My Art Story, is my Life Story


I am an Oregon artist. I connected with the arts early in life learning dance. As a youth and teenager, I danced, and I immersed myself in movies. I was also captivated by still black and white images. From early childhood I was in love with visual experience, movies, and magazines.

In dance I learned the pleasure of moving through time and space to music. Throughout childhood and as a young adult I learned multiple dance forms and performed. I found it comfortable to use dance and visual images as a language to understand the world.

My first memory of creating with my hands is shaping a soap sculpture in grade school. I recall the feel of the ivory soap as I sculpted the form. I liked the thrill of making something tactual from an everyday household object.

In the 70’s, I lived and traveled in a bus making a cross continental journey through the US and Canada. I migrated from an Indiana, rural commune to Oregon following my artistic and political impulses. My desire to create art and live an aware life continue to guide me. In Oregon, I followed my early love of visual imagery and taught myself super eight filmmaking and photography. I was in a media cooperative, collectively producing films, exhibits and media festivals.

As a young adult in the 80’s and 90’s, I formed my photography business, took classes, and made photographs. I taught analog photography to community education students. I exhibited and ran my portrait and documentary photography business.

And life continued until mid-life, when for a decade, I was impacted dramatically by a health threat. I am a breast cancer survivor. After my health crisis years, I transitioned from photographer to gallery designer. I survived cancer and started a second career at 55, working in the art world as curator, exhibit designer, teacher, and gallery director. I worked in galleries, curating, designing, and installing art in homes and in offices. I lived in an art-centered world, I produced art as a secondary interest, and I danced and lived a life.

In 2016 my world was influenced by multiple family members dying. One of these deaths was shockingly unexpected. In response my feeling about my art deepened. As I contemplated my life as an aging female lesbian artist, I knew my art should take a central place. I decided it was time to share, exhibit and promote the depth of my creativity. Because art is central to my life and the primary way I give to the world, I knew I must begin before the aging process took away my options.

I make art about how I see the world and how I live. I believe my art is conduit for experiences and ideas that bind us together.


With 40 years of creative work in five series I decided it was time to move forward. I had created art, using Infrared photography, printmaking, ink pens, mixed media, and had begun digital art making. Initially I showed work from earlier series. In 2018 I decided to concentrate primarily on my most prolific and current project called “Portrait of a Woman.” The themes of aging, spirituality and human connection are at the center of the work. The pieces are produced digitally, and the creating is profoundly expansive. The project has evolved to embody deep meaning for me, making a monumental change in my art career. I am committed to the project as it grows and transforms.

As the pandemic has made its way into all our lives, it too has become part of my art. I learned to make mobile videos, using iPhone and iPad. So now in 2021, I am now a digital artist. I make videos produced on my mobile devices, posting my work online and showing in virtual exhibits.

And as always, I make art about how I see the world and how I live. I believe my art is a conduit for experiences and ideas that bind us together. I am interested in how art communicates who we are and how our experience can be shared even when words are not enough to express ourselves. I create from a place that embraces our humanness.

Susan Detroy