Susan Savage

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Susan Savage is retired from the department of art at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.

A Few Words About My Work

As a painter I am attracted to common objects and the stories their visual relationships reveal. By taking the commonplace and lifting it up to a state of contemplation, I strive to permeate familiar forms with a sense of presence, as if they contain some form of human or divine essence.

Over the past few years I have been intrigued by the beautiful elegance and refined delicacy of a simple silver bowl. As I study the attributes of this object I see in its distinctive qualities a compelling parallel to the characteristics of Christian faith. The vessel has been tempered by fire and stands redeemed. As a symbol of purity, refinement, and redemption the silver bowl stands as a vehicle for a continuing story of meditation, mystery, and transcendent reality. In this context the humble elegance of this simple object stands as a witness to something larger than its temporary and finite form. Thus, as a source for the sacred, my visual narratives are intended to surpass mere physical appearances and reverently bring the viewer face-to-face with purposeful metaphors for spiritual truths.

My images are intended for divine questions. The concept is one of incarnation. By lifting objects up to a state of contemplation I venture into that introspective space where the viewer is invited to pause and think about what an image conveys rather than complacently accept what is visually offered as familiar or expected. I like to think that my images are reminders of what we already know, but because the familiar is now somewhat unfamiliar we are brought into the realm of transcendence, into the realm of revelation.

Artist's Statement

As a painter I believe that one of the essential functions of art is to make the familiar appear somehow unfamiliar, to make reality a little strange. One of my tasks is to respond to what others might overlook, or to magnify what others might not notice. In appreciating the humble beauty and quiet simplicity of common objects, I find great potential in the stories their visual relationships can portray. Through my interest in historical symbolism, the objects that I choose as subjects hold powerful meaning, and thus serve as pertinent vehicles for my metaphorical intent.

Through this frame of reference I am inspired by II Corinthians 4:18 which says, Look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal. As I ponder this statement I work to make visible that which is invisible, to reverently bring viewers face-to-face with purposeful metaphors for the attributes and truths of the Christian faith

As I work I am enticed by the mystery of what is yet to be, by the discovery of things once hidden. With this mindset I have come to appreciate the fact that objects themselves have the power to absorb and reveal both human and divine demeanor. Thus, as a medium of revelation, the act of painting becomes a significant intellectual and devotional endeavor. Silver and glass vessels, thorns, spheres, ribbon, cloth and paper all work in concert to conjure mystery between seen and unseen realities as these objects bear witness to something larger, greater, and deeper than their temporary and finite physical forms. It is my hope and intention that as I paint, the natural will become supernatural, matter will be transformed into meaning, and the message will be contemplatively sacred. For the viewer, this connection has the potential to define a transcendent moment if time is taken to consider the visual relationships presented.

I like to think that my images exist to remind us of what we already know, that the silent dialogue between seen and unseen realities taps into our inner spiritual core in some unique way. To see what is truly presented requires faith. To believe what is seen, yet unseen, invites silence, solitude, and simplicity to work together to reveal something strangely familiar and contemplatively significant, even if words or explanations do not come easily.


Susan Savage received her BA in Art and MFA in Painting from the University of California Santa Barbara. Recently retired from a long and rich career in secondary and higher education, she is looking forward to continuing her painting pursuits full time. As Professor of Art at Westmont College she taught art education, beginning drawing, book arts, beginning and advanced painting, and held the position of department chair for ten years. Education has been the focus of her professional life, where the nurturing and encouragement of individuals in their creative pursuits was a stimulating, passionate, and rewarding adventure.

Her metaphorical paintings of objects as vehicles for sacred contemplation and dialogue were integrated into her teaching practices and connected both her personal and professional life on many levels. Her paintings have been exhibited in galleries and museums both locally and nationally, and her work has been the focus of several featured articles and publications. 

For more, visit my website.