Susan Black

I am an artist and writer, living in Aurora, Oregon.  My goal is to cultivate the truth, beauty and goodness of my own creativity and, by example, to encourage others to cultivate theirs.

I “work” at home in my own studio/gallery space in a large shed and part of a garage, dubbed “Black Star Studio and Gallery” for the black metal “farm star” that was hanging on the shed when we bought our property.

As an artist, watercolor is my primary medium, though I like to use other media as well.  I have long enjoyed graphite, charcoal, colored pencil and pastel, on their own and because they can enhance watercolor.

I depict what interests me — usually the landscape and the abstract.  Sometimes I can’t tell the difference!  I seek simplification and I enjoy experimentation.  I want to distill my chosen subject, emotion or thought to what I feel is its basic sense — preferably in a way that would not occur to anyone else.

In recent years, I expanded my expression from painting and drawing on paper, to working in three dimensions — assemblage using natural and found materials, art/word journals and memory boxes.  And I renewed a very dormant fascination with macramé.

I consider my art/word journals a new part of a long identification as a writer because they connect my love of words with my love of visual imagery.  Each tells a story!  I did, after all, major in literature and minor in art history in college.  My pre-art career in public relations, corporate communications and freelancing relied heavily on my ability to write. Nowadays, my personal writing includes poetry, memoir and spiritual explorations.

How did I get here?

Born in New York City and raised in suburban Connecticut, I pursued a demanding 22-year New York-based career in public relations and corporate communications after I graduated from Connecticut College in New London in 1974.

My husband, our son and I moved to San Francisco, and made our home there from 1996 to 2014.  I stopped my PR/communications career during those years, and found that the Bay Area’s light, scenery, attitude and whole way of life awakened in me a desire to communicate in visual terms.

Many classes at the Sharon Art Studio in Golden Gate Park, plus attempts to teach myself, confirmed my resolve.  I enrolled in the first of my seven years of art classes at City College of San Francisco in early 2003.  My work was juried into local, regional and national shows and other venues, including online publications.  While in San Francisco, I taught homeless people, people in recovery, the elderly, students and anyone else who wanted to make art.  I had private students, was a member of three co-op galleries and held leadership positions in local art societies.

Life brought us to Oregon in May 2014.  My husband and I settled in Aurora and our son, now married, lives in Newberg.  Art provided a fast introduction into our new community.  I served on the board of the Woodburn Art Center, where I led a watercolor group and chaired the 50th anniversary art show.  For the Canby Arts Association, I headed its art-in-business program. I organized the Aurora Arts Association’s annual community art show for three years, and taught individual private students.  And from July 2016 to September 2018, I ran my own art gallery in Aurora, called Black Star Watercolor, which featured original watercolor paintings by local artists (including me!).

Perhaps the most precious discovery I made in my new Oregon life has been the Benedictine community in Mount Angel.  Here is situated he Mount Angel Abbey (monks) and the Queen of Angels Monastery (sisters).  I am now an Oblate (a lay associate) of Queen of Angels. Through the Monastery’s Shalom Prayer Center, I have led a monthly discussion group called the Creative-Spiritual Life Circle since September 2021, and have conducted numerous retreats.

I have now stepped back from most of my previous public activity.  I strive for a low-profile, simpler life as I concentrate on my art and writing projects, and on my vocation as an Oblate.  These days I can most often be found in my home studio/gallery, amid my vegetable/flower gardens and with my chickens nearby.  Cats too.  Let me know if you’d like to come visit.