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Intensely Social Characters


Shea Stanfield
Arts Columnist

“Progressive art can assist people in learning not only about objective forces at work in society, but also about the intensely social character of their interior lives.  Ultimately, it can propel people toward social emancipation.” ~ Salvador Dali Local artist Susan Falcon Hargraves can certainly claim her emancipation from the stale conventions of society, having put down roots early in life in progressive thought and the arts. Growing up in a working class neighborhood in the Bronx, New York, Susan began her art training with a neighborhood teacher named Miss Jensen. Drawing and painting was so common among her neighbors that it never occurred to Susan that it or she were anything special.

Susan traveled with her talent in art right into high school, attending The High School of Music and Art, now known as the La Guardia School of the Arts. During this time, she became involved in the New York folk dancing scene with a performing folk dance company. Her desire for greater technical skill in dance led Susan to the front door of the Martha Graham School. Soon she had put her art on the back burner to heat up her dance performing career. Following a number of years with modern dance companies in New York and Los Angeles, Susan’s life took a very sudden and abrupt turn. In 1995, her father passed away suddenly of a heart attack. In her grief, she took time to sift through piles of old family photos. Susan realized each photo translated, for her, into a scene in a play. Susan would describe it as, “Each scene was a little mystery never solved, each gesture held a secret, each image a moment trapped the places and faces long gone…I kept seeing paintings of their eccentric, unique, one of a kind lives before me.”

Susan turned to her visual arts “roots” in an effort to heal. The results were astonishing.  In her creations the viewer experiences the look, the feeling of a bygone era in the presence of carefully rendered, mystical dream scenes. Some, you think you recognize, poses and people from another space in time, overlapping in your own life. The stunning interior light quality of Susan’s pieces leave you wondering if the images are part of a dream or an eerily surreal reality. As Susan would put it, “My work is largely representational, my goal is to take the viewer beyond the image to reveal the unique spiritual essence of the subject…the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Susan’s work has been seen at the West Valley Art Museum, The Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa, Arizona, and the ARTROM in Rome, Italy. A large body of her work is comprised of commissions, family or pet portraits, all rendered with a keen eye toward the spirit of the subject. Susan also loves to teach art. She taught for friend and mentor Diane Sanborn for 10 years at BRIO Fine Arts until its recent closure, and she plans to carry the torch forward under the name Cloud House Arts. Looking forward, Susan shares she would like, in her non-commissioned work, to continue exploring the attachment of totem animals, in relationship to her figures, and exploring the hidden worlds within our world.

To view a selection of Susan’s work, commission a piece of your own, or to contact her, visit

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at