Celebrating a great local artist
By: Dick Hodgetts; Columnist
A local “must visit” includes the lobby of the James Madison Inn between Town Park and Madison Markets. Visitors may sit in the lobby and literally “soak up” Madison’s recent history from the lobby paintings, the one in the office of General Manager Mary Dilletto, and also in the work in the lower area breakfast room.
Long-time residents can point to Madison sites depicted in numerous paintings by Suzi George. Inside the office of the General Manager is a powerful piece highlighting a service at Calvary Baptist Church. Reverend Hoke Smith and others involved in worship services are shown, as well as a group of lovely dancers shown in a praise service. Reportedly the same well-behaved young ladies visited The James Madison Inn and grew very quiet as they identified themselves in the painting.
Sometimes, we need an outsider to see ourselves best. Suzi George is the consummate outsider. Her residential moves rival a AAA Trip-Tik to some distant destination. This gentle blonde lady originates in the Philippines the issue of an English Father, and a lovely Spanish Mother.
As a young adult, Suzi George finds herself in Washington DC working in the pressure cooker of a major law firm. The pay is terrific, the pressure is un-yielding. As a form of therapy and without any formal training, Suzi picks up a brush and palette and paints for her co-workers and friends. It is an immediate hit, and a great stress reliever. Washington is a corporate town and the only industry is politics, the next election she is out, and works her way to London where she had attended school. Soon one of the top London galleries discovers her and opens a one-woman show. Sold Out!! Her life is changed, she is no longer the Material Girl desiring the latest fashions, she lives to paint. She packs a lot of living into her life working late into the gloomy London nights.
Artists appear to need stimulation from a variety of sources, the gray of London depresses her, and she notes the sunshine, low taxes, and moderate living costs and makes Atlanta her next destination. She finds herself in the Virginia Highlands where the newly empowered business women discover her work, and she sells to both the new and old money of Atlanta. Some of you may recall a dinner place called: Café TuTu Tango where artists work in front of the dinner patrons, and their work is sold on the spot. Suzi is a favorite.
An Atlanta Doctor visits her and asks if she will paint a portrait of his wife and infant child. The episode changes her orientation. She has moved to the venue of portrait painter. And word of her work spreads throughout Georgia and along the Gulf Coast.
Yes, she will do the occasional mural such as we see at the James Madison Inn; but the demand for her portraiture work takes much of her productive time.
Just like the rest of our artistic community, she sees herself constantly evolving. Her heart is in the cultural center of Atlanta where her reputation is established; but, oh the gentle life-style of Madison has its allure as well.
Next time you visit the James Madison Inn, soak up some of the history of Madison as seen in the eyes of a “resident” outsider, she will bring tears to yours if you see her paint a canvas of your loved one; or your beloved pet that you want captured forever. Grab her before she flips that Trip-Tik and is gone to some crowded metro area. Artists are akin to Texas tumbleweeds, gotta catch them when they pass your way. And, when caught they leave a lasting impression.
A special thanks to Judy Barber for recommending this story. Any errors are the responsibility of the author.
Printed in the June 11, 2009 Edition.