Sometimes the world of Susana Wald, a Canadian, born in Budapest, refugee from two oppressive governments and multi-talented artist living in Mexico, resembles her most recent paintings—a colorful swirl of energy and motion.
“Artist” doesn’t tell the whole story. Susana is also a writer, graphic designer, literary translator, teacher, plus publisher of some 45 books and a multilingual magazine.
Truly a world citizen, Susana has taught visual arts in Chile, Canada and Mexico with solo shows in Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Iceland, Mexico, Spain, USA, and Venezuela. Group shows include the XLII Venice Biennial (1986), and the UNESCO Traveling Show Iberoamérica Pinta, (1997-2000).
Passion For Surrealism
If these achievements are not enough for one person, it’s important to note that a guiding passion of her life is Surrealism. Since 1975, Susana has been part of Phases, a movement centered in Paris and since 2009 part of a Chilean Surrealist group called Umbral Secreto (Secret Threshold).
When they lived in Santiago, Susana and her Surrealist poet husband, Ludwig Zeller, created a second Surrealist group around Casa de la Luna, a magazine and also a coffee house where exhibitions and literary events were held from 1966 to 1970.
Move To Oaxaca, Mexico
After saying “goodbye” to rich literary and artistic lives first in Santiago, Chile in 1970, and then later in Toronto, Canada, Susana currently lives with her husband in a house she designed and built in a small village close to the city of Oaxaca, Mexico (often described as a “surreal country.”)
For the past 15 years Susana has been working on a series of paintings she calls “Life Waves,” inspired by the spiral images present in many of her paintings and drawings.
“Life Waves” Painting Series
In 2013 she began including human figures (until now all female) with the series. In the midst of this work, an offer came to make a mural consisting of 15 large panels for a public building in Talca, Chile (the country she left four decades earlier).
One of the reasons for this offer was her connection with the first Chilean surrealist group. A celebration of their magazine publication, Mandrágora, 75 ago, was planned with Susana’s mural as the focus of the events.
“I was chosen to paint it,” she explains, “because my husband, Ludwig, and I are the leaders of the second generation surrealist group as well as the only survivors who have known personally members of the first.”
Mural In Chile
Her initial reaction to this astonishing offer, however, was, “No way! —I’m too old for this.” (She’s 78!) However, when she traveled to Chile to see the location, as well as “meeting the big honchos” planning the events, she began sketching and thinking about the project, inspired by her strong surrealist motivation.
When she proposed that the mural be made in her studio in Oaxaca, the proposal was accepted.
In January 2014, she began the work. Six months later the mural was completed—15 large panels as stipulated in the contract.
“My side was done,” she says, “but the Chileans were not paying. The incoming government was in conflict with the company that built the building where my mural would go.”
However, in true surreal fashion, a man she calls “a rich entrepreneur” offered to transport and store the panels (no small thing.) “The panels’ presence in Chile shows that I have finished painting them,” Susana says.
The final payment is due when the mural panels are hanging in place.
Show In San Miguel De Allende
In the meantime because Susana is a woman constantly in motion whose creativity slows down only when she is sleeping, three recent paintings currently hang in a group show in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in a women’s collective called Guenda. (An indigenous Zapotec word for the soul of non-human things, plants and animals).
An Extraordinary Life
While it seems only natural to describe her life as surreal and unpredictable as her work, Susana says, “I’ve given up worrying about the mural. By miracles each month something happens and we manage to live on.”
An understatement for a life that personifies the word “remarkable.”