The Herald, Sharon, Pa.


March 2, 2014

Art of the unknown

Local artist finds comfort outside of her comfort zone

HERMITAGE — The artist giveth, but sometimes the artist has to taketh away.

Susan Jacobs is working on a mask impression – made from a cast of a real person’s face – with a scarf-like appendage wrapping around it. She has painted the piece but decided it is too shiny, so she’s sanding it to cut the shine. Maybe she’ll add more paint; maybe she won’t.

The Hickory High School graduate, long known for her paintings and sculptures, has been criticized for experimenting, but it is the attempt of something new that drives her to keep creating art.

“I find that I become bored and I just need to dabble in a couple different media,” said Jacobs, of Bazetta, Trumbull County.

After a lifetime of drawing and painting, “I know what I can do with it,” she said.

“Experimenting with new media is the adventure,” said Jacobs, who fronted the rock band Boulevard for more than 20 years with her husband, Chuck. “It’s the process and where it leads me.”

Her dabbling with mask impressions has gotten her noticed in a positive way, too, as evidenced by the awards from juried shows. Two such works and an unrelated painting earned her a Juror’s Special Mention at the Butler Institute of American Art’s 67th Area Artists Annual exhibition in Youngstown for body of work.

She previously showed the mask impressions at the Buhl Day Art Show in September.

“The pieces I have at the Butler have been in a lot of shows, won a lot of prizes,” she said. “I’ve entered them in about everything I can. I’ve got to come up with some new ones.”

The awards also have honored her improvement at a process that can bedevil her.

“I’m getting better at mixing the material and knowing how long things have to set,” she said. “At first, I had quite a few that I trashed.”

Always interested in pop art, she said she decided to make casts of faces after seeing Marc Sijan’s super-realistic sculptures at the Butler.

She called a special effects company for instructions, and makes casts when she can find someone willing to sit still for 30 minutes with their face covered in “goo,” she said.

After drawing and painting faces for years, she wanted to do something creative with a face that she was not creating from scratch.

“The face is what it is,” Jacobs said. “I want to get as much out of the face as I can.”

The masks are intriguing because they present faces that look real, but are not real, Jacobs said.

“I like to make things that kind of trick the senses,” she said.

They also are fun in that she doesn’t know how the finished work will look, she said.

“I have a little bit of a plan but not a whole finished plan,” Jacobs said.

Plans often change, anyway. Take her teaching career. Jacobs taught art for 30 years in the Mathews School District in Trumbull County, and upon her retirement in 2003, “I thought I would get out of teaching,” she said.

Instead, she has simply moved to a new class of students: adults.

She teaches online classes for Ashland (Ohio) University; and at Trumbull Art Gallery in Warren, Ohio; the Hoyt Institute of Fine Arts, New Castle; the Valley Arts Center in Chagrin Falls, Ohio; the Buhl Community Recreation Center, Sharon; and senior centers; and at her own “Paint and Taste” classes, including one Tuesday at Gallery 29 in Sharon.

“It’s the basis of what I do, now,” she said of teaching. “I’m teaching adults who really want to learn. They want to know everything that I can teach them.”

Jacobs, who owns the dog biscuit company Blissful Biscuits, lives by the premise that everyone can make art, which is why she enjoys the three-hour “Paint and Taste” classes.

“People come in with absolutely nothing,” she said. “They make art and they have some wine or some tea or foods and they’ve had a laugh and a completed artwork. The idea is to come in with nothing and leave with something.”

Along with painting, she makes jewelry and sculptures including three-dimensional representations of food, often showing them larger than life.

She said she enters any juried show she can to try to get her works seen, but also strives to promote local artists in general. She founded Community Artworks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding local venues available to artists.

She brought together 80 artists under the Community Artworks banner to create a “mosaic mural” based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” which is on view at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, Vienna, Ohio.

“We’ve got really talented artists here,” she said. “If I can do something to promote that, that’s really important to me.”

Some of Jacobs’ works and activities are detailed at For information on the Gallery 29 “Paint and Taste” class, call 330-647-1712. She also holds a “Paint and Taste” class March 8 at the Hoyt; info: 714-652-2882.

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