All In On Her Art

All In On Her Art

Schreckhise brings woman’s work to forefront


Suzannah Schreckhise has been an artist all of her life. She remembers creating with her hands when she was 3 years old, and she majored in art at the University of the Ozarks. But with work, kids and life taking much of her focus, it wasn’t until she was 50 that she could throw all of her energy into becoming a “capital A” artist.

“I’ve done interior design, lots of creative things over the years,” says Schreckhise, who describes her work as “beauty and elegance with a little bit of grit.” She has created art in a wide variety of media that includes sculpture, mixed media, painting and photography. “But when I turned 50, I thought, ‘OK, if I don’t start being a professional artist now — my time is running out,’ and I just started doing it full time, entering shows. And the first year, I was super surprised at my success, because the very first year, I was in over 50 shows, both locally and all over the United States.”

Schreckhise married soon after college, and her art, for a while, took a turn for what she calls “the domestic.”

“I learned to crochet when I was 6, and I learned to sew on a machine when I was 9,” she says. “That was the kind of stuff my family was doing all of the time. Mom was a single mom, and we weren’t wealthy at all. So she sewed a lot of clothes, and I learned to sew clothes — which wasn’t in style at the time, but that’s what I did. My mom fostered that.”

When Schreckhise threw herself into becoming a working artist, she mulled over these “domestic arts” and the fact that, over the years, the women that created them were rarely given credit for their skill and talent.

“I think one of the reasons women have always done these domestic arts is because, with those types of projects, you can stop and take care of your child,” she says. “But they’re artists, artists who have quilted, things like that, because they can stop if they need to and go take care of a child or pick the kids up from school. I think that women have been under represented as far as what is considered gallery art.”

In a kind of salute to domestic art, her most recent show, a collaboration with NWA Fashion Week, featured a new series of textile art that Schreckhise created by crocheting abstract, colorful designs and then stretching her work across painted canvasses. The results are visually stunning and quite unusual — in some instances the fabric work looks like the hide of a beautiful, exotic animal, and in others, like a vibrant Rorschach test.

“Women practice domestic art to express love and to care and nurture others with labor-intensive handmade textiles,” reads her artist’s statement on her website. “I salute women who have participated in the unrecognized art forms of fibers and textiles. My work is a recognition of the broader place of textiles in society. Historically, the clothes we wear have communicated, defined and symbolized social class, race and authority. However, the role of women as the creative power behind their development and the ones who made the clothes has largely gone unacknowledged.

“Unapologetically, I take crochet out of the comfort of my home to recognize and celebrate textiles as high art and crafts. My work pays homage to all the women before me that have lovingly created textile pieces and passed down their methods and practices to the younger members of their family. Textile art is a feminine icon that transcends race, class and national borders.”

In fact, Schreckhise has a talent for creating emotional art that embodies subjects and ideas that are near and dear to her heart. For a Day of the Dead celebration at the Arts Center of the Ozarks, she created a loving altar to her grandmother, the mother of 10 children.

“I love the message — that death shouldn’t be sad,” she says. “It’s sad for us, not having the people we love anymore, but they believe that it’s something wonderful, another level of existence. I also liked the thought of my grandmother coming back and visiting me one day out of the year. She had 10 children in rural Arkansas, so I never felt that close to her, because she had around 50 grandchildren. The altar helped me really think about her life. I just learning from other cultures and incorporating it in my art.”

She participated in a group pop-up show in Springdale in 2017, producing a series called “Women in Jail” to raise awareness of issues in that area. Just recently, she won first place in the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum’s 2019 Invitational, where the theme was “Heart of a Nation.” Her piece, called “Who Belongs on Our Money,” is a collage of American currency where the faces on the bills have all different skin tones.

“People are the ‘Heart of Our Nation’ — all people, including every skin tone, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation and, in my piece, I have made our currency a reflection of inclusivity,” she wrote in her artist’s statement. “I painted over 100 different skin tones to call attention to and celebrate how beautiful different colors are next to each other, complimenting and showing the contrasting colors.”

The success she’s experienced in the two years since she went all in on being a working artist might seem surprising, but Schreckhise admits that she tends to get “obsessive” when she starts on a new venture. She threw herself into researching different opportunities — eventually displaying her art at a range of diverse galleries across the country, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — and finding out how to document and ship her work.

“I was also gallery director at Stage 18,” she says. “I learned all about press releases. That helped, learning to write them for other people first, especially when I saw how much it helped them. It’s been a huge learning curve. Now, I’m learning to partner with other organizations. I don’t think artists can just make art and get discovered anymore.”

One thing that helped in that arena, she says, was participating in the Arts Center of the Ozarks Artist Inc. program, which teaches artists to think more like business people.

“It was great, because it’s hard for me to give myself permission to say, ‘OK, I should market myself, I should be in the spotlight,’ because I just always think, ‘It’s all about the art, the art, the art,’” she says. “And before that program, I had no idea that people were interested in the creative process.”

Even though Schreckhise waited until later in life to pour all she had into her artistic career, she’s certainly made up for lost time. And, she says, she doesn’t regret the delay at all.

“I think it’s helped me,” she says frankly. “Because I was older, and I wasn’t really expecting success. Being older, my ego’s not involved as much, whereas, when I was younger, if I got rejected, it was devastating. Now, I say, ‘OK, if I’m happy with this, that’s what’s important.’”


Go & Do

Where to find Suzannah Schreckhise’s art:


Now through Nov. 8

Annual Fiber Exhibition

Argenta Branch, William F. Laman Public Library System, 420 Main St., North Little Rock

Now through Nov. 15

Sugar Gallery, 1 E. Center St., Fayetteville

Nov. 20-Jan. 8

Artists of Northwest Arkansas Members’ Holiday Art Show and Sale

Community Creative Center, 505 W. Spring St., Fayetteville



Instagram: suzannahschreckhiseart, suzannahschreckhisestudios

Categories: Cover Story