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Student Artist Spotlight: Susie-Jane Wilson

Susie-Jane Wilson is a BCE major and installation fellow at Emerson Contemporary, graduating in 2024. This interview was conducted by Maddie Browning, a journalism major and digital marketing coordinator.

1. What is your medium?

Mainly oil paintings, but also acrylic and gouache. For certain pieces, I’ll also incorporate pieces of wood, beads, gum wrappers, and glue.

2. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I paint portraits that represent feelings I don’t fully understand and pieces of my life. I try not to plan out pieces and rather create when I have a strong urge to or when a portrait reveals itself to me through my thoughts/feelings.

3. When did you start your artistic journey? 

I’ve always been a really creative person and that was clear from an early age. I always begged my parents to put me in art classes and clubs as a kid and knew I’d end up at a creative school one day.

4. What does your creative process look like when working on a new project?

As I mentioned earlier, I try not to force creativity and typically wait for the desire to hit me. Once an idea is in my head, I become obsessive, and it’s all I think about. It almost feels like I have to create it, or I’ll never be able to let that image in my head go. There are definitely some pieces based on premeditated ideas or stories, but for the most part I wait for a feeling of urgency that I can’t ignore.

5. Tell me about the meaning behind your work.

I had an idea for one portrait and after making it, ideas for portraits and characters really started to fill my head. After about three unplanned paintings, I noticed the androgyny of my characters. I didn’t have any muses for these portraits so I found it really interesting that all these portraits were turning out so androgynous. It occurred to me that I had never thought of painting a man or woman but rather a person, and since that realization, I’ve really leaned into a mindset of neutrality. Even though I push my emotions and stories into these characters, I’ve never considered them to be self-portraits. They’re more like manifestations of moments in my life, and I think the androgyny of each figure helps provide an unbiased representation of these moments. The moments in my life I choose to represent come mainly from ideas of social class, music I’ve found impactful, and relationships throughout my life.

6. Who is your audience for your work? What do you hope they feel, take away, learn, etc. from your work?

I think my audience is everyone. I don’t go into making a piece hoping that everyone will love it. Obviously that would be amazing but I expect some people to not entirely enjoy my work or even flat out dislike it. I think this helps me realize that I’m creating stuff that’s different and uncomfortable for some people. I don’t want my work to fit in a generic box and feel content knowing everyone likes it. I want to challenge people and more importantly, I want to challenge myself. I want to be mystified by my own ideas and be able to express my emotions in a way that I didn’t know was possible. It’s my hope that my audience, whoever that may be, feels how I feel piece to piece. Awkward, pretty, embarrassed, angry, devastated, sentimental, or whatever it may be—I want people to see my feelings. My pieces are a confessional for me, and there are times I hope people can relate and other times I hope no one has to feel what I’m projecting.

7. Is there anything else the Emerson community and beyond should know about you or your work?

I don’t really have much to add other than some slight self-promo, haha. My art account it @artbysusiejane on Instagram. I sell prints of my work and accept commissions. Additionally, I’m looking to host another art show next semester featuring many different Emerson artists, so look out for that!

Prints of Wilson’s work

My Crazy Blue Lady by Susie-Jane Wilson