Chai Style Art: Artist’s Abstract Message to “Loosen Up”
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Chai Style Art: Artist’s Abstract Message to “Loosen Up”

Local artist Susan Proctor celebrates the individuality of layering, texture and getting a sense of the richness of the materials.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip). On the side, Marcia is Captain of the Senior Cheerleaders for the WNBA Atlanta Dream.

  • Photos by Laurie Sermos // Susan Proctor’s light-filled upstairs studio is a hotbed of creativity. This face painting, “Katy,” is one of her favorites.
    Photos by Laurie Sermos // Susan Proctor’s light-filled upstairs studio is a hotbed of creativity. This face painting, “Katy,” is one of her favorites.
  • The Chinese vase was the most sentimental thing Proctor inherited from her mother. She painted her “trademark” face alongside.
    The Chinese vase was the most sentimental thing Proctor inherited from her mother. She painted her “trademark” face alongside.
  • Guest powder room-Renoir limited print, Proctor’s “Woman With A Stick”, Proctor’s abstract portrait of husband, Alan, “Introspection.”
    Guest powder room-Renoir limited print, Proctor’s “Woman With A Stick”, Proctor’s abstract portrait of husband, Alan, “Introspection.”
  • Proctor’s watercolor series of distorted nudes was done with Sharpie markers. Shown here: “Anastasia.”
    Proctor’s watercolor series of distorted nudes was done with Sharpie markers. Shown here: “Anastasia.”
  • Proctor creates mixed media Chanukiot out of gold foil, string, playing cards, old palettes and old sheet music.
    Proctor creates mixed media Chanukiot out of gold foil, string, playing cards, old palettes and old sheet music.
  • Proctor creates mixed media Chanukiot out of gold foil, string, playing cards, old palettes and old sheet music.
    Proctor creates mixed media Chanukiot out of gold foil, string, playing cards, old palettes and old sheet music.
  • Proctor creates mixed media Chanukiot out of gold foil, string, playing cards, old palettes and old sheet music.
    Proctor creates mixed media Chanukiot out of gold foil, string, playing cards, old palettes and old sheet music.
  • “9/11 Memorial”  24-by-36-inch for sale at the I.D.E.A Gallery in Chamblee. This mixed media is in the New York National September 11 Memorial & Museum Artists Registry.
    “9/11 Memorial” 24-by-36-inch for sale at the I.D.E.A Gallery in Chamblee. This mixed media is in the New York National September 11 Memorial & Museum Artists Registry.

Local artist Susan Proctor celebrates the individuality of layering, texture and getting a sense of the richness of the materials. “Each work is like a jigsaw puzzle when confronting what the paint and material tell me. It took a long time to get where I am today. Often, people are fooled by abstract paintings as being ‘simple.’ Not so. With a variety of shapes, sizes and movement, it must adhere as a whole unit, whether using a reference or not.”

Proctor, who hails from Springfield, Mass., studied piano before becoming a furniture artist. Her creative metamorphosis over the past 25 years, traversing through classes and experimentation, arrived at her penchant for painting faces, animals and abstracts. The paintings in her “Masada Collection” were inspired by the tiles and design of the bath house on Israel’s Masada, a rugged natural fortress overlooking the Dead Sea, besieged by Romans. They were done in mixed media using earth tones, Venetian red and ochre, with pops of turquoise.

Marcia: How would you describe your home’s interior?

Susan: We recently downsized into this two-level cluster home closer to the city. Our goal was to have a place that was comfortable and welcoming. I decorate with neutrals to be able to change art around and add new pieces.

Proctor’s interpretation, “Meet the Beatles,” contains aqua hues. She purchased the settee’s embroidered pillow fabric of Miro images in Venice, Italy.

We built the great room around a giant orb chandelier from PDI. I’ve always been attracted to the orb shape. This particular fixture has odd overlaps of concentric spheres mimicking celestial revolution. It has been said that orbs are king-like and represent power and justice.

We had to move the French doors to the patio to accommodate the piano in this smaller space. One of my favorite things in the family room is the understated hand-woven rug in persimmon, teal and cream. The right rug can create a focal point and tie a whole room together.  I use contrast, … shiny and matte, smooth and rough, crystal and metal. Even in painting, I create rough-textured areas as well as smooth ones.

