“ I think something that I dealt with when having the moments of creative blocks was me not being comfortable with the unknown and something new. I had a bit of fear of failing and it’s easy to have a creative block.” - Susan Teare
*This interview took place on May 31st 2023 by Rachel Stav
Susan Teare is a woman who knows how to capture a moment of beauty. She has the ability to depict nature in a way that is intriguing by photographing it from a unique perspective. Susan’s fondness for yellow tulips shines through her artwork as she creates vulnerable sensory experiences for her viewers. After spending many years as an architectural photographer based in Vermont, she decided to explore a bit more of her creative side with photography. She shares with us some of her journey as an artist, how she was able to follow her passion that led her here, and how her work relates back to mental health.
Q: Where did your journey as an artist start and what has it been like since?
A: Gosh, I have to think a little bit because I have always done art and loved it. But I wasn’t able to get all of my creativity until college, and I was an art history major. I received a camera at graduation and then I think that’s when it really started from there. So it was a hobby for a long time and then I received another camera from a family member not too long after and one thing led to another. I began a business in the early 2000s of doing architectural photography and that included commercial properties, residential, and landscape design. I worked with that for many years and on the side I developed other skills and projects with flowers and photography. It was really nice for me to be able to enjoy all that you can do with photography. Of course, photography changed so much during the first part of this century. Changes were painful, but exciting. You had to decide what you wanted to embrace, and I was open to all the different ideas and all the new ways in which to work.
Q: What was the process like for this specific showcase? How does it compare to your work in the past?
A: Well I think there are two things being shown. My current practice is site specific installations that are outdoors. You will be able to see the silk pieces that have images printed on them. They were exposed to the elements and hung outside of a sculpture park for about four or five months and they are very torn, worn, and beautiful. Then we have the yellow tulip project that is being displayed as well, and that body of work includes pieces that are very special to me. I created them from many different mediums that I layered together from my experience with living with the yellow tulips for a year. I love the process - planting them, getting them at the store, letting them die, and growing them outdoors. It was everything that I could do to make something of them no matter what state they were in. It was a very satisfying, beautiful, and meaningful project for me.
Q: Are you able to point out a few themes in your artwork?
A: In response to the commercial work I did for so long that required a lot of precision and beauty. I think I was always able to find beauty in my work, but I had become a little disheartened by seeing my photography skills being on the computer screen. So, I was able to explore some freedom with my work by getting a little messy and more abstract - which I enjoy - and taking that artwork and putting it on silk fabric and putting it back out in the environment. That was where I was inspired to make it. It was almost this full circle where I was inspired by nature to make art and the landscape which is a big part of who I am. To be able to create art and shape the world in a way that shapes myself. I love to put that back out into the environment to be exposed and vulnerable.
Q: Could you describe the relationship between your artwork and mental health whether it be your own mental health or viewers who consume your work?
A: Yes, absolutely. There is a direct connection to the work that I make and to mental health. When I started this process of printing my artwork on silk and hanging it outside to experience, viewing it in that perspective - instead of in a traditional environment like a room - was a very healing experience for me. To be outside living with the artwork, watching it move and respond to the elements, and staring at the pieces as a vulnerable part of me that was exposed out in the woods on this fabric that was worn out, I gained a lot of peace. By being out there and a part of the site installation, but also intertwined with nature’s cycle, I gained a much deeper connection to the landscape through the artwork. Which was a beautiful and healing process.
Q: Do you have a favorite piece collection and why?
A: From the silk pieces that are hanging at the Siy gallery, there are images from home and they are the actual size of nine entry ways in our house. I spent time creating those photographs to be printed on silk and one of them has the texture of our old walls layered with the light, and this technique frames a distant window. I feel like when I would visit the site installation, that was one of my favorite pieces in the way that it would move in the wind. When it would go to a new space and catch the light in a new way, it sort of brought back a memory of my own home in this space. I felt as if it embodied this experience of what memories of home are in different seasons. I made those images to go on the silk during this one week in Vermont, but the light hits at a nice low angle, I am not sure what it is exactly but I do believe it is the angle of the light and the color of the leaves, it just glows, then it just disappears and then there is the onset of the winter weather. I think the fact that our house is also over a hundred and fifty years old adds this sentiment to it. But it happens every year that I like to call it fall glow. So when we went to do this project, I knew I wanted to capture that fleeting fall glow that now is embedded in those silk pieces.
Q: Did you have any challenges during this time and how were you able to overcome the creative blocks?
A: I think something that I dealt with when having the moments of creative blocks was me not being comfortable with the unknown and something new. I had a bit of fear of failing and it’s easy to have a creative block. When I think about my other project with the tulips, I trusted my process, showed up everyday and I made art. I made something - whether that included drawing, sketches, or photographs - if I wasn’t feeling it, I still made something. I wish that I could have that discipline, but I don’t. If I could just take five minutes and notice what is around me, the scent, I have to remind myself that I just need to show up a few minutes everyday.
Q: Do you have any last words you want to share that we didn’t cover? Maybe what is in store for the future?
A: I am doing another site installation. I collaborate with my son and a very dear friend so the three of us are working on it right now. I feel a little nervous because we are changing some things and I feel vulnerable, but I think we will figure it out. We're probably going to fix some things that probably won't go correctly. But what is exciting is that it is a site specific outdoor installation and the frames will be permanent, so we get to change out the frames each year and I feel very excited. Those are possibilities ahead. I don’t know what they exactly are, but those are things that I will dream about, imagine, and let me experience in life and the beauty. I see and come across and let all of that nourish the next pieces that will go in each year, so I am really excited about that. I also work with the Yellow Tulip Project, and all the artwork that the students do and reflections that come in about how they grow and bloom during the year like the yellow tulips, make me feel inspired. So, I feel like for me to do the work at the Yellow Tulip Project, to inspire people of all ages to be creative and connect with nature, then I have to do that on my own. I feel that I could be more authentic and inspiring if I am actually doing the work myself and then we are a part of a community. We are all in this together.