The first taste of fine art for Susan O’Reilly ’84 began during childhood. While living in Spain, Susan would accompany her mother on regular Saturday visits to the Prado, although doing so reluctantly, at first. It did not take long, however, for this reluctance to grow into appreciation and then inspiration. Susan shares, “My mother was always interested in artwork, and I grew up watching her sketch and paint while she did everything for us. I was inspired and followed suit.”
Susan has been a working artist for more than 25 years, but those childhood memories and experiences, coupled with a particularly attentive Notre Dame teacher, were pivotal in Susan’s path toward a future in fine art.
“In between my junior and senior years at Notre Dame, many of my classmates were going on a trip to Europe, organized by the school. I had learned about the various art schools in Philadelphia, and, encouraged by Sister Marie Martin, I chose a summer of art school at Philadelphia College of Art over a trip to Europe. I never regretted it,” she shares.
After her graduation from Notre Dame, Susan was trained in Fine Arts and English Literature, obtaining her B.A. from St. Joseph's University, followed by postgraduate study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In addition to more than two decades as a working artist, she has also been teaching for 10 years at local art centers and her Philadelphia and Media studios.
Susan says that Sister Marie Martin was “integral” in her calling to be both an artist and a teacher. She explains that Sister Marie Martin was “encouraging, intellectually stimulating and a great believer in the different talents afforded to us by God. We all have different voices to articulate the beauty we see and feel, I was fortunate to have painting as mine.”
For Susan, that voice that articulates the beauty around us continues to evolve and is one that she has been able to portray in fine galleries, museums and collections. “My greatest joy, though,” Susan says, “is when an individual sees my painting and connects with something very deep inside of them. Then my voice is shared on the most personal level. It sounds simple, but it's true.”
Susan's flair for seeing the usual in unusual ways and her love of fine art have followed her throughout her career in computer graphics, logo design and illustration, as well as her time as an art teacher and commissioned artist. Susan’s paintings range from extreme detail to whimsy, with a particular focus on how light turns everyday images into emotional vistas, and to this day, painting is “soul-filling joy” in Susan’s life.