Opening September 17th
A LIFE OF SEEING: SUE SNEDDON 1953-2022
A selection of images from the exhibition:
A Life of Seeing: Sue Sneddon 1953-2022, a retrospective exhibition, opens on September 17th, with a reception from 5 to 7 pm. The show continues through October 29.
Sue Sneddon was one of Craven Allen Gallery’s most popular artists, with 14 shows over 25 years. Her fifteenth show of original work was in the planning stages when she passed away unexpectedly of cancer in January of this year.
A Life of Seeing features works from throughout Sue Sneddon’s decades-long career, including works for sale. Collectors are generously sharing special artworks for this retrospective, along with stories and memories of Sneddon.
Sneddon’s land- and seascapes convey the quiet grandeur of the natural world in paintings ranging from intimate pastels to large oils on canvas. In her words, “Sometimes the smallest landscape can evoke the larger setting, the feeling of the expansiveness of the environment. The whorl of a shell, a hurricane, a galaxy—how similar these shapes are. How odd, I’ve always thought, are the square and rectangular borders placed on two-dimensional art. There are choices to be made on how to convey the reverence and emotion inside these boundaries.”
Her passion was coastal North Carolina, and she was known for her unusual perspectives, as in the oil Should I Be Out Here? from 1995. A wave dominates all but a small corner in the upper left of the painting, where the sky is glimpsed, giving the viewer a visceral sense of the ocean’s power.
Sneddon grew up in Pennsylvania, and moved to Durham in 1976. She exhibited widely; her work is in numerous public and private collections. In 2003, she fulfilled another goal, building a home and studio in Shallotte, NC. Sneddon is featured in Liza Roberts’ forthcoming book about North Carolina artists, Art of the State.
A LIFE OF SEEING: SUE SNEDDON AT CRAVEN ALLEN GALLERY
BY JOHN BLOEDORN
Sue Sneddon was a wonderful artist and great friend. We hosted 14 exhibitions of her work over the course of 25 years, and the last time we spoke she was telling me some of her ideas for the next one. It was early in December, and I don’t think either one of us imagined that it was the last time we would see each other. It’s a painful loss that all of us here are still grappling with.
Sue considered the gallery space a second home. A week before an opening, she would set up camp downstairs, working on pieces, hosting friends who occasionally came by, listening to Joni Mitchell. We would spend hours together hanging and lighting the show. I’d get frustrated when things weren’t ready as soon as I wanted them, but we were both passionate about the work and the way it was presented, and the installation process was important to both of us. We both wanted people to experience the show in a certain way. We could tell each other years later where we hung certain paintings, and why. It was a privilege to spend that kind of time with her, learning about each piece. There was always lots of laughter…and often a few tears.
Openings were exciting, with big crowds of people, and friends bringing flowers. Later, Sue would host private gatherings and play music with friends in the gallery during the course of a show. And lots of people came back after the opening to see this quiet, intimate work when they could spend time with it alone.
She forever changed the way I see the world and experience nature. Especially at the coast, I am constantly seeing the world way Sue taught me to see it. I am so grateful to be sharing Sue’s work again in the gallery for this retrospective.
Love you, Sue.
SUE SNEDDON—IN HER OWN WORDS
I grew up in the beauty of the Allegheny Mountains and Laurel Highlands area of western Pennsylvania, in a family where creativity was highly valued. One of my first memories of drawing was trying to figure out how a dandelion flower turned into a ball of small seeds with fluffy tops that could be carried by the wind. I was probably five at the time, and at that early age I was drawing what was in front of me—bugs, flowers, clouds, trees—realistically, so I could attempt to understand how nature worked.
My mother and three aunts were all artists, and my father was trained as a classical violinist, but became a jazz enthusiast, along with my mother. My fascination with Carolina landscapes began on childhood vacations to Southern beaches.
I had my first thought of really being a painter was when I was 13 or 14. My mother and I were discussing whether the pink in a bank of oyster shells was a reflection of the pink sky or in the shells themselves. We were on the south end of Pawleys Island, SC witnessing a glorious sunset. I said to myself, if I could paint the joy I feel in this moment, then I could be a painter.
