Imagined Life

Suzanne Falk, 36, is a self-taught photorealistic painter who creates through a unique imagined reality. Her oil paintings, often mistaken for photographs, portray contemporary storybook worlds using children's books, vintage toys, and images from her vivid dream life, while whimsical watercolors illustrate back-in-the-day roadside scenes from her travels through rural Arizona and New Mexico. Step into her east Phoenix studio containing cabinets filled with collectible toys and shelves of Golden Books and you'll see her influences — clothespins, fishhooks, wedding rings, candy, bees, matches, and fireworks. She'll be showing a paper doll painting at Trunk Space's October Paper Doll show, and among her endeavors is a comic strip called theneighborhood© depicted with pen and ink, computer drawings, and sidewalk chalk art.

Alternate Realities
I want to take you to a place that you kind of sort of remember. A place that is shiny, vivid, that is as close to three-dimensional as possible. A place where you believe in magic, mind reading, that your toys live another life, where you can light fireworks, sit on a bug, fall in love, cry hard and deep, and just settle in for a while and just listen to the voices.

Storybook Themes
I paint about love, death, angst, magic, hope, depression, optimism, dreams, and sound. Basically all the shiny, sweet things I keep in my pocket to give to anyone who wants to take the time to slow down or look to see what I dropped or hid for you.

So What's in Your Pocket?
Marbles. The first one came from a man in Taos, New Mexico, in 2002. One day, a glassblower who had worked and lived at this cabin/studio/shack before I did stopped by. As we talked, I could hear him rattling something in his pocket. I asked what it was, and he produced marbles. He handed me one and then proceeded to throw the rest of the marbles into the field behind the cabin. I gasped as he told me he had been doing it for years. From that day on and with dog in tow, I walked the fields looking. It was a beautiful way to spend my down time between paintings.

Infinite Possibilities
I started this little game with myself that if I could find a marble, it meant everything was going to be okay. I feel that magic and hope are everywhere if we just slow down a little and believe. I still find marbles from time to time, but I get my real joy from leaving them for other people to find as well as giving them out when the moment calls for it.

Old Time Child's Play
My favorite toys are these tiny mice that have some sort of fur on them and tiny pins for eyes that are really homemade. I am really into Judy Blume as well as a book that I can't find called And This Is Laura about a young girl who could read minds. I've always been very intuitive, so it really spoke to me as a young girl.

Won't You Be Her Neighbor?
theneighborhood© started out for me as a way to explore the dream world and the city I inhabit at night. Sometimes they overlap one another. It's a place where the bees hum, third eye watchdogs roam, magic and mind reading abound, space trees grow, trains roll by with beautiful words painted high, and the moon shines down on a night that is blue and full of wishing fields. I have dozens of panels drawn out on the computer, but my favorites are the ones I do in chalk at parks around the city, preferably near sprinklers and on the eve of rainy days.

It's In The Family
I simply don't know how not to paint. I have many strong artistic influences in my life, from my mother, Joni Falk, who is an incredible artist, to one of the foremost realism painters and friend Kristin Calabrese. There's also Ralph Goings, Chuck Close, Eyvind Earle, and Eloise Wilkin. It's my gift, and I try to care for it very well. Oh, and 23 years of working my ass off and practicing helps, too.

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Steve Jansen
Contact: Steve Jansen