ARTIST SPOTLIGHT | SUZIE BURGESS
Artist Suzie Burgess reveals how a move from the Midwest to Redding, California, unlocked new levels of creativity and connection.
When Suzie Burgess moved to Redding from Chicago in the summer of 2011, she couldn’t have anticipated how the region would affect her and create space for a whole new direction in her work.
The accomplished Redding artist embarked on a journey of self-realization, fusing her two great loves–painting and horses–into a blossoming career, sparked by her move across the United States to Northern California.
“We were living in the western suburbs of Chicago, and we had friends who had moved here. When we looked at Redding on Google maps my husband’s first comment was ‘it looks like the Sacramento River runs right through town and it’s completely surrounded by green’. Redding is surrounded by national forests, it’s close to the Redwoods, but it was a hike up Brandy Creek on our first visit here that sealed the decision”.
The Right Rein
Determined to make a career as an artist, it took some time before Suzie pulled the right rein.
“Living here made it possible for me to have a horse, it’s way more affordable to own a horse here than in Chicago or where I grew up in Massachusetts. When we moved here, I was doing figurative portrait work, but when I got my own horse, something just clicked”
“I knew right away that if I was going to paint horses I was going to have to make large paintings. I want my paintings to convey what it feels like to be in the presence of a horse. There is something about the horse throughout history that has consistently been deeply impactful, as well as meaningful in a personal way. Painting large for me is a fully embodied experience and I love it. It’s exciting for me to see the canvas in front of me literally come alive.
(photos by Brent Van Auken)
A Special Bond
“What I realized during the pandemic is that time with my horse and painting are interconnected. Having a relationship with my own horse keeps the passion for painting them alive. There were weeks during the pandemic that I wasn’t at the barn and I noticed when I went in the studio the motivation to paint was lacking.”
It’s not just her own horse with which Suzie forms an indelible rapport.
“I photograph the horses I paint. It’s an important part of my process to get out there with them. I take the time to get to know the horses I paint.”
“I’m a painter, so it’s not always easy for me to put things into words, but horse people know, horses get into your blood. Horses are special creatures–there is mystery and trust and power and connection all in one animal.”
Creating an Experience
Suzie’s desire to create an experience goes beyond her paintings, when she shows her work she loves to have horses there too. Her first major show of horse paintings was in a barn out in Millville. There was wine, hors d’oeuvres, a string quartet, and live horses.
“That first show was a kind of milestone. We had over 4 hundred people show up to a barn full of paintings, horses and music. Everything just worked together–it was magic. It set in my mind that I always want to have horses at my shows–it’s not always possible–but it creates a special experience. I want people to tangibly touch, smell and interact with the subject I am so passionate about. ”
An Inevitable Ride
“Art was the one thing I could do in school,” Suzie said. “I had learning disabilities and school was really difficult, but I felt at home when I was in Art Class. After school and in the summers, I would trade working at horse barns for lessons. The passion has been there all along, it just took me a while to figure it out and connect them.”
It’s been a long journey, and for Suzie all roads eventually lead to Shasta County.
“My favorite part of Redding is the people. We have great community and great friends. We’ve lived here long enough now that we run into people so often and easily. Redding feels like a place where people are doing things. Buildings a getting renovated, new businesses are popping up. As an artist, seeing there are other creatives around town creates a great energy and makes me excited to be here.”
Check out more of Suzie’s artwork at: https://www.suzieburgessart.com/