June 07, 2024

Climate Artist Finds Her Rhythm

When Sukey Bryan ’79 displays her art, she wants people to feel like they're part of nature.
by Nancy Hitchcock

When Sukey Bryan ’79 creates her art, she is aiming for viewers to have an experience—to hike up a waterfall in a city center, sit in a beaver pond and encounter patterns from “a frog’s-eye view,” climb over rocks in a mountain stream.

“I want people to feel like they’re a part of nature, to feel like they’re in it,” says Bryan, who earned a BA in fine arts from Yale University and an MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. “I hope my installations keep nature and our environmental concerns top of mind.”

Bryan’s art features natural elements such as wildfires, waves, waterfalls, streams, skies, and icebergs. During a National Park residency in Denali, Bryan created a series of paintings to celebrate the beauty and mystery of the Alaskan glacier cycle. Many of her large-scale paintings are based on her own photographs, sketches, and watercolors created during her travels. Bryan’s work has appeared in galleries and museums—including the Addison Gallery—art centers, universities, and embassies around the globe from Finland to Fiji.

One poignant project, titled “The Truth About Climate Change,” involved designing environmental art at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco that coincided with the 2018 United Nations Global Climate Action Summit. Leaders from all corners of the world met at the cathedral to discuss climate policy and were welcomed by Bryan’s 60-foot-wide installation of Burney Falls, which cascaded down the grand staircase. As the artist-in-residence for six months, Bryan also crafted images of the Earth, wildfires, and plants that were hung throughout the cathedral.

“It was wonderful to showcase work that was an artistic echo of what was going on in the conference,” says Bryan. “In my work, I don’t want somebody to have to read a long explanation. I want it to hit them viscerally and let them explore it in their own way.”

Bryan’s art is imbued with movement and rhythm, which she credits to her passion for dance and music that was cultivated at Andover. She was drawn to Andover because of its strong academics and a comprehensive dance program, led by instructor Cristina Rubio P’81, GP’12, ’17. Living on the Abbot campus was convenient for Bryan because all the dance classes were taught in the Abbot Gym. She also fondly recalls participating in theatre productions; singing in Fidelio, Cantata, and chorus led by instructor and chair in music William Thomas; and creating animation with art instructor Diz Bensley ’43, P’69, ’71, ’76, ’78, ’78.

“I love how all the things that you do early in your life or in your education can be a part of how you see things, what you create, and what you find joy in,” says Bryan. “I feel so lucky to be able to create this kind of art.”

Categories: Alumni, Magazine

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