Suzanne Walsh and the Ladies of Laguna Beach: A Thriving Force

On January 10, 2013 by Evan Senn

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Some women may feel at ease being passive, accepting tradition without question, and letting the guys be “the men” for them, taking all the credit and calling all the shots; but, in Laguna Beach, girls rule and boys drool. The OC is notorious for its cookie cutter houses, high end shopping, and Barbie-resembling housewives, but its art scene is a thriving gem in So-Cal, and the women that run it all behind the curtain are unlike any reality TV show house wife. Inspiring, dedicated, focused and hard working art professionals—these women have gathered and formed a community of creativity, support, stability, and innovation with contemporary art in Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach is an artistic hub originally centered around plein-air painting, perfect California landscapes, and beach-themed art. But observing Laguna today, you will find a surprising amount of contemporary art galleries, with interesting and provocative high-end contemporary art. The women who run Laguna Beach’s art scene are tight knit, well-groomed, hardcore professionals, supporting local businesses, a healthy community, and internationally relevant contemporary art. Suzanne Walsh is Director of Salt Fine Art in Laguna Beach, and is a model for success in the art world. Artist, Writer, and Gallerist, Suzanne helps us explore Laguna and the female-run art district that drives this town.

Lisa Aslanian from The George Gallery, Grace Kook-Anderson from Laguna Art Museum, JoAnne Artman from JoAnne Artman Gallery, Sue Greenwood from Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Tori Cook from Ar4t Gallery, and Carla Tesak-Arzente and Suzanne Walsh from Salt Fine Art are just a few of the powerhouse-women of Laguna. Suzanne has graced RARW with her talents numerous times, and as an art professional, she blows the rest of us out of the water.

Suzanne Walsh is well-respected and admired in OC arts. Born of an art critic mother, Danielle Walsh, Suzanne has made her own way through the OC art scene and is taking no prisoners. This 6’2” Amazon queen rules with regal attitude, an extremely organized rolodex of every single person you’ll ever meet, and takes pride in her work. An artist, a writer, and a Gallerist on top of all that, Suzanne is the go-to female in the local art scene. She has created game-changing art and music programming at many different OC galleries and institutions, and has even worked with some of the most hard-to-work-with art professionals in Southern California.

Luckily, Suzanne is currently in a place that she truly loves, Salt. Salt Fine Art is an exquisite gallery in Laguna that specializes in Latin-American artwork, and owned by Carla Tesak-Arzente. Carla and Suzanne make perfect partners, and share the exquisite taste that Salt has become known for. Rich, vibrant artworks adorn the white walls of Salt, and with every show they surprise even the regulars with new outstanding work. The success of Salt and that of Suzanne Walsh is not surprising if you ever meet her, but to be woman in this profession takes a good amount of stamina and stubbornness.

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Her training may have officially begun with Peter Blake, running his gallery back in 2008 and 2009, but being raised by her mother, Danielle Walsh was the first real training on being a strong independent art professional. Working for Peter Blake, Suzanne was able to learn and implement tools of the trade from Peter. His extreme attention to detail, refusal to concede, and high expectations of other people made sure that Suzanne began working in the same mode of production, vigorously. Now, Suzanne is grateful for the tutelage but understands that it is womanhood in itself that prepares women for the art profession.

Women are creators by nature, we rely on our intuition and our ability to empathize, create relationships, and remain versatile—even when shit hits the fan. Being a woman demands strength and faith, in yourself and in your choices. To be a female art professional is no different. You have to be the unwavering asshole executive, the seductive salesgirl, the perfection-driven creative genius and the communicative coordinator all at once.

Younger generations of females are usually unaware of the biased male-dominant art-world of yester-year, but habits linger, even still. Many people still believe men dominate the art world. For centuries, the museums and salons would only show male artists, and businessmen would only do business with other men. That is not our reality anymore. As women in 2013, the world is open to us. As Jack White states glamorously on his recent album, “She does what she damn well please…She’s got freedom in the 21st century…” The art world is no different. Suzanne believes women can work on a gender-neutral plain. “Art is a reflection of our society, and as an artist, if I can say something worthwhile about society through art, outside of gender and outside of feminism—as a woman, it’s going to be interesting to anyone, male of female,” she says.

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In her own artwork, Suzanne’s identity peaks through the content and execution, but doesn’t necessarily reference femininity outright. Shy and subtle undertones touch on the feminine aesthetic, with her line variation, and complex yet delicate compositions. As with her career as a Gallerist, being female is not a concern in her artwork. Her unique style and artistic voice has a clear tone that flirts with whimsy, plays with fantasy, but is grounded in that thin line that separates realism and surrealism, and is inspired by her personal experiences–her poetic world. Curling mustaches spelling out dreams, fancy-feathered birds staring into the depths of your soul, and deep-grained wood help form the complex creations of Suzanne’s artwork.

The artistic climate of Laguna Beach is shifting with bright and innovative direction thanks to this community of galleries and female art professionals. Suzanne is one of many strong components of this town’s thriving art force, and if she is any indication of the future of OC arts as a whole, perhaps Orange County will be coming up as a solid community forging its own path through the hard-to-navigate art world.

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www.ashesinorangepeels.com

www.suzannewalsh.com

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