Susan McDonnell received both her Bachelor of Fine Arts and her Masters of Fine Arts from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
Susan McDonnell’s paintings have been featured in solo and group exhibitions in galleries throughout the United States, including Sullivan Goss in Santa Barbara, HAUS Gallery/Brewery Project, the Jose Drudis-Bada Gallery, and Random Gallery in Los Angeles; Gallery Bergelli in Larkspur, Klaudia Marr gallery in Santa Fe; and Artbanque Gallery in Minneapolis. She lives in Minneapolis.
3:26 | Narrated by Susan Bush | Released for SUSAN McDONNELL: A Quiet Nature, 2020
4:00 | Narrated by Susan Bush | Released for THE WALLS BECAME THE WORLD ALL AROUND: New Work by Rebekah Bogard & Susan McDonnell, 208
3:01 | Narrated by Susan Bush | Released for Susan McDonnell: The World At Home, 2016
3:22 | Narrated by Susan Bush | Released for Susan McDonnell: Curiouser and Curiouser!, 2014
3:27 | Narrated by Susan Bush | Released for Contemporary Bear Area Artists, 2018
Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem,” says A.A. Milne from the popular book Winnie the Pooh. This quote has directly affected the new work of artist Susan McDonnell, who will be showcasing her magical, highly realistic animal and wildlife paintings at Sullivan Goss. While her past collections have explored the intri- cacies of still life, she slowly expanded to include living elements.
Recently, I asked folks to send stories about animals who had changed their lives. Artist Susan McDonnell sent me her story, told through a painting.
As an explanation for the painting, here is what she wrote:
“In the early 2000s, I lived in a house with a small garden pond. In the late Spring, a Red Darner dragonfly took up residency. I started taking photos at a distance and got closer and closer. Over time the dragonfly let me get within inches and then let me lightly touch its wings. This dragonfly showed up every morning around 10 and patrolled the pond until around 4 pm for about 4 months. We ‘visited’ every day and I spent a lot of time quietly observing and marveling at the dragonfly’s beauty. As you can see from the photo this dragonfly was a bit of a ham.”
This delightful show of five artists sharing a common interest is the product of curator Susan Bush’s observation that when it comes to eco-consciousness among contemporary artists, there’s something special about bears. Adonna Khare, Beth Van Hoesen, Susan McDonnell, Pamela Kendall Schiffer, and Nicole Strasburg may all have started out expressing their fascination with these extraordinary animals independently, but encountering the work together, the viewer is left with no choice but to accept that there’s now a distinct bear area in art.
Landscape and animal paintings are tough. Not tough to digest, but tough to review. Like portraits and landscapes, animal paintings are what they are—they depict, though not necessarily through ideas. They are meant to look a certain way. Mostly they are meant to entice a viewer by technique, use of color, or style.
A few years ago, Sullivan Goss curator Susan Bush began to notice the number of artists regularly depicting bears in their works. Artists had begun to choose bears as their subject matter not only to show the profound beauty of the animal but also to raise awareness to their fragile existence and habitat in North America.
The Contemporary Bear Area Artists exhibition aims to showcase the majestic North American bear while informing visitors of the effects that a growing human population, climate change and changes in hunting regulations have on bears.
Born in the depths of the great recession in 2008, this holiday group exhibition offers approximately 100 works of art all priced at $1,000 or less. The goal, according to curator Susan Bush, is to make quality work available to collectors who might not have the means to acquire something larger. While it began as a loose collection of work by people whom Bush knew and liked, regardless of whether or not they were represented by the gallery, 100 Grand has grown into a unique community event, the de facto salon of Santa Barbara’s art scene.
AN INCUBATOR OF EMERGING TALENT AND AN ENTRYWAY FOR BEGINNING COLLECTORS, the seventh annual 100 Grand exhibition is now on view at Sullivan Goss through January 31st. Featuring 100 quality works of art for $1,000 or less, the exhibition is a favorite for lookers and buyers during the holiday season.
“This show is an opportunity for local artists to get their work on our gallery walls. There are so many great artists in Santa Barbara, but we can only represent a handful,” shared Susan Bush, exhibition curator.
AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARTIST'S WORK
The allusion to Victorian botanical illustration in McDonnell's work is inescapable without being definitive. Botany was considered one of the few sciences genteel enough for Victorian ladies to pursue. It was thought to cultivate feminine virtues and to promote genderappropriate skills like gardening and decorating. McDonnell’s own attitude towards this history seems ambiguous at best. Her paintings all seem to have an edge – both a theatricality and a reverence for oddity that don’t conform to traditional notions of gentility. She also seems to imbue the decorative quality of her work with a sense of irony or defiance. By painting the rare and the bizarre in a traditionally decorative form and style, she subtly subverts the tradition. Painting natural curiosities in an Old World medium like egg tempera suggests a certain admiration for the original form. According to the artist, she likes tempera for the way that colors weave together like the threads in a woven cloth to create a unified field. She also likes the durability of the colors and the archival nature of the medium.
In the artist's words, "My paintings are combinations of what I perceive as real and underlying unseen elements of nature. My perceptions of nature are often defined by its patterns, delicacy and astonishingly exquisite details."
1991 MFA Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA
1982 BFA Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA
2020 A Quiet Nature, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2018 The Walls Became the World All Around, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2016 The World at Home, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2014 Curiouser and Curiouser!, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2007 Klaudia Marr Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
2004 ON Gallery, South Pasadena, CA
2018 Contemporary Bear Area Artists, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2017 Masterworks, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2016 You Are Here, Surrogate Gallery Projects, Pasadena, CA
2015 Mixed Nuts, Jose Drudis- Biada Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2014 Magical Realism, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2011-2018 100 Grand Show, Sullivan Goss, Santa Barbara, CA
2011 Summer Group Show, Gallery Bergelli, Larkspur, CA
2009 Insight/Inside LA, Jose Drudis-Biada Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
2008 Contemporary Realism Invitational, Klaudia Marr Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
2008 Still Lifes, Objects and Other Narratives, Klaudia Marr Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
2005-2007 Contemporary Realism Invitational, Klaudia Marr Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
2007 Hausguests, HAUS Gallery/ Brewery Project, Los Angeles, CA
1996 Jose Drudis-Biada Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, CA
1996 Secret Society of Dog Art Random Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1988-1989 Artbanque Gallery, Minneapolis, MN