Susan Proctor cuddles her shelties, DJ and Rusty. Background oil is Jo Jang’s “Black Elephant.”

Marcia: Elaborate on your style or what inspires you to paint.

Susan:  I am most productive in the morning. I am inspired by things that are visually appealing – even the materials and paint themselves. I am constantly wrapping over and layering. I often paint large, intriguing faces – some animals, often horses. When I paint, I get into a “zone” where I connect only with the art. Three hours seems like 15 minutes. To enhance creativity, I listen to classical music … Chopin, Mozart.

I gradually changed styles from expressionism to mixed media abstraction. I strive for uniqueness by mixing textures like gauze and soft metal screens into acrylic paint using a lot of mediums. I find abstract work to be more challenging as I normally do not use a reference. Without a firm reference, an abstract piece must adhere to the same principles: balance, rhythm, and elements of art as a realistic painting. I still leave room for chance in the process.

“9/11 Memorial” 24-by-36-inch for sale at the I.D.E.A Gallery in Chamblee. This mixed media is in the New York National September 11 Memorial & Museum Artists Registry.

Marcia: How do you relate to art as a business?

Susan: It’s very validating to have someone purchase my work. In addition to I.D.E.A Gallery in Chamblee, I have paintings at the Frameworks Gallery (Marietta), and Newbill Collection By the Sea (Seaside, Fla.). I previously had work represented at galleries in Highlands and Blue Ridge. I had a solo show at Roswell Cultural Arts Center. Recently I have been selling work at Scott Antique Markets at the Atlanta Exposition Centers the second weekend of every month.

I enjoyed teaching art at Roswell Visual Arts Center for both children and adults. My message, usually even to experienced students, is to “loosen up,” to become more expressive.

Perhaps my most provocative piece is on display at the I.D.E.A Gallery. It’s a 24-by-36-inch authentic-sized flag in mixed media entitled “9/11 Memorial,” made to look like it’s burned, singed and crying. I embedded 9/11 newspaper articles as the under-painting. Then I used acrylics to paint the flag and the word “Why?” which is subtly placed in the center. The flag interpretation is registered in the New York artists’ gallery of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Dining room art from left: Proctor’s “Native Woman II,” 100-year-old collage that her grandmother brought from her Polish shtetl hand-embroidered of the Western Wall, Proctor’s “Butterfly IV” (Masada Collection), Proctor’s “The Guitarist.” Chandelier is vintage European crystal.

Marcia: What are some unusual things you have collected?

Susan: Honestly, I am trying to collect very little and purged many things to live a less cluttered life.

My husband, Alan, a financial advisor, collects folk art by John “Cornbread” Anderson, a self-taught Georgia folk artist who uses bold acrylics to paint his childhood memories of critters like foxes, deer, rabbits, quail, raccoons and dogs.  They are relegated to his study since they don’t blend with any of our other décor. He is a good sport about it.

Alan: When we had a cabin, I developed a keen interest in folk art. Specifically “Cornbread” because he paints on wood and uses the colors in nature. I’ve driven to Gilmer County to buy his work … now up to eight. He’s known as a “folk rock star,” and his paintings have kept their value. I know it’s not Susan’s style, so they are displayed only in my “man cave.”

Proctor had to reconfigure the builder’s plans to fit the piano. Art from left: Tiffany style lamp by Quoizel, Proctor’s “3 Horses” mixed media acrylic with chalk, a duo of Morris Ansbacher’s original photography “Barns” and “Soulful Black Man,” (far right) Proctor’s “Phoenix” (Masada Collection).

Marcia: University of Florida alumni, including me, knew Dr. Sam Proctor.

Alan: My dad was a Southern history professor at UF in Gainesville. Many remember him as the former president of the Southern Jewish Historical Society (for decades) as well as the TEP fraternity adviser. He was friendly with Morris Ansbacher, a well-respected Jewish photographer. We have Ansbacher’s black and white originals, “Barns” duo and “Soulful Black Man,” adjacent to the piano.

Marcia: Last words?

Susan: I am fortunate to have a beautiful, new, light-filled studio, and to enjoy some insight into the design process. It’s an unrelenting pursuit for harmony, craftsmanship and making things feel familiar and special at the same time. It’s a joy to make people happy by bringing beauty into their homes. In these unsettling times, we must remember that art and music can unify us.

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