Eight Decades of Art

retrospective features Susan Phelps Pearson’s paintings, assemblages

Haley Wright, photos by Andrea Paulseth

JUST PICTURE IT. Susan Phelps Pearson’s 80 for 80 exhibition debuts at the Heyde Center on June 14.
JUST PICTURE IT. Susan Phelps Pearson’s 80 for 80 exhibition debuts at the Heyde Center on June 14.

80 for 80: A Retrospective of the Art of Susan Phelps Pearson debuts at the Heyde Center for the Arts in Chippewa Falls on June 14 and runs through July 12. As its name suggests, the show features more than 80 works of art, focusing principally on paintings and assemblages.

Pearson’s assemblages are colorful and multi-dimensional collages, and feature found objects that are commonly used on a daily basis (such as keys, pop cans, milk cartons, and mufflers) to portray far different images (like the necklace of a queen, or a parakeet, or an eel). Some of the Eau Claire artist’s pieces feature original paintings that have been overlaid with assemblages that add dimension and character.

Pearson’s assemblages are colorful and multi-dimensional collages, and feature found objects that are commonly used on a daily basis (such as keys, pop cans, milk cartons, and mufflers) to portray far different images (like the necklace of a queen, or a parakeet, or an eel).

The pieces are largely colorful and complex, and tell different stories. For example, Pearson describes one piece as having two names and appearing to be different things to different viewers: In her eyes, it depicted a quilt, and she named it “Crazy Quilt.” After observing the artwork’s more than 368 pieces and believing the work to be Pearson’s way of tracking the year, however, one of her grandchildren dubbed it “Grandma’s Calendar.”

Pearson said she offers “the narrative back story behind each piece to explain the inspiration behind each piece,” noting she came across something similar at another artists’ show and felt it was “interesting to learn about what the artist was going through at the time the piece was made.”

Works featured in the exhibit range in age from some produced during Pearson’s teen years to some created since she turned 80 in April (thus the 80 for 80 title).  Pearson grew up with a mother who was an artist, and she recalls spending lots of time as a young child working on art projects as soon as she was able to independently hold a crayon. She said she has worked as a full-time artist for most of her life, although she taught elementary school art for a time.

Pearson hopes to continue working as an artist for a long time to come, and enjoys the learning and creative process as she makes each new piece, noting her favorite piece is usually “the one (she is) working on.” Although it is a retrospective show, Pearson reports she will “never retire” and hopes to pass “with a paintbrush in her hand.”

 

80 for 80: A Retrospective of the Work of Susan Phelps Pearson • Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday June 14- July 12, 10am-5pm • opening reception: Saturday, June 17, noon-4pm • The Heyde Center for the Arts, 3 South High St., Chippewa Falls • FREE • (715) 726-9000 • cvca.net/events/80-for-80

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