inspired,” she says. “However, I purposely choose this place as one that is universal. It could be anywhere. It’s not important to me if anyone knows where Sanctuary is. Yet, it is my hope it will help in creating someone else’s.”
Susan finds herself particularly drawn to where land and water meet – more specifically, the coast of Maine. Her paintings come from a real place, for who is she, in her own words, “to create something that is already so perfect?” “Nature is so much more creative with variety of shape, color, texture and atmosphere. It is not something to make up. It is something to observe, to reflect and to connect. The pulse of nature has no boundaries. It is interconnected.”
Over the years, Susan has explored many techniques of mark making in an attempt to describe the sensation of her dialogue with nature. “Over time I notice and feel more and more. It’s an ever maddening process of attempting the impossible,” she says in reference to capturing nature. “It’s the artist’s journey to ‘the crazy.’ Sometimes I just cannot stop,” she laughs. “I’m an addict.”
The last year has brought some breakthrough with a process Wahlrab has essentially invented through her own experience and experiments. “I’ve used the information I gained from my MFA in printmaking, my investigating with monoprints and my practice in layered watercolor on paper.” All this led to the discovery of painting watercolor on clay panels that can be varnished. This is uncharted territory. “Well, lets just say it could fit back it the crazy category,” says Wahlrab. Since she started this adventure about 5 years ago, every day has been a dance between materials and vision. “One day I am in love, the next – well, it’s time to take a walk.”
Fortunately, she has time and place for these walks. In addition, she relies on a yoga and meditation practice to keep her balanced, and family to keep her grounded. Then, of course, there is her sanctuary.
“Sanctuary“ represents one of those days, really months, of the pure bliss of connection. Every step I felt guided and clear,” says Wahlrab. Not only did this piece come together, the process just let go. “I was in a relationship with how paint describes how nature is our resource to recharge full lives.” This sensation has stayed with Susan with her work even on the challenging days. “I am able to just let go and allow the painting to come in its own time. The whole process has become my Sanctuary.”
Sanctuary is part of the Choice Art Show, and will be on display at Maine Art Shows, 10 Chase Hill Road in Kennebunk, until June 30th. Please stop in any day between 11 am and 5 pm to see the show in its entirety. The show is also available to view online by clicking here; Choice Art Show.
If you are interested in reading more Susan Wahlrab and her work at Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture click here. You may also visit her Artist Page to see our entire collection of Susan Wahlrab paintings.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states, “Art is something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.”
Many of our artists have always found a way to integrate art into their lives long before society ever called them artists. In their early years, they were drawn to color, design, photography, or just a really great napkin doodle. Regardless, it was in their blood. It was a knowing that beauty is meant to be captured in a form. They sketched or sculpted and always found a way to express themselves and their surroundings with visuals.
At a very young age, Susan Wahlrab was expressing her own “important ideas.” “My grandmother said I came home from whatever event and went right for my drawing pad or my desk chalkboard and immediately created a visual diary of what most interested me,” says Wahlrab. “Making images has been my way of integrating life’s experiences since I was very small.” Having someone to nurture those interests and natural curiosities soon led Susan down the road to becoming an artist.
“It was a natural step to go to art school,” remembers Wahlrab. However, it was while she was completing graduate work that she discovered a different passion, a passion for teaching. This lead to positions at Swain School of Design, Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, Framingham State University and Maine College of Art. Teaching became a way of sharing a love with others who understand that love.
The other side of Wahlrab’s life was quite different from her art. “I discovered movement from an early age, as well. It began with swimming, on to hiking and running, then to yoga,” says Susan. It is this exploration that led Wahlrab down a path which she thought would run parallel to her art, but became something separate. And yet, turn after turn these roads continued to weave together, one not complete without the other. “At this point they are both such a part of me. I can not imagine a day without my morning practice and meditation followed by hours in the studio. The yoga brings the balance and connection I need to continue to grow.” Susan knows that on a practical level the physical strengthening and calm focus supports the demands of standing all day painting and working through challenges, yet she knows it is more than that. “On a deeper level yoga has integrated a full and complex life which I can use to inspire as I continue the journey of expanding as an artist.”
Again, a passion led her to teaching; something that has become just as natural as movement and art. “One thing is clear. When I find something I truly am passionate about, I want to share the excitement through teaching. The process and time I put into classes supports my own learning journey. A life of observation and connection of body, mind and spirit.”
We welcome you to come in and see our complete collection of Susan Wahlrab’s work here at Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture in Kennebunk. Her watercolor technique is as beautiful as it is unique, and is meant to be seen in person. However, we know this is not often possible and encourage you to visit her Artist Page on our website. If you are interested in learning more about Susan Wahlrab and her art, please read an earlier blog about one of her works, Reflection.
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Reflection – the throwing back by a body or surface of light without absorbing it. Reflection – a thing that is a consequence of or arises from something else. Reflection – serious thought or consideration.
For artist Susan Wahlrab, “Reflection” is all of these, beautifully balanced in the pulse of quiet and flow. “I choose a place that is personal to me, yet still a universal image of the conversation between the two islands and the warm, safe cove. It is the relationship of earth and water, where water and land meet, dancing together,” says Wahlrab. With the physical comes the mental, the emotional. “The word reflection is also contemplation for me; an inner and outer connection where a balance of stillness and movement meet.”
It was only after a conversation with Vermont State Curator, David Schutz, that Susan truly began to understand her work’s connection to the concept of reflection. “I was so excited about the ‘ah-ha’ moment, I wanted to paint the largest painting I could.” This piece is a 48 x 36 varnished watercolor on claybord, and is destined to be a focal point in any room. “Laying the panel flat, I literally had to sit on top if it as I worked. Lots of up, down and crazy positions. Definitely the most physical challenge ever!” The end result is a feeling of beauty and wonder that only standing in front of this piece can bring. The scale and color and subtle nuances are blended together in a way even Mother Nature would respect.
It has been over thirty years now that Susan has been discovering landscape through her art. “Reflection” represents those years, both in nature and in the studio. Even though this one was a very personal venture, it is with great happiness that she will pass it off to new owners. “I hope they find their own connection and discover something new each time light and life changes; each time moments are spent in reflection.”
All of Susan Wahlrab’s work can be seen on her Artist Page on Maine Art Painting and Sculpture’s website. Please consider, however, coming in to see it for yourself at Maine Art Shows at 10 Chase Hill Road in Kennebunk. Words and images do not do it justice.
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