I am compelled by and find respite in recording the quiet beauty in everyday objects, domestic interiors, slices of Americana, backyard views, old family photographs and industrial cityscapes. My work is a fundamental investigation of light and space and my relationship with particular objects and views to which I am viscerally connected.
I start each painting with very general shapes placed often with a palette knife, and refine until the process is complete. This usually takes at least a couple of months, depending on the size of the piece. The layering of the oil paint lends a weight and permanence to the scenes and objects, further enhancing the way in which these places are reinforced in my memory over many separate encounters.
I am especially drawn to interiors and urban landscapes that combine old and new elements in awkward or sometimes subtle, unsettling ways. The elements I return to, that draw me in, include exposed piping and brick, cabinetry with vintage fixtures, old archways and doorways, kitchen sinks and antique appliances. The combination of these older elements with contemporary items might be suggestive of a nostalgic struggle, or quiet tension, held in balance in the often overlooked, every day space.
Suzanne Elizabeth was born in Helena, Montana in 1976 and grew up in Oakland, California, and Bellingham and Tacoma, Washington.
Suzanne studied painting at the University of Puget Sound under Jim Phalen and Melissa Weinman, both established Northwest realist painters. From Jim she first learned to allow the process to take its time, to let each piece emerge at its own pace and not force it. Melissa’s technical eye and rigorous classes nurtured the discipline of seeing, recording and creating compelling compositions. She credits Johannes Vermeer and Edward Hopper as her first greatest influences.
After graduating with honors in 1998, Suzanne moved to Portland, Oregon. Over the last 16 years, she has shown her work in numerous cafes, restaurants and galleries in Portland, including Multnomah Arts Center, Beam and Anchor, Coffeehouse Northwest, Extracto, Accanto, Bakery Bar, Cafe Mingo, L’Astra, Night Light, People’s Art of Portland, the B&O building, Piper Cafe, and the Red E. She also hosted art shows in 2005 and 2006 in her loft overlooking SE and SW Portland, the place where her passion for painting urban landscapes was born. The inspiring view that presented itself to her daily through the arched windows beckoned her to paint it over and over again. And the inside of the loft inspired its own series of interiors.
She has created an avid following in the Portland area painting the tranquil scenes of everyday places and objects: a room with a table and chair, the basement containing seldom-used furniture, blankets and keepsakes, the view from a high windowed loft overlooking the city, all bathed in the filtered light of a cloudy day. The light in much of her work speaks specifically of the Northwest with its diffusion in a soft pallet and oblique sun angles that cast little shadow.
Her work has been dubbed “domestic realism,” as it recalls the quiet, slow lives of familiar things in the places in which she has lived and worked. She paints familiar things that anyone would recognize from his or her own life, made specific by the detail with which she lovingly renders each corner and contour. Her locations are intensely specific to her place, yet her subjects are so familiar they could be almost anywhere. A Portlander would surely recognize the ubiquity of retrofitted war era architecture, yet almost anyone couldn’t help feeling wistfully nostalgic at the placement of a butter dish or midcentury printed glassware.
As part of her fascination with the familiar, her eyes and brush have increasingly focused on the urban landscape that surrounds her: the view from her window, the street corner on her bike ride to work, a scene from the MAX. Her current work increasingly captures the urban environment of Portland in an intimate portrait of daily scenes and sites that are often overlooked yet represent the uniqueness of what living here is like.
A large canvas can take months to complete. In order not to tire of staring at one image, she works on multiple pieces at once. In recent years, she has begun to accept commissions. The last was completed this year: a six by four foot urban landscape for the new Marriott Residence Inn in Portland’s Pearl District. Her newest body of work is based primarily on memories and pictures from a trip to Italy in 2013.