One of the more than 60 artists listed in the Bellefonte Art Museum’s registry is Susan Nicholas Gephart. Here is her statement:
Susan Nicholas Gephart, believes in mentoring to all ages about her love of art and the environment. She is a 1979 BFA graduate of PSU, who has been painting award winning landscapes plein air for over 30 years. Susan’s deep appreciation of the earth is seen in her colorful, impressionistic pastels and oils. She has shown in the Art of the State of Pennsylvania, won Best of Show in the Central Pennsylvania Festival of Art “Images,” and is a juried associate member of the Pastel Society of America. Her art is in the permanent collection of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Lock Haven University, Penn College, the Williamsport Susquehanna Towers Hospital, and the Penn Stater Conference Center.
Susan teaches all mediums in painting for the C. Barton McCann School of Art, summer youth camps at Millbrook Marsh and privately all ages and mediums at her home studio in Bellefonte. For the last 15 years Susan has been organizing May and October artist retreats and workshops at Hameau Farm Studio in Belleville. Hameau has become a gathering place for artists to share, create, learn, and have fun in a positive and enriching environment. Susan Nicholas Gephart recently established “Nicholas Studios” located in her home, which may be visited by appointment to view hundreds of paintings framed and in progress.
Focusing on the landscape and striving for a personal approach, Susan Nicholas' goal is to see beyond the obvious and capture a mood or essence of what is felt.
Working on location outdoors, whether in pastels or oils, allows for spontaneity and directness. Responding to the sound, smell, and light of the environment influences each interpretation. The essential elements of these paintings are color, shape, sense of atmosphere, and the emotion of the moment.
In the creation of her large studio works, music provides energy for inspiration. When all that exists is the response to color, marks, and the inner music of painting, then all is in harmony, and there is a sense of balance.
Susan Nicholas Gephart graduated with honors in 1977 and 1979, with an associate in art from Montgomery County Community College, and with a bachelor of fine arts from the Pennsylvania State University. In 2007, Susan was inducted into the Montgomery County Community College Alumni Hall of Fame.
She has been painting award winning landscapes plein air for thirty years. Susan's deep appreciation of the earth is seen in her colorful, impressionistic pastels and oils, mostly painted plein air.
She has shown with the Pastel Society of America and the Art of the State of Pennsylvania, won Best of Show in the Central Festival of the Arts Images Exhibit, received Best of Show in the 2009 Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania Members Exhibit, and is in the permanent collections of the Penn Stater Conference Center and the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art. In 2012 Susan became a juried associate member of the Pastel Society of America.
In October 2007, Susan was inducted into the Montgomery County Community College Alumni Hall of Fame.
Committed to the idea of bringing art to the public and creating environmental awareness through her landscape painting, Susan has worked for over two decades coordinating exhibits for the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association, served on the board of directors of the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania, donates to the Clearwater Conservancy, PAWS, and the Palmer Museum of Art. She is a member of Landscape Artists International, the Centre County Farmland Trust and the Farmland Preservation Artists, and is vice president of the Central Pennsylvania Pastel Society.
Susan has taught in schools through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, teaches private lessons to children in her home studio, is an instructor for the C. Barton McCann School of Art, instructs oil and pastel painting for Rochester New York Art Supplies, and organizes artist retreats and workshops at Hameau Farm Studio in Belleville. Believing in mentoring her love of the land and art, she sponsors a high school memorial scholarship each year, in honor of David M. Hopkins, fellow landscape painter and teacher. Susan also participates each year in the Chincoteague Island Paint Out and Exhibit. In 2006 she became, a certified instructor for Jack Richeson Art Supplies, as well as a product demonstrator for Gamblin Oils and Mediums.
Susan's landscapes can be seen at Langman Gallery in Willow Grove, Portal Institute Gallery of Fine Art in Susquehanna, Faustina's Gallery in Lewisburg, Victorian House Antiques & Artisan Gallery in Bellefonte, and her home studio.
