Interview With Suzanne Moe
By Damion Wolfe
Many who live in a small town often become familiar with the faces that adorn their habitat. There are always that handful who may intrigue, or even infatuate you, yet you may never know their names or exchange a greeting. You may see them out walking, at the coffee shop, maybe even the tennis court or the grocery store. In retrospect, I realize that's how I knew Suzanne Moe in my first few years of living in Fredericksburg, VA....this enigmatic figure who occasionally appeared within the periphery of my daily outings. I knew she was an artist, and that she had really interesting hair, and that there was that indescribable something that made me think that she was probably pretty cool. Well, I eventually learned that I was dead-on about my instincts. When I was in the first stages of developing my CD (Self-Titled 1st Release) I was in need of a graphic designer. One day in early 1997 Suzanne walked into the Hyperion Coffee Shop and out of the blue I said, "You're an artist aren't ya?" She said, "yeah." And so, to make a long story short, Suzanne graciously designed my CD, and it was then that I was first allowed the privilege of looking into her world.
Suzanne is an impressive creator. Body art, graphic art, illustrations, and photography are just some of the many facets of the visual world that she expresses. Her unwillingness to settle in the comfort of one format compels her to continue in her artistic growth and expressive outlets. Making art is Suzanne's bread and butter. She does various types of graphic art that she contracts out with different vendors, and also has a private studio located in her home for her tattoo clients. But, as we'll talk about more later, like me and many of us who are "artists for hire" Suzanne struggles to keep the time and inspiration available to create for herself. Some of Suzanne's other roles also include managing the musical mother and son team of Blue Mama Black Son (featuring Gaye Adegbalola and her son Juno), doing car art, and being a hosteler for wayward pets (and musicians).
If you were to meet Suzanne you'd find her to be very real, genuine and social (the antithesis of the stereotypical artist-one who is more aloof and perhaps socially inept). Yet in talking with her you'd also sense that there is a sort of mystical mystery about her. It is perhaps in this unknown place that Suzanne hides the beautiful secrets that inspire her angelic creations.
Suzanne spoke with me via email recently. This is what she had to say:
1. As a visual artist you have a great talent for diversity and being masterful within each color of that spectrum. Could you talk about how growing up in different countries and cultures influenced this eclecticness and your art in general?
I grew up observing & appreciating different countries/cultures as a bit of an outsider, always aware of not quite fitting in, yet also aware of being part of the whole that is one and the same. Oftentimes I tried really hard to fit in to a category (or culture). Looking back, I realize I never have fit into a category (or culture) entirely, and I guess thats reflected in my work now.
2. Because you are a working artist I know that your time can sometimes be overwhelmed with work demands. Can you talk about how this sometimes distracts from your own need to make art solely for yourself and quench your own creative desires?
Oh geez, you know me well! Because I make a living as a self-employed artist, it oftentimes becomes difficult for me to balance commercial creative time with pure creative time. Sometimes, there is a perfect blend of both worlds, and thats Nirvana to me. While I am grateful for work & commissions, I find that I seldom have energy leftover at the end of the day to just go into my studio and create for the sake of creating for my self. Its definitely a dilemma I face, and I do tend to get overwhelmed with work demands more than I care to admit. Its all about balance, and this Libra is gonna keep on working to achieve it ... one day Ill get there.
3. If you had your druthers and knew you were going to be doing a show in 6 months, what kind of visual format(s) would you like to be working with right now? Why?
Id work with mosaics. Tile, glass, mirror, even metal. A city beautification project would be ideal. I love the concept of working with fragments and found objects, and recycling them into a work of art. Creating beauty and wholeness from broken and throw-away objects. Wow!
4. When creating, whether for yourself or a client, is there a method that you use for inspiration to help kickstart the process?
I need to be alone and as free as possible from distractions and obligations. I like to start brainstorming with a simple black fine tipped pen and little pad of paper. I sketch, scribble and write out thoughts. Then I take these pages with me to the computer so I can take the ideas a step further. Thats usually how I get ideas into motion. Sometimes ideas come to me in minutes or hours - especially if Im uninterrupted. Othertimes I need days or even weeks. That, perhaps, is the most difficult part of being self-employed for me - I never know exactly how long it will take me to achieve what Im wanting to reach or express. If I get distracted and lose momentum, it can be a real setback, and with the pressure of a deadline, I oftentimes need to work beyond bankers hours.
5. Suzanne, much of your social and personal life is accentuated by the presence of other artists and musicians. How does this affect your own development and inspiration as an artist? Can you give an example?
Ive always enjoyed being around creative and adventurous spirits. Because I work alone, its especially important for me to have opportunities to exchange ideas, spark new thoughts & explore the unknown with others. I love to be inspired, energized and challenged by creative people of all walks of life. (Does this answer your question?)
1. What was your favorite childhood toy?
2. Who are your top 3 visual artists?
Isaiah Zagar, Diane Arbus, Steve Griffin
3. What are your personal feelings about handle-bar mustaches?
I like them.
4. What was your personal fave in terms of shows and exhibits you've had?
The Graphic Arts show at the Fredericksburg Center for The Creative Arts. Works by area graphic artists were displayed on the gallery walls, which allowed for graphic artists to be recognized as genuine creatives and not just commercial sellouts.
Do you believe in UFOs?
6. What artist/entertainer (dead or alive) would you most like to sit down and have a beer with?
7. Would you ever consider taking a year off and becoming a biker chick?
Of course Id consider it. Though at this point in my life Id prefer to take my (imaginary) year off here at home - to nurture & explore my creativity in the studio, and also to connect with the community on a deeper level.
8. What has been your favorite tattoo creation?
I have too many favorites to narrow down to just one. I enjoy creating works for people that are symbolic of transformation, of empowerment, of self-actualization. Its an honor to perform a ritual that helps to transform people in a positive, life-enhancing way.
One favorite example is of Bruiser the dog. His owner, a 60 year old woman who had never had a tattoo in her life, came to me with a handful of photos from Bruiser the puppy to Bruiser the wise old man, photos taken days before he crossed over. She was grieving, and wanted to have a portrait of him tattooed above her left ankle so he could be with her forever. I drew up a composite portrait which seemed to capture his spirit just right. She was thrilled. Then, for the ritual ... I mixed a small amount of Bruisers ash into the black ink, and tattooed the outline of his portrait with that ink. It might sound a little bizarre, but it was a very healing experience.
9. Spelling Question. Spell the word "echinacea."
Damion, youre goofy!
10. What is your favorite word?