Profiles

Senior artist profile: Suzi Reaves finds her voice through art

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From Navy recruiter to flourishing art major, Suzi Reaves’ journey to the senior art gallery has been one of frenetic change and progression as she has found her voice in the expressive world of art.

Artist Suzi Reaves | Photo by Alec Herrera
Artist Suzi Reaves | Photo by Alec Herrera

Reaves, 62, is currently showing off a small portion of her diverse art portfolio at Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Fine Arts Gallery, all of which encapsulates a lifelong love of the arts and an expression of deep-rooted passions.

Born into a military family, Reaves traveled the world at a young age, living in foreign nations and settling in various states from Florida to Oregon. Despite the movement, she gained a passion for art over time crafting several pieces in school, one of which will be featured in her senior seminar presentation.

She accomplished quite a bit in her academic career prior to reaching CSU-Pueblo in 2013. Reaves received a bachelor’s degree in recreation administration from the University of Northern Colorado-Greeley where she was able to find steady work and experience in the administration field.

Despite her major emphasis then, Reaves never strayed from her love of art, actually owning an art shop in the Colorado Renaissance Fair up in Larkspur, Colorado, where she made ornaments for sale.

“I custom made ornaments for all the ski areas here in Colorado for Vail, Breckenridge,” Reaves said.

Despite the success she experienced running the shop, Reaves said that her “hands got tired” and it got her thinking about things more long-term in regard to health care and retirement. This led her into an impressive 23 year career in the U.S. Navy where she spent the majority of it as a recruiter.

Reaves described the experience as mostly being a “sales job” but in her time she learned valuable communication skills, on-the-job training and various forms of education that would go on to aid her once she would return to an academic setting.

Moving forward with the military career wrapped up, a G.I. Bill in hand, and a passion for art ahead of her, Reaves became a full-time student at CSU-Pueblo in the fall of 2013, majoring in art with an emphasis in ceramics.

In spite of her years of vocational experience with art, Reaves admitted that there was still a lot for her to learn in regards to different styles and practices.

“When I came here, I knew nothing about painting or print making,” she said, later adding that the college allowed her to find her voice in painting.

Now a large painting of a Walking Stick Cactus adorns the back wall of the Fine Arts Gallery, exhibiting years of improvement and progression in Reaves’ ability as a painter, as well as an understanding of her preferences.

“I like realism in painting. I can really appreciate the work that goes into making something look real, like a Rembrandt,” she added.

A piece created by Reaves | Photo by Alec Herrera
A piece created by Reaves | Photo by Alec Herrera

Her painting skills evolved from practically nothing, but her ceramic work grew to something even greater with numerous pieces featured in the senior gallery.

With inspirations ranging from Mexican ceramist Gustavo Perez to Japanese Jomon Era Pottery, Reaves’ ceramic work captures multi-cultured concoction that exemplifies her personal style.

“I enjoy ceramics because of how tactile it is. You get to really feel your way through a work of art,” she explained, pointing out the complex methods she used for her pieces, including a Jomon Era pot that was painstakingly coiled by hand.

The piece de resistance of Reaves’ ceramic work is a clever if strange piece titled “Eye Pods” which features repurposed forks, steel wire, and a CD rack paired with assortment of handmade ceramic plant pods. Combined, the materials form quite a sight.

The piece has already been featured in other galleries around Colorado and won various honors.

“I like when I’m asked to do something I’ve never done before.”

These are only a sample of all the work that Reaves has completed during her years at CSU-Pueblo, but she doesn’t see any end in sight for her artistic practice, in and out of the college.

“I still plan on taking the studio courses because I figure they’re here, the instructors are here, why not use them?” Reaves said.

She does look back at her CSU-Pueblo days fondly, remarking on the great experiences she’s had with the teachers and classmates calling them all “art buddies” of hers. In regard to her own art, she said that compared to her days as an ornament maker, she now feels that her work is much more of an “art” and less of a “craft.”

From youth to retirement, art has always been a staple in Suzi Reaves’ life; now she will be leaving CSU-Pueblo with an amazing resume and a bright future as her artistic vision’s become more expansive than ever.

The senior art gallery featuring Reaves’ art will be open through the remainder of the Spring semester and is located in the Fine Arts Gallery.