05 October 2011

Mid-Century Acquaintances. Interview: Sueism1

Trader Joe's Frozen Desserts Chalkboard SignNo matter if we are artists or just a very strong enthusiast, there is always something behind our interest. Sometimes, we don't even realize it. We just skip over that part and get on to the more "interesting" part of our lives. For me though, knowing why is very important. I'm just curious that way.

Over the years, I have asked myself these same questions, then when I got onto flickr, and later facebook, I started asking even more so, why...?  Mid-Century Acquaintances on is designed to explore just that... Why you folks are enthused about the design, art, and life style of an era that left us behind more that 40 years ago. Still, these interests mold the way we act, what we do, what we watch, and how we view our own personal lives.

My interview today is with Sueism 1 of flickr. This interview was originally done (the question portion) 1 and 1/2 years ago (approx.), but I never posted it. So, I had to explain a story of sickness (nothing super major), physical injury (not fun), and earthquake relief work that took up a large portion of my year just after the interview. She was very kind though and seemed happy about the idea. So...Thanks Sue!

Many years ago, there were a group of artists that had a day job. Not surprising you say? Well, wait now... Their day job was as artist. Most of them didn't make money on paintings sold in galleries or designing products to mass produce, but they still made a living as artist. How? Well, they painted windows, walls, cars, billboards, and signs. These folks, painted all the necessary ads on every department store, drugstore, super market and restaurant in the land.

With the passing of time though, they were mostly replaced with cheaper, more economical options for advertising. I've read before that graphics, and sign designers are the ad painters of the past. But, are they really? I had actually started to believe they were, and to a large degree, I guess they are. One day though, floating around on flickr, I found a modern day ad/sign painter. I thought, wow! They still exist...and you know what? There's a company that encourages this industry. Trader Joe's is the name, and that's where Sue of Sueism1 (flickr name) works. So I decided to ask her about here day job and her Mid-Century Modern tendencies. Here's what she said...

Questions by Eric McGrew (JEM)
Answers by Sue

Sueism Art Motel
JEM: When did your interest in MCM signs and art start to develop?
Sue: My interest in Mid-Mod initially started when I was in Design School in the mid-late 1980s. I had an instructor who encouraged his students to research past design movements and artists to get a sense of the history behind Graphic Design and Industrial Design. 
Looking into the history behind Graphic Design, I discovered that Mid-Mod architecture - furniture design and industrial design - was important to 2-D design. And I was instantly attracted to the Mid-Mod style. It was clean and open, yet finely tuned.

JEM: I noticed that you have a lot of photos of vintage Vegas, and even more of vintage Signs. How have these subjects influenced your personal art?
Sue: I am intrigued by mid-century living – road signs, lifestyles and icons from the 1950s hold a fascination for me, in part due to the nostalgic and historic value as well the personal familiarity of these images. These images, these signs, are a part of my history (growing up, my family always had our summer road trips – these are the signs I remember from those trips).
Vegas is a bit different. I have only been obsessed with Vegas over the last decade. Las Vegas doesn’t directly work it’s way into my art, (yet), but the spirit is the same; Americana at a fast pace, the rewriting of history, the obliteration of the past.


Hacienda Postcard 1960s
JEM: My understanding is that you work for "Trader Joe's". How has working for "Trader Joe's" influenced your personal art style?
Sue: Honestly, I think it’s more of a case of how has my personal style has influenced Trader Joe’s – at least the Trader Joe’s that I work for. When we remodeled a year and a half ago, I came up with the theme and art direction for our store – 1930’s – 1940’s orchard crate labels vintage feel (the land that the store sits on was once vast orchards). Before the remodel, my work at Trader Joe’s had a very 1950s ad art feel. Trader Joe’s is such a great company to work for and an even better company to work for if you are an artist – they really let the artists at each store lend their style to the overall feel of the theme to each store. But, I do have to say that working as an artist for Trader Joe's over the last 6 years has improved my technical ability immensely!

JEM: If you could have any MCM/Mod object or piece (even furniture or house), what would it be?
Sue: I would love to have an Eichler Home, with just one starter piece – an Eames Folding Screen.

JEM: What are your favorite MCM/Mod websites to visit?
Sue: flickr has become my favorite site for finding anything and everything MCM. There are so many knowledgeable flickr-ites with amazing photos and history – it’s become my favorite place to troll for anything MCM! 

JEM: Do you have a favorite Flickr group or account to visit?
Sue: I have a few (quite a few) – here is a sampling:

JEM: Who are some of your favorite modern day artist?
Sue: I just recently saw the Wayne Thiebaud – 70 years of Painting show at SJMA (San Jose Museum of Art). His work is so lush and inspiring. And so much more impressive when experiencing it “in the flesh”.
Another fantastic painter here in the SF Bay Area that I love (and I own one of his paintings) is Nathan Madrid. Great brushwork and mood to his paintings.

JEM: Who is your favorite MCM/Mod musician?
Sue: Have to say, not too into the mid-mod musician, but I do love a bit of Dean Martin every now and then. And Bobby Darin too!

JEM: What is your favorite MCM/Mod movie?
Sue: Hands down, the original Ocean’s Eleven – the scenery, the music, the over-all vibe of the film – SO much fun!              

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