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Parents, culture influence Avondale Hopi painter

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ARTIST SHERYL SUSUNKEWA stands outside her Avondale home Jan. 6 with three of her acrylic paintings. The second generation Native American artist will be one of the featured artists Saturday and Sunday at the Litchfield Park Native American Fine Arts Festival. View photo by Jordan Christopher
ARTIST SHERYL SUSUNKEWA stands outside her Avondale home Jan. 6 with three of her acrylic paintings. The second generation Native American artist will be one of the featured artists Saturday and Sunday at the Litchfield Park Native American Fine Arts Festival. View photo by Jordan Christopher

Sheryl Susunkewa to show work at Litchfield Park art festival

For painter Sheryl Susunkewa, the Litchfield Park Native American Arts Festival is a tradition.

Since the festival began 25 years ago, Susunkewa has been showing and selling her work alongside her father, Manfred Susunkewa, a traditional kachina carver, and mother, Norma Susunkewa, who weaves baskets.

Her parents had a big impact on her work, said Susunkewa, 51, of Avondale.

I was exposed to the arts at a young age because my parents are artists,” said Susunkewa, who started painting in grade school. “I decided this was something I enjoyed doing.”

The abstract paintings she does in acrylics, watercolor and mixed media are influenced by nature and the symbolism of her Hopi culture.

I’m an artist who likes to break barriers,” Susunkewa said.

Her father suggested painting in bold primary colors rather than the pastels favored by Hopi artists, Susunkewa said.

I took his advice and it worked,” she said. “It’s a style of my own.”

It’s a style built on the basics.

You really need to know the foundation of color and design,” she said. “That’s something I learned from my father, from my peers.”

After graduating from Arizona State University, her career took off, Susunkewa said.

It happened so quick,” she said.

Susunkewa’s paintings are on display at the Heard Museum in Phoenix and in the permanent collection of the Arizona State Museum. A gallery in Santa Fe, N.M., also carries her work.

Susunkewa works at home, usually creating one painting at a time without using a sketch pad before starting on canvases that range in size from 9 by 12 inches to 36 by 42 inches.

My canvas is my sketch pad,” she said.

She’s also learned to walk away from the work if she is blocked, Susunkewa said.

If you try to fight it, the painting is not going to be how it should turn out,” she said. “You know when the painting is done if you feel good about it. If you can feel it in your heart, it’s done.”

Susunkewa attends other art festivals, including the Heard Museum event in March and an Indian market in Santa Fe in August.

The festivals give Susunkewa a chance to meet clients and perhaps inspire an interest in the arts among young people by performing demonstrations, which she and her parents will do at the Litchfield Park festival.

It’s a blessing that I can continue and share my work with others,” she said.

 

Glenn Gullickson can be reached at ggullickson@westvalleyview.com.



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