Most of my work, as it turns out, is exactly that — fleeting moments of light in the sky, on water, or on wet sand. And there’s no place I’ve experienced this in a more compelling way than at my beloved Emerald Isle. These moments do something to me that I can only express by trying to capture them on paper or canvas. I like to approach a subject realistically at first, so that it gets filed in my brain somewhere, to be called on when I want to express how I feel about the moment of a sighting that has moved me.
I live for these moments of joy and wonder and reverence. Whether or not there is a human figure in the work I create, I may also be influenced by a conversation, visit, walk, or relationship associated with a particular moment I am trying to capture. And although water-related subjects are the ones I most frequently choose, there are other landscapes that I have painted over the years, particularly rural settings of trees, fields, and aging barns and houses.
Mixing a palette of colors for an oil painting is very intense for me. This ritual signifies the commitment of many days, weeks, or months of painting to capture this one moment. The application of a medium onto a surface can transport me to that first inspiration. I may hear the water, wind, birds, or a song I was humming. My senses are filled as if I were witnessing it for the first time.
I work from memory. My memory is sometimes sparked by the notes and sketchbooks that are filled with these moments that I don’t want to forget. There are a lot of notes and sketchbooks. Sometimes I do see something and immediately paint it. But there can also be a long process of distilling an experience to its essential elements and then working to capture those in my work.
Oil, pastel, acrylic, pencil, gouache, watercolor, oil pastel, pen and ink, and mixed media all have a station in my studio. I like to have options in my choice of medium, and also in the music that accompanies my workday. My tastes there are eclectic, as well, ranging from jazz to rock-and-roll, to classical, to folk and other genres. All of my artwork seems to have a soundtrack.
I am fortunate to have a studio that gives me access to my main sources of inspiration and allows me to mark my time by sunsets, tides, moon phases, solstices, and equinoxes. My studio looks out onto the marshes of a tidal river, the Shallotte River. A short drive takes me over a bridge to the Atlantic Ocean, as at Emerald Isle. It’s the place I feel most alive — where that powerful body of water meets the soft sand, with the ever-changing play of light on water. I am so very thankful.
Click here for Remembering Longtime Durham Artist Sue Sneddon
by Laurel Ferejohn in the Indy.
FROM MEMORY: PAINTINGS & DRAWINGS BY SUE SNEDDON
July 20 – September 5, 2020
From Memory is Sneddon’s 14th exhibition, over a 25 year period, at Craven Allen Gallery. The title refers to the artist’s process of letting her memories of scenes and events distill over time, as she contemplates the perfect way to capture an experience through her artwork.
“Even as a child I would say to myself, if I can paint the joy I feel in this moment, I want to be a painter,” says Sneddon. “Regardless of the time period, the paintings in this show represent pivotal moments throughout my life to remember and share.”
Please call, email, or visit the gallery if you would like more information about any of the pieces, or would like to make a purchase!
Click any image to begin gallery view
Working from memory has been a practice of mine since I was very young. There are times when something I have seen brings me to my knees and I must paint it immediately; more often, images stay in my memory and are distilled and aged before they are painted.
The idea for this body of work has been forming in my mind for about 30 years. Some of the paintings are recollections of times spent in nature with family members (including both grandmothers) that I believe have set me on my creative path. Other works are memories of shared experiences with friends from high school and college, through just last year. And some, of course, are from my solitary times in nature.
One painting that I have been working on in my mind since I was about 13 years old is “Pawley’s Island Pink” (oil, 48 x 30). My mom (an artist herself) and I are standing on a bank of oyster shells at the south end of Pawley’s Island, SC. We are discussing whether the pink of the oyster shells is a reflection of the pink sunset or in the oyster shells themselves. We decide the pink was from both (plus little sister Nance kept showing us pink shells). I remember saying to myself, “If I could paint the joy I feel in this moment, I want to be a painter.”
