Su Rogers (BFA 1984) has been a working painter for over 30 years. A resident of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Su pays homage to local fisheries and the history of Nova Scotia fisheries in her work
What have you done since leaving NSCAD?
I maintained a professional art career, keeping a studio and continuing with an active exhibition schedule. I often worked on short-term contracts in the arts field, for example at what used to be known as The Indian Art Gallery at Indian Affairs, in Ottawa. I have also sat on many art juries.
What are you currently working on, or what have you most recently worked on? What’s it about?
Largely my work is about the local fishery and figurative pieces. Usually, historical references play a large part in my work. I often incorporate text to further the narrative. My last painting project was funded by Canada Council’s Explore and Create, which involved two very large triptychs, with oil on canvas. This project represented my family ancestry using a style of graphic narrative. It was a daunting project. A tentative title is Main-à-Dieu: by the Hand of God where my DNA grandfather lived in Cape Breton…a revelation.
Another series I have worked on consisted of various 3D assemblages; discrete small museums housing collections of handmade fishing tools that I have collected over time, including text on glass titled Historia Atlantica.
What continues to inspire your work?
Anything to do with the local fishery, history of the fishery, family figures and historical insights, continues to engage me.
How did your time at NSCAD contribute to your career path?
NSCAD gave me a breadth of knowledge and exposure to different styles and ideas. It gave me the courage and conviction to pursue artmaking throughout my life with the motive to try to express the inexpressible and to try to define the indefinable, which created resonance in my work.
What was your favourite part of NSCAD?
I loved going to visiting artist lectures. There I could listen to working artists and see what they were doing in their real practices and what inspired them. I was a wide-eyed young person gobbling down everything they said and represented about the world I was about to enter.
What was your biggest takeaway from your time at NSCAD?
That I could take up the gauntlet of engaging in an art career. It gave me confidence to hold the line and persist throughout the decades, always looking for challenges in my practice. It gave me a life I did not imagine before going to NSCAD. I was a young mom and had very young children at the time and it opened a world that I felt I could carry on with my family and the arts, embracing both.
What is the proudest moment of your art/design career?
I had a show at the Museum of the Atlantic for a whole season recently, before COVID. Seaward Lives: Coastal Women in the Fishery was a series of large format paintings about women in the fishery. I was able to go to a small fishing shed on the South Shore of Nova Scotia several years ago and photo document the wet fishery work of women in the community.
I wanted to make heroic representation of their work and to also include much about the iconography related to the community in an expressive way. It was a thrill to have the Museum acknowledge that my work was of the community, for the community. They confirmed that I had expressed an element in their environment that had not been thoroughly represented at all in the museum.
I find that much of the work I do is akin to being a keeper of local information and visual history. The small fish work shed I documented doesn’t exist anymore because the inshore fishery has all but disappeared, so I find, document, and present work to pay homage to what has gone before.
What is something you can’t wait to do next in your career?
I can’t wait to stop making art related submissions at my computer and get back into my studio and paint subjects I have been longing to do for some time — expressive portraits of my contemporary family members and a self-portrait of myself with a winged head in my senior years. I would also somehow would like to find the time and energy and funds to work on a catalogue raisonné.
Explore Su’s website at https://www.su-rogers-artist.com/.