Suzette Alsop Jones

Oil Paintings

Biography

suzette_headshotI grew up in the Berkshires in a family of painters. After earning a B.A. in European History at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, I went back to get an MFA in printmaking and painting at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. I have taught at the Putney School, the Choate Rosemary Hall School, and I spent 18 years as head of the visual art department at the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, MA, teaching painting, drawing, architectural design, sculpture and art history. For twelve years I also worked with the performing arts department to design and build sets for the fall plays and spring musicals.

To balance the intense load of teaching, I have always painted, exhibiting in 17 solo shows and many group shows all over New England. I also continued to take courses at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Decordova Museum School in Lincoln, MA, the Creative Arts Workshop in New Haven, CT, and the Vermont Studio School in Johnson, VT. For many summers I participated in workshops and residencies with Lois Tarlow in Taos, NM.

Statement

For me, painting is about trying to capture the energy of living things, whether it’s the movement in afternoon clouds rising up over mountains, the miraculous opening of a lily bud or the way a bird angles its wings to ride the wind. That underlying flow of energy is what I feel and look for when I lay out a composition.

Landscapes:
Working on site is always a challenge. Winds come up out of nowhere, ants appear to explore my palette, clouds shift, weather and light change constantly, and the sun can be relentless. But painting on site, in the landscape, makes me part of the flow that is all around me. I have given
up taking photographs, because they never record what I “see” with my eyes. I have painted in Maine and Massachusetts, and the New Mexican landscape paintings are the result of many years of residencies in the Taos area with Lois Tarlow, a well known Boston area artist and critic for Art New England. I continue to be fascinated by forms and colors in the landscape, by the energy and movement in trees and in the sky. Outdoor spaces can be truly overwhelming, and it is such a challenge to capture small, coherent responses to them in only a few hours.

Birds
“Five cents if you can tell me what that bird is,” my grandfather often said when he took us into the woods when we were small. We were often “lost,” and we found our way by remembering specific trees or shrubs, by noticing details of the landscape that we scrambled through. He opened up a window for us, tuning us into the interdependent complexities of the natural world. Wherever I go, looking at birds leads me deep into thickets to a more careful observation of the local environment. In Maine, I often visit a cabin with no electricity where I am surrounded by sounds of ospreys, gulls, herons, hermit thrushes, black-throated green warblers, winter wrens and kingfishers. Seeing and hearing fewer songbirds now, I worry about disappearing habitats and toxic pesticides. Birds are small, and I somehow feel the need to paint them larger so people notice how beautiful they are and appreciate their important roles in our ecosystems before it is too late.

Flowers:
A few years ago I was working on a series of paintings with themes from the Renaissance, including some “Annunciations,” when I realized that the subjects I enjoyed painting the most were the lilies. I was captivated by the expressive forms of these traditional symbols for purity that always accompany the Virgin. It was a hot July day; I went outside and saw day-lilies blooming. I started painting flowers and haven’t looked back.

As it happens, I am descended from a long line of gardeners, gardeners who also painted flowers. My grandmother trained my tiny hands to knock Japanese beetles off her roses into a can of kerosene. All my best lilies and irises come from my Mother’s garden. Flowers, for me, are metaphors for life in all its miraculous, fleeting and transient permutations. Buds seem pregnant with possibility. As flowers open, they are like windows into another world.

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