This show includes ocean pastels that were done from memory as my morning ritual while on a solitary painting retreat on Lopez Island, Washington last year. This time by myself recharged my creative soul after over 2 years of not painting due to necessary caretaking of loved ones. On Lopez, I said, “So we begin again.”
ABOUT SUE SNEDDON
Sue Sneddon grew up in Uniontown, PA, with an artist mother who early on fostered an appreciation of nature, light, and landscapes. After completing her B.S. in Art Education at Edinboro University of PA, Sue moved to Durham, NC in 1976. Within 2 years she had visited every NC coastal town from Corolla to Sunset Beach, knowing that eventually she would move closer to the ocean; that dream was realized in 2003, with the completion of her home and studio on the Shallotte River. Sneddon had numerous solo exhibitions at Craven Allen, as well as galleries throughout North and South Carolina.
Sue Sneddon showcased the exhibition in a Facebook Live event featuring jazz pianist Alison Weiner-watch the video HERE, and another event with friends from the Mobile City Band-watch that video HERE.
LIFE SIZE: PAINTINGS & DRAWINGS BY SUE SNEDDON
One of the gallery’s most popular artists, Life Size marks Sneddon’s 13th exhibition at Craven Allen over more than twenty years.
Shells, rocks, fossils, leaves, feathers — for Life Size, Sue Sneddon paints these found objects to conjure a visual journey of her travels and experiences, both alone and shared. These talismans of nature come from all across the country, including her coastal North Carolina home, as well memorable locales on the east and west coasts, the Southwest, Hawaii, and several national parks.
Life-size literally means “of natural size” — and many works are exactly to the scale of the original. For these small pieces, Sneddon works in a variety of media, including pencil, pen and ink, oil pastel, pastel, watercolor, gouache or a mixture of these.
Also featured are Sneddon’s signature panoramic oils of landscapes and seacapes, which suggest the context in which many of the small Life Size pieces were discovered.
Sneddon says of this show: “Sometimes the smallest landscape can evoke the larger setting, the feeling of the expansiveness of the environment. The whorl of a shell, a hurricane, a galaxy—how similar these shapes are. How odd, I’ve always thought, are the square and rectangular borders placed on two-dimensional art. There are choices to be made on how to convey the reverence and emotion inside these boundaries. I’m still in love with trying to figure it all out.”
Many years ago I began thinking of this concept for an exhibition after a conversation with my friend, Sharon. Why do we pick up shells on the beach and then take some home? We talked about solitary walks along the shore and the conversations you have with yourself—figuring out problems, making decisions, giving yourself a good talking-to about how to do better and be healthier. You see this little treasure. It is in perfect light, and in this moment it speaks to you of what you are experiencing and the beauty around you.
My studio is filled with boxes and shelves of shells, feathers, rocks, leaves, fossils. Some have notations on them or attached to them with names, places, and dates. Some still bring back a very clear memory, both visual and emotional. Life Size is an exhibition that attempts to conjure these objects and ideas, by exploring size and scale in works ranging in size from 1-1/2” to 60”.
For example, holding a rock from Yosemite, I hear our guide talk about the glacier carving out this valley, and I wonder, from this small rock, how will I capture the enormity of Half Dome or El Capitan? How to relate the dramatic cliffs of the Napali coast of Hawaii to this tiny sand dollar? How could this jar of red dirt and gravel suggest the grandeur of Cathedral Rock in Sedona?
In doing this body of work, I have been reminded of how much I love to draw.My numerous sketchbooks are filled with drawings done in-the-field, the old-fashioned way, making a “hand-frame” (thumb-tips touching, index fingers extended) to find composition and measure scale. My hand-frame measures 4 3/4 inches between index fingers, and there are many smaller works done to this size.
Sometimes the smallest landscape can evoke the larger setting, the feeling of the expansiveness of the environment. The whorl of a shell, a hurricane, a galaxy—how similar these shapes are. How odd, I’ve always thought, are the square and rectangular borders placed on two-dimensional art. There are choices to be made on how to convey the reverence and emotion inside these boundaries. I’m still in love with trying to figure it all out.