“I never thought about being an artist. I just thought that art was about helping people. It was just there… water, air, art…” says Corvallis visual artist Sue Ann Belknap. A 20+ year resident of the city and member of the Temporary Artists’ Guild,, her kaleidoscope of imagery seems to really reflect the whimsical side of the city, but I can’t quite put my finger on why.
Fascinated with drawing before she literally “knew how to do anything else,” Belknap grew up in a creative environment. Her mother worked in art for a living, both selling and bartering for goods, as well as working as a sign painter and crafting ornaments and jewelry. Belknap recalls the discovery that her mother had melted down the family silverware for art purposes. Her father rotated between a diverse palette of jobs and was an enthusiastic rockhound that may or may not have invented the electric earthworm probe. Growing up in that environment was incredibly influential in terms of shaping Belknap’s desire and attitude towards art.
After graduating from Clackamas University with an art minor, Belknap went on to graphic design at Linn Benton Community College. A switch to OSU’s Fine Arts program ended abruptly when she was assigned to drive to Portland and pay to get into a museum just to see a map of the United States made out of decaying hotdogs. “I don’t doubt that there is some kind of value in that, it just wasn’t for me,” she says. Why, I couldn’t tell you… I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
Although Belknap’s efforts are currently concentrated on exploring painting, with acrylics in particular, she has a diverse skill set with its roots in cartooning. Greatly influenced by Garth Williams, Richard Scarry, Looney Tunes, Gary Larsen and the like, you can see the early aspirations to be a cartoonist boldly shine through in her modern work.
Belknap’s painted work is colorful, clever and rich in personality. It’s the kind of material that makes you feel good – the sort of art that could mean a lot to both young and old, or transform a children’s book into a classic. Something you’d equally expect on a gallery wall or the side of a sneaker.
Want to see more? Sue Ann Belknap will ba hanging work with guildmate Rachel Urista at the Sybaris Bistro in Albany for the month of March. You can also see some of her work at this weekend’s Fall Festival.
By Tom Baker