In 2006 Susan and her father, Tom Nicholas, exhibited in a retrospective exhibit of 20 years painting together, entitled "Landscape Passages," at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, In 2007 Susan and her father exhibited together at Montgomery Community College, Bluebell.
In 1987, Susan Nicholas Gephart’s landscapes were featured in the HUB Gallery, she returned in October of 2009 Susan with a solo exhibition of recent pastels and oils, entitled, “Focus on the Landscape."
Painter of Sky, Water, and Earth
I have thought much on the process of art. For me, the whole feeling of connection is made complete in the magic and music of the moment. The most energizing or exciting part of painting is the start of it, especially en plein air (painting outdoors).
Since early childhood, I have felt completely comfortable in the solitude of "The Forest," a place where a sense of peace is felt. While painting in the woods, all the senses are attuned to the smells, sounds, and feelings emoted in response to experiences, such as dappled light on fall leaves.
With pastels or a paintbrush, repetitive mark making, color, shapes, and design become important elements to express and are unique unto that moment in time. Slightly abstract images emerge from tree forms and shadow patterns. Responding to these unique situations spur my creative responses into action.
Expansive tranquil or stormy skies of the "Cloudscapes" series provide colors, contrast, and spatial relationships not found in the wooded areas. This large body of related pieces, spanning from the early 80s to present time, fulfills an appreciation for atmospheric weather conditions, endless and ever changing, with possibilities for new compositions in pastels and oils.
The Central Pennsylvania Mountains and skies have been the prime source of inspiration for this series.
The series that I call "Passages" began during my five year residence in Howard, where many an evening or early morning was spent painting, in pastels, the awesome aerial view from the town's dyke. Layers of mountains—moving off in the distance—fronted by the lake—inspired a deep fascination for capturing the atmospheric elements of obscuring moisture.
Pastels enabled a quick response to an ever changing view, and hundreds of paintings through all seasons. The information gathered from pastels laid the groundwork for large studio oil paintings. For me, the "Passages" series symbolically represents our changing life and passage in time.
An Interactive Response
"The Forest," "Cloudscapes," and "Passages" are recurring themes throughout my 30-year focus on the landscape. A spontaneous response to what is viewed is tied together with my joy and use of overlays of exquisite color and textures, along with subtle and sensitive gestures.
Most of the time, I have no preconceived ideas, only a direct response to what I see while on location, and an interactive response to the colors in paint or pastels. Pastels allow for that special spontaneity that is unique to this medium. Oils take a more thoughtful mixing of color, where the enjoyment of lusciousness and fluid paint can be used to quickly express mood or energy.
Fear No Art
The idea of "Fear No Art" is a reminder to me that it is okay to step into unknown territory, take risks, and allow for discovery, during the process of creating art. I have come to realize a relaxed and playful movement, in pastels or paint, can sometimes lead to accidental discoveries.
Adventure and experimentation are chosen over safe and predictable outcomes. As a result of this mindset, I consistently create over a hundred pieces a year. Whenever possible, the plein air piece is finished on location.
The challenge is to take these spontaneous creations, recognize what is rich and working, and selectively conclude the piece in the studio without overworking or destroying the original freshness. Sometimes it is a year until an opportunity is presented to return to the time and season of the original work, but it is well worth the discipline to stay true to plein air painting.
Through painting familiar, comforting landscapes, my goal is to capture the beauty of our fragile earth environment and clearly convey a message of its importance and connection to man.
Keeping my mind's eye open for unique, electric reactions and challenges in pastels and oils continues to excite and rejuvenate my ongoing love of painting Sky, Water, and Earth.
The Bellefonte Art Museum celebrates the human spirit through the arts, recognizing the importance of art in our lives. In 2011, the museum experienced a large increase in attendance, private donations and membership and completed refurbishing the historic Linn House. The museum opened three new galleries: the Children’s Creativity Center, the Anna Wagner Keichline Gallery and the new Louise Bloom Sieg Gallery. The museum is opened Friday through Sunday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Phone 814.355.4280