ArtArt Interviews

Interview with Susan Eley, the founder of Susan Eley Fine Art

Susan Eley Fine Art is a salon-style gallery located in the Upper West Side of New York City. Dedicated to contemporary artwork, the gallery prides itself on hosting literary and poetry salons and panel discussions as well as constantly showing new and interesting fine art. The gallery was founded by its namesake in 2006 and focuses on contemporary art by emerging and mid-career artists. Susan Eley is a former freelance editor and writer, who has written extensively on fine art and dance for national and regional publications. She has a BA in Art History from Brown University and an MA in Visual Arts Administration from NYU. She has worked in public relations and education at the Morgan Library & Museum, the Mayor’s Art Commission of the City of New York and interned at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy. She is also a former professional ballet dancer. Moreover, Susan is a blogger for Huffington Post, who regularly posts articles on contemporary art in New York. Recently, Susan discussed her experiences managing the gallery and its upcoming events:

Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: How did you initially become interested in art and collecting art?

Chase Langford Strokes, 2016 Oil on canvas 30x24
Chase Langford
Strokes, 2016
Oil on canvas

Susan Eley (SE): I was exposed to art from an early age as my mother is a painter and sculptor. I watched mom create art throughout my childhood and our home was filled with beautiful objects; it must have gotten under my skin. I discovered art history in college, eventually majoring in it and going on to get an MA in Visual Arts Administration, before landing my first museum job.

MM: How and when did you decide to start a gallery?

SE: I decided to open an art gallery in 2005 and opened the doors a year later in the spring of 2006. I always wanted my own business and have what I consider to be an entrepreneurial side. I wanted to work with living artists to showcase contemporary painting and photography.

MM: What styles of art does your organization favor?

SE: I am drawn to art that dances on the edge of abstraction and representation. I typically favor color, bold form, and expressionistic brushwork. Art that we show has to meet the criteria of offering something new, but is also executed with excellent technique and craftsmanship.

MM: How many artists do you currently represent? Can you describe some of their work?

Fumiko Toda Butterfly Away (Yellow), 2016 Etching and hand coloring 29 × 21 in
Fumiko Toda
Butterfly Away (Yellow), 2016
Etching and hand coloring
29 × 21 in

SE: We represent about 30 artists, 20-25 who are actively producing new work and who we show regularly in solo or group shows and at art fairs. The art ranges from small monoprints and drawings on paper to large-scale oil and acrylic paintings, monumental sculpture made from steel, and everything in between. Currently on the walls in my office and in the private back gallery are small oil paintings of figures in interior rooms, by Kathy Osborn, of Hudson, NY; large, colorful abstractions based on geography by L.A.-based artist Chase Langford; encaustic paintings that evoke pattern in nature and textile by San Diego artist Amber George and a monotype of fluttering butterflies against a red background, by Japanese artist Fumiko Toda.

MM: How does someone submit work to possibly be featured with you? Are there any fees involved?

SE: There are no fees required to exhibit at Susan Eley Fine Art. We take a standard commission if sales result. The best way to submit work is online through our email. We like to see a website and a selection of high resolution jpegs. However, we have a full roster at the moment and are not actively seeking new artists. But we look at everything!

MM: What kind of work/mediums do you hope to see more of in the future?

Amber George May Grey, 2014 Encaustic on panel 24 × 24 in
Amber George
May Grey, 2014
Encaustic on panel
24 × 24 in

SE: I would like to feature more sculpture in a variety of media. We have also actively been looking for more narrative based representational art that tells a story.

MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding experience involving working with the gallery?

SE: It’s difficult to choose one rewarding experience! There have been so many over the ten years. Hanging a show with the artist present is always a thrill as together we watch the artwork come alive on the walls. Connecting an artist with a collector and hearing their conversation is also deeply rewarding.

MM: Where do you hope that the gallery will be ten years from now?

Carole Eisner Valentine II, 2005 Rolled and welded steel I-beams 126 × 168 × 110 in
Carole Eisner
Valentine II, 2005
Rolled and welded steel I-beams
126 × 168 × 110 in

SE: I hope to still be around, doing what we do now, but on a larger scale. I hope we will have more collaborative projects with other galleries, private dealers, and museums. I hope that some of our artists will have moved on to work with more well-established, higher profile galleries and that we will continue to take on young emerging artists, just launching their careers.

MM: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to become an artist and/or striving to open a gallery?

SE: Ahh…two very different things: I would advise young artists to find a voice that is unique to them. Always continue to improve your technique and skills in your chosen medium. Never rest on your laurels and don’t look for a commercial formula that sells. Instead, keep growing and evolving your practice, while staying true to your voice. For aspiring gallerists, I would recommend working in a gallery first (although I didn’t), and preferably a small one, where you will be privy to the inner workings of the business. When you do eventually open a gallery, start small with a few artists you believe in, and not in an enormous space with lots of overhead. You can always scale up!

Kathy Osborn Woman in Kitchen, 2015 Oil on paper 9 × 13 in
Kathy Osborn
Woman in Kitchen, 2015
Oil on paper
9 × 13 in

MM: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?

SE: Our next exhibition, opening on April 20, will feature fabulous abstract paintings by west coaster Chase Langford and still lifes, landscapes and portraits in a European Modernist style by French artist Sarah Picon. Following that, our summer exhibition, organized in conjunction with the Brooklyn based Center for Human Rights in Iran, will spotlight a group of Iranian and American Iranian artists living in the US. This show has come about in reaction to our president’s recent Immigration ban.

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To learn more about Susan Eley Fine art visit their official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To read her Huffington Post column, see here.

Meagan Meehan

Meagan J. Meehan is a published author, poet, cartoonist and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Examiner and AXS. She is also a stop motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a Bachelors in English Literature and a Masters of Communication. She is an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
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