Portrait of a Woman Series | By Susan Detroy

I am a visual artist. My art is always about how to communicate and interact giving knowledge and understanding to experience. I believe in the strength of art, its power to give life, communicate, uplift and bind us in our humanity. 

In my art life I created six art series using photography, printmaking, ink drawing, mixed media, digital imagery, and video. 

In 1971 I moved to Oregon. Enthralled with photography, I lived in a media collective, exhibiting black and white photography and film, and producing media festivals. I worked in social organizations and began my photography business. 

In the 80’s I studied analog photography and worked as a science lab photographer at the University of Oregon. My first clearly defined art series used Infrared film – “The Isabel Series.” I learned alternative photo process, image transfer and photography history, leading to series #2, “Worship of Precious” that draws on my love of botany and biology with dragonfly and cactus imagery. In the late 90’s in a collective studio, enthralled with painting, I generated abstract and collaborative canvas and paper pieces, for series three, “Abstracted Life.” 

In 1996 my life was interrupted with breast cancer. For five years I lived surgery, treatment and recovery producing a fourth series “Mythic Animals.” From a treatment chemical-induced consciousness, I was visited by ancient genetic-linked spirits. For ten years I created and shared my brightly colored, Folkloric animals.

In the early 2000’s when I returned to work, the digital world had exploded and the analog photography I knew was gone. I started a new career, forming a business working as curator, designer, and gallery director. My goal was to promote diverse artists including children. I continued producing hands-on art, contributing pieces to my series, printmaking, ink drawings, mixed media, and photography. 

In 2016 I jumped into app driven work with iPhone and iPad. My decision was propelled by age and an artistic dry span. I fell in love with mobile camera manipulation, attending classes and teaching myself to use a mobile device and the app driven format. Ultimately, I developed my fifth extensive series “Portrait of a Woman,” an intimate exploration into aging female in the USA. Produced with iPhone and iPad, I capture my face as well as surrounding elements, blending my likeness with the natural and human-made environment. 

Through February of 2020 I produced work, exhibiting, talking, and sharing art about female aging in US culture using my art. The work is intimate, caring and a deep dive into the power, difficulties, and strength of aging. This has been a challenge in self-acceptance. In the work I transform self-portraits and multiple elements into a combined, symbolic personae offering interpretive iconic figures which I offer here for Denali.  Each fused image builds new meanings transforming to offer an enticing visual and otherworldly message.

“Portrait of a Woman” is my personal experience, and it is the story of female aging in all its glory and difficulties. My journey being woman, lesbian, aging with body and mind challenges is what I use. My difficulties are my “paintbrush,” revealing a picture without shame. In the process I offer stories of aging, spiritual journey, cultural confusion, hope, power, strength, and a commonality. 

In March 2020 COVID crashed into our lives. Living in a pandemic altered my life and art. As social isolating impact me and the entire world, I continue my self-reflective photography and I make videos. This is now my sixth series, yet to be released titled “Corona Diaries.” Now my artwork embodies the meaning of a virus vulnerable person, expanding to enhance concepts of risk, empowerment, grief, and resilience.  

I create and share to connect and to change the tenaciously incorrect ideas who we are and can be as we age. I am determined to offer my story as I live the cultural challenges of aging, being female and finding self-acceptance, altering ideas and perceptions, one viewer at a time. 

– Susan Detroy 

Find more of their work here and here!

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