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2022 Comenius Award


Susiehyer ’76

The Comenius Award is given in recognition of outstanding achievement or service in an alumna’s or alumnus’s field of work. This is the Alumni Association’s lifetime achievement award.

Susiehyer has been drawing and painting since she was a child. “I remember drawing a pair of ceramic flamingos my mother kept on the dining room table when I was four years old,” she says. “I knew from that moment I would be an artist when I grew up.” That four-year-old was certainly prescient, but what she didn’t know was just how successful an artist she would become.

Working professionally since 1976, Susie has received scholarships, grants, and awards for her paintings, including two international design awards. She is a signature member of both Oil Painters of America and the American Impressionist Society, and she served as a national vice president of the Women’s Caucus for Art and past president of the New Orleans Chapter. Her work has appeared in numerous galleries and national exhibitions and hangs in many private and corporate collections. Susie’s paintings are represented by galleries in Colorado and the Southwest.

While the subject matter in much of Susie’s work may be distinctly landscape, her interest lies primarily in exploring the visual relationships occurring underneath the subject—how large value and color statements relate to each other in a painting or how the shapes of light and shadow complement and work with each other to make the viewer’s eye move around the painting. “I love to explore how to put the paint down or what the edges are doing,” says Susie, “but what excites me most is the bigger, yet occult, abstract design underneath the painting. I’m always experimenting in the studio to keep a fresh eye, chasing an idea and the many ways that idea could look on canvas.”

Susie has been published in the celebrated books Landscapes of Colorado and Art of the National Parks: Historic Connections, Contemporary Interpretations as well as the book series American Art Collector and Best of America: Oil Artists and Artisans. She has been featured in the magazines Southwest Art, Fine Art Connoisseur, Plein Air, and Art of the West. Her work has also appeared on the covers of Art Life, Evergreen Living, and Mountain Country Life. And publications continue to celebrate Susie and her work. She is featured in this year’s April/May issue of Western Art and Architecture, one of the most beautiful and respected publications in the art world.

Susie earned her BA in fine art and art history from Moravian in 1976, and throughout much of her career, she sought opportunities to refine and expand her talent and repertoire, including programs at The Baum School of Art and the University of West Florida. She attended the Art Students League of Denver and participated in workshops whenever she could, with artists such as Quang Ho, Kim English, Jay Moore, Ron Hicks, and Kevin Weckbach. In 2001 Susie completed the Denver Botanic Gardens Certificate in Botanical Art and Illustration.

But Susie credits her Moravian experience as being the most formative. “One of the most important take-aways was the ‘permission’ to believe in myself,” she says. “That belief gave me the motivation, determination, and drive to pursue a career as a fine artist and make it work for me and my family. Not one faculty member, administrator, coach, or classmate ever said to me, ‘You can’t.’ The culture and attitude at Moravian said, ‘You can.’ Once I believed that, I lost my fear of failure and rejection, which is an inherent part of making art, of making a career of fine art, and of life in general.

“Moravian provided for me not just a transitional period of physical and financial adjustment from dependency on one’s family to independence and self-sufficiency, but also the psychoemotional and mental adjustments necessary to navigate an ever-changing and uncertain world with certainty, purpose, and anticipation,” Susie adds. “Moravian students don’t graduate and say, ‘Okay, now what?’ Moravian provided the space for the critical thinking necessary to understand my place in the larger whole and what role I would take in my community and tribe.”

Recently retired from the “plein air circuit,” Susie is grateful to have had the opportunity, through the sales of her work, to have an active role in helping raise significant funding for our national parks and monuments’ adjunct associations, art centers, art schools, and art organizations, fulfilling a responsibility and desire to give back, which she says was instilled in her by Moravian’s academic, social, and spiritual culture.