Patrick B. McGuigan
Artist Susan Cromer Yback continues to grow and develop, stretching herself into more new adventures as she creates unique works using varied techniques. In her studio (2927 Paseo Drive in Oklahoma City) you’ll see varied styles in her paintings.
In a realistic portrait of an American folk-singing icon can be discerned charcoal elements, blended with paint. On an easel just a few feet away is a bright abstract work, with an imaginative overhead view of streets in the District of Columbia, in which a unique blend of acrylic colors stand out.
She lived for many year’s in the nation’s capital city, and observes, “I grew up in D.C. and that painting evokes my experiences. She laughed as she remembered that, among other things, she learned the hard way “that there were no left turns after the bridge across the river. I experienced all of that with my mother.”
Similar themes are evident in her abstract works touching on West Memphis and New York City. Each has a presentation distinctly its own.
When Yback and I first spoke in 2013, she outlined her primary influences this way: “I love Henri Matise, the bright colors. And Pablo Picasso, the way he took things apart, then put them back together. And Joan Miro.” Miro, a Spanish painter, inspired her for “the way he employed abstraction, and his use of lines.”
In recent years, she has learned new techniques in use of pastels, charcoal, acrylic and other artistic tools. Asked to designate the most interesting new “thing” she has learned of late, she credited Katherine Liontas-Warren, a professor at Cameron University (Lawton) as a primary influence.
“I like to work quickly and I’ve learned more and more ways to do that in the last decade,” Yback said.
As for the most challenging aspect of recent works she’s produced, she commented, “The abstract pieces I do have presented real challenges. I have learned so much working on those. I go for the ‘feel’ of a place, what I remember that stands out – the rust of a bridge, the color of water, the ‘sense’ of a place rather than a strict visual, all drawn from my memories. The West Memphis painting, for example, comes from my memory of crossing the Mississippi River there.”
Long a staple in her works are western and Native art themes, for which she credits her husband David, “who is Sioux. I didn’t know he was when I first met him. He was just this tall handsome man. Then I became interested in his heritage. He is a descendant of Sitting Bull, so I have wanted to pin down his lineage, and portray his heritage.”
She laughs heartily as she recalls, “David’s mother used to make me laugh talking about him as a ‘big Indian.’ The ‘Big Indian’ is a theme in some of my paintings. Big braids, big mouth, big features.”
She often portrays scenes with horses (including in her “Eastern Shore” paining) or bison as starring characters, in addition to renderings focused on people.
Retired after many years teaching art in the Putnam City public school district, Yback has been able to throw herself into her own works. That leads her to some practical advice about the artist’s life.
“I love what I do,” she says. “When young people talk to me about art as a career, I suggest that it is a great life, as long as you have a paycheck! By that I mean, and I suggest, that they get teaching certification, as regular work and a way to assure they have a way to pay the bills, and then they can pursue their art.”
Yback and her husband are hanging out for much of this Memorial Day weekend at her studio, chatting with visitors to the Paseo Arts Festival (which continues Sunday and Monday). She is present at the studio most Tuesdays and Thursdays, and for the First Friday Gallery Walk (the next one is Friday, June 2, 6- 10 p.m.
In addition to her regular presence along the Paseo, Yback is regularly engaged with the House of Clay at N.W. 30 and Western Avenue, a few blocks west of the Paseo.
She is easy to talk to, with an accessible and engaging manner. The price of her original works varies, but fall within the range of any serious collector or admirer. She may be contacted at [email protected] or by phone/text at 405-662-6551.