When Cortez acrylic painter Susan Reed’s new show is unveiled at Mancos’s Olio restaurant on Aug. 11, the artist said it will offer a personal glimpse into her life in the Southwest.
Reed has lived and worked in Cortez for about 14 years since she and her husband, Brad, moved there from Taos. Using brightly colored acrylic paints and handmade paper, her paintings often focus on scenes of the rural Southwest. She said her newest Olio show will include new work as well as pieces she painted several years ago and never displayed because of their personal nature.
Reed started painting at the age of 19 in Oklahoma City. She said she was inspired by her mother, also an artist, and her grandfather, a set designer. Since then, both her art and her life have been through many changes, as she and her family moved around the U.S.
“My style kind of changes according to where I live,” she said.
Her past work has ranged from abstract paintings to fashion illustrations to portraits and landscapes. She said she’s particularly drawn toward portraits of women, whether Japanese dancers, historical figures or creations of her imagination. One vivid portrait of a red-haired, tattooed Tarot card reader is prominently displayed in her studio, and she said she doesn’t intend to sell it. Reed calls it her “mascot.”
Many of her pieces can be seen around her house, which was designed by her husband to have the painting studio at its center. Her work has also been displayed at numerous galleries around the country, most recently at the Kennebec Cafe in Hesperus and Joyful Nook in Mancos, where some of it is sold in jigsaw puzzle form.
She has also displayed work at the Olio several times. But she said she’s especially proud of this show, which features some of her older work that has never been displayed publicly before.
One of the reasons the Reeds moved to Cortez was because of its scenery, which is featured prominently in Reed’s more recent work. Most of the pieces in the Olio show are paintings of rusty trucks, woolly farm animals and dusty mesas, taken from Reed’s time in New Mexico and Southwest Colorado.
She said many of them also represent major changes and challenges in her life. One example is a painting she made several years ago of a friend’s goat herd. She said she’s never displayed the painting or tried to sell it because it reminds her of her friendship with him.
“They all are parts of my life that were career-changing or life-changing for me, and I just didn’t want to get rid of them,” she said. “But I think it’s time.”
She said she’s been more proactive in publicizing this show than others because of how much she loves the paintings it features.
“I feel really personal about it, and like it’s really a part of me,” she said. “I think it is just a pretty, meaningful, really nice show, and I think it’s because so much of my experience is in it. And I’m just really proud of it.”
The artist reception will be held at 4 p.m. in the Olio on Aug. 11. Reed’s paintings will remain on display through Oct. 6.