Other Names: Susan Boone
– Sue Boone on her process of painting the“Women in Good Company”
portrait series (The London Free Press, November 26, 1988)
Sue Boone was born in London, Ontario in 1934. She attended Havergal College, a private school for girls in Toronto, Ontario, before studying at the L’École des Beaux-Arts in Geneva, Switzerland. Boone later spent time working as a bridal consultant, after some years in public relations at General Motors, before marrying and having two children.
Boone studied art at H.B. Beal Secondary School, London, Ontario from 1972 to 1974, where she received instruction from local artist Herb Ariss, and at the Instituto de Allende in Mexico from 1974 to 1975. Boone’s work became known in the London art community in the mid-1970s with exhibitions featuring two of her early series of paintings, “Metamorphosis Housewife” and “The Goddess.”
Part of Boone’s inspiration for “Metamorphosis Housewife” was the end of her marriage and her subsequent entrance into single-parenthood. Over the course of 6 years (1970-1978), Boone created the series of 14 photo-silkscreen images, illustrating a woman’s exploration of her identity in relation to her environment. The series would go on to be exhibited in both London and Toronto, Ontario. Boone’s next series, “The Goddess” (1976-1980), focused on imagery associated with the concept of “the great mother goddess” as well as highlighting the differing psychological elements of which people are composed.
During this time, she also painted a series of portraits of doctors retiring from University Hospital, London, Ontario, approximately 25 in all.
Boone’s next portrait series, “Women in Good Company,” has also gained her recognition. Among the many accomplished women who sat for this series from 1980-1989 are: Margaret Atwood (author); June Callwood (journalist); Adrienne Clarkson (then a journalist, later Governor General of Canada); Marie-José Drouin (economist); Maureen Forrester (opera singer, contralto); Martha Henry (then the artistic director of London, Ontario’s Grand Theatre); Pauline McGibbon (former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario); Alice Munro (author); Jessica Tandy (actress); Celia Franca (founder of the Canadian National Ballet); Betty Oliphant (founder of the National Ballet School of Canada); Jeanne Sauvé (then the sitting Governor General of Canada); Dr. Jessie Scriver (one of the first women to study medicine at McGill University); and London, Ontario figures, Beryl Ivey (Mrs. Richard Ivey) and Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman. The portraits are large, almost all reaching over a metre in height.
Boone initially called this portrait series “Women of Substance.” Her process to prepare for the painting of the portraits was intensive – immersing herself deeply in the subjects’ work environments and areas of specialization. She would also photograph and converse with her subjects while painting their portraits. In this way, she gained the friendship of many of the women she painted.
Sue Boone’s work has been exhibited across Canada, including being showcased in London, Toronto (including both cities’ location of Nancy Poole’s gallery); The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario; the Benmillar Inn, Benmillar Ontario; an exhibition in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, in celebration of the opening of a musical at the Shaw festival; and the Mt. St. Vincent University Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Sue Boone’s 1994 portrait of Claude M. V. Pensa (the Chair of Western University’s Board of Governors, 1991 to 1993), was the first portrait by a woman artist to be displayed in Western University’s Great Hall.
Sue Boone now lives in London, Ontario.
Biography by Kelsey Perreault
Archival Materials, Curatorial Study Centre, McIntosh Gallery
Boone, Susan. “Women Artists on Their Own Work: Metamorphosis Housewife.” Canadian Women’s Studies 1, no. 3 (1979). https://cws.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/cws/article/viewFile/14535/13587.
Lindenburger, Sharon. “Portrait of an Artist.” The London Free Press, November 26, 1988.
MacDonald, Colin S. “Boone, Susan.” A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, 5th ed., Volume I, (A-F). Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd., 1997.
For thirty years, my work in Art has been about Metamorphosis and transformation.
Those thirty years ago, I began with a series of photo silkscreen prints, which I called “Metamorphosis Housewife.”
Later, I completed a series of paintings called “The Goddess” in which I examined a number of parts of ourselves: i.e. the hurt, angry child, the manipulator, the tease, jealousy, the Goddess mellowing and nurturing her own child within (rather than projecting out on to others) … up to twenty-six large paintings in all.
Then came a series of portraits called “Women in Good Company.” Martha Henry once attended an exhibit of this group of paintings of women — in Toronto (at that time called “Women of Substance”). Martha said to me: “My, I’m in good company” … and from then on the series was changed to “Women in Good Company.”
This series of portraits was done in the 1980s and during the sittings, sometimes I would say: “Now suppose I am like a tree deeply rooted, large trunk , branches out to ‘here’ (extending my arms far out yet not completely) … and I would like to know if ‘you’ can relate to a type of tree, and where you think the growth of it (you) is at this time …
Someone replied: “Like a birch tree bent to one side by the wind.”
Another: “Do you mind if I say a BULB underground?”
Using this ‘tree as metaphor’ — all responses were interesting — to them and to me — and gave us both a sense of that person from a certain perspective and helped towards an engaging dialogue in general.
Artist Statement Courtesy of Susan Boone
These poems originally appeared in:
Boone, Susan. “So Lucky to Have My Art” : Thoughts, Poems of the ’80s. S. Boone, 1998.
Boone, Susan. Quintessentially Moi (Journals of the Nineties). 2000.
Poems Courtesy of Sue Boone
Click here for information about works by Sue Boone
in McIntosh Gallery’s collection.