SFW&C Fiesta Featured Artist 2005
Born in Mexico City to a mother who was a portrait painter and a Mexican jeweler father, Susan Contreras moved with her family to Santa Barbara, California when she was age 5. The family traveled frequently to Mexico where she became fascinated by ceremonies involving masks, such as the Day of the Dead. It was the bringing together of drama and color, and that combination underlies her paintings.
In 1968, her family moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico so her sister could attend the School for the Deaf. Susan got interested in photography from a high school class. Then she studied at the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara and completed a degree in photography, later receiving a BFA and MFA from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She also studied at Maine’s Skowheagan school of Painting and Sculpture. Her greatest academic influences, though, came Nathan Oliveira and Wayne Thibeaud at the Santa Fe Institute of Fine Arts while her early work as a photojournalist gave Contreras an interest in visual narrative that has informed her paintings from the beginning.