By Mellany Armstrong
As the sun rises over the Hudson Valley, Susan Sommer ’72 is ready to work.
“I go into the studio early in the morning, where I work for several hours,” she said. “Then I take a long break, when I do any number of things to clear my mind, such as walking, gardening, cooking, writing, thinking and planning.”
Then she paints in her light-filled studio for another few hours. “I try to work only in daylight, because it is a truer light,” she said. Her large, abstract oil paintings are full of movement, color, light and incongruous space. She enjoys listening to jazz as she paints, and looking outdoors to observe the natural landscape.
THE MOORE YEARS
This life of devotion to her art began when she was very young, and was the driving force in choosing Moore College of Art & Design for her formal art education.
“I only wanted to paint, so I was looking for a school that would teach the technical skills that I needed to find my voice as a painter,” Sommer said.
She studied design, painting, aesthetics, sculpture and photography. “They were some of the greatest years of my life,” she recalled. “It was the education I was longing for and never had previously.” She also studied figure drawing and painting during the long summer breaks at the Art Students League of New York.
After graduating, Sommer set up a studio in New York City, where she worked for many years. “I never wanted to waste the opportunity to paint for long hours every day.” She eventually moved to the Hudson Valley with her husband to raise a family and create a lifestyle that would continue to inspire art and life.
TRAVEL, EDUCATION, EQUALITY
While Sommer works primarily in her studio, and takes her cues from the natural landscape around her, she is also inspired by visiting other countries.
Her parents opened up these experiences when she was young, and she has continued to weave travel into her lifestyle and her art. Whether it be in the museums of Western Europe, the glistening beaches of the Caribbean, or the streets of Hong Kong or Singapore, Sommer is inspired by new gestures and rhythms that will find their way into her paintings.
“The people, architecture, light and way of life of all new places energize my point of view and allows me to come back to my studio with fresh eyes,” she said. More recently, she’s been making trips to Los Angeles to see her new granddaughter.
Sommer highly values education, and said attending a women’s college has been a true joy.
“I was raised believing that men and women have equal intellectual prowess,” she said. Her mother graduated from Hunter College, which had been an all-women college, and her daughter, Sarah Schweitzman, graduated from Smith College. “This education has provided a strong background for work and personal endeavors throughout our lives."
“Get as much great education as you can, and education will come from many different places throughout your life,” she advises current Moore students. “Stay focused on your practice, and most of all keep believing in what you are doing.”