Galleries : The art of Groovy Sue
While some might view moving from an established gallery to a renovated garage a step backwards, for Suesan Stovall, known to many as Groovy Sue, it's just the opposite. Leaving the Carol Craven Gallery in Vineyard Haven to open her own gallery in the garage of her family's home in Oak Bluffs three years ago was a positive change for the artist, and a chance to employ one of her valued skills - her "hustle."
"I have always done this myself - sold my own pieces and put on my own shows," Ms. Stovall says. "This is just a way for me to be able to do that more easily."
Long gone are the oil stains and leaky paint cans. Groovy Sue Gallery at 9 Spruce Avenue in Oak Bluffs is filled with beautiful, multi-textured assemblage pieces with reverberating pastel color schemes. Her body of work has a collective identity, yet no two pieces are the same.
Ms. Stovall has exhibited a such prestigious galleries as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, the Tubman African American Museum, in Macon, Georgia, and most recently at the Rudenstein Gallery at Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute.
Ms. Stovall will host a reception at her gallery on Saturday, August 29, from 2 to 7 pm.
Faded photographs surrounded by time-yellowed lace, framed butterflies, and fantastical hand-painted backgrounds give the work a feminine quality - but with bold messages. An image of a mule accompanies an archaic definition of the word mulatto, and the phrase "I am not a mule" imbues the piece with defiant strength. While her art is deeply personal, it's aesthetic appeal makes it accessible.
Difficulties can arise when studio and gallery space meld. "I do a lot of conjuring in the garage." Ms. Stovall says. "My work comes from a really deep place inside of me, and sometimes getting to that place can be uncomfortable to share, so I purposefully try and protect people from myself when I'm in that mood. Mostly, I see people by appointment, but word has gotten around, so if the door is open I really have to be ready for people to walk in."
Ms. Stovall was born and raised in New York City, spending summers on the Vineyard with her mother, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, an award-winning journalist and NPR foreign correspondent. Ms. Stovall is also an accomplished singer, songwriter, and actress, and she travels internationally to work in music, theater, and film. Currently, she divides her time between the Vineyard, Los Angeles, and South Africa.
Ms. Stovall on her ancestry: "South Africa is amazing for me. Ancestry is really important to me, and it is really important there too. It is a big part of their culture, and part of my work is trying to preserve the memories of ancestry in all its realms, and not just my own. That is why you will see a lot of Native American and African American stuff [in my work]. They were instrumental in connecting the dots for me and making me understand some of the things I was dreaming about."
When asked about the price range of her work, Ms. Stovall laughs and glances at the work filling walls of her gallery. "Well, it starts at $15 to $20, if I have calendars. It goes up to $5,000. People keep telling me to raise my prices, but I like being affordable. And I'll take food stamps. I never expected to have a high-end art career."
Artist's reception, Saturday, August 29, from 2 to 7 pm, Groovy Sue Gallery, 9 Spruce Avenue, Oak Bluffs. Refreshments served.
Katy Plasse is a freelance writer living in Chilmark.