Suzanne Acosta: Until it Speaks Back

Suzanne Acosta’s colorful and expressive portraits represent the people in her life. Paramount to her work is an investigation of process using a variety of materials: oil paint, acrylic, pastel, colored pencil, charcoal and graphite. Beyond the materials, Acosta attempts to find psychological depth within the context of the human face, and the colors of the portraits are heightened to affect the emotional impact of the image. All the works are experiments in the abundance of ways the human face can be interpreted.


This show encompasses a variety of portraits that I have done over the last 20 years. I try to capture fleeting emotions in the faces I portray and to express them with an implied narrative.  I find all faces beautiful. They each possess a unique harmonic combination of the inner and outer essence of a person.  They reflect life experience as well as the fleeting expression of a particular moment in time.  My work tries to capture this intangibility through much layering and merging of the artist and model.  I persist in the studio until I connect with an unspoken dialogue with the enigmatic face I am trying to create.  Sometimes it is a whisper that I struggle to amplify. Sometimes it is a reverberating echo of a memory.  A portrait has the unique ability to be specific, yet speaks a universal language.

The pastel drawings are the most traditional portraits in this show.  They intend to show the reciprocal relationship I have with my students at the College of Southern Nevada.  I am particularly proud of our Las Vegas students’ diversity, their strong spirits, and their desire for knowledge.  The pastel portraits emphasize the cool and warm temperature of color with a lot of layering of pastel that relies on the cross contour and were done as examples for students.  I have spent most of my life teaching and I have never stopped in my personal quest for learning.  It is a lifelong pursuit and I believe it keeps us forever young.  I have an insatiable appetite for art history dating back to the early Fayum portraits.  Though they were painted in the first century, they are a perfect example of a portrait speaking back from the past. 

The mixed media pieces in this exhibit are selected from a portfolio of experimental self-portraits called The Alphabet Series. The portfolio consists of 26 portraits based on letters of the alphabet. They are mostly done from my imagination. They are stimulated by experimentation with different surfaces and processes.  I have never stopped working on random surfaces, with equally random materials, which has led me to be quite a pack rat. These images serve as an important landmark for me because they represent before and after having a family.  My four children have had a strong influence on my life and my daughter and son are represented in several of the portraits in this exhibit.

A big influence on my work is my love of traveling.  My most adventurous trip was going to India for three months with my cousin and a backpack.  I have a sketchbook with portraits of people I encountered on trains etc. which contain vivid memories. Last summer, my daughter and I, went to a tributary of the Upper Amazon in Brazil.  I did several portraits in graphite of people we met in Brazil. Every day we traveled on a small boat which was a perfect place to draw. These portraits I left behind as gifts to the special people we encountered.

It is important to say that most of my travels occur in my studio, as I attempt to explore new landscapes of the human face.  Drawing a portrait is always a wondrous adventure for me with unpredictable encounters. I am only guided with an unchartered map.  Sometimes the portrait speaks a foreign language which is hard to decipher. Sometimes its voice is drowned out by extraneous noises. 

Drawing the portrait is always a relentless pursuit.  I can only disembark from the work when it has transported me.  I listen intently, for the work to speak back to me and I can make a connection with the face I am drawing.  I hope, with patience, the work will speak to you and will be interpreted by your own life experiences.  In my view, the work is complete when it reflects the artist, the model, and the viewer.

Suzanne Acosta is an adjunct instructor at the College of Southern Nevada and a practicing artist. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her work has previously been exhibited in Las Vegas and along the west coast from Los Angeles, CA to Portland, OR.

On exhibit at Centennial Hills Library from August 11, 2022 through October 25, 2022

Monday: 10:00AM – 8:00PM
Tuesday: 10:00AM – 8:00PM
Wednesday: 10:00AM – 8:00PM
Thursday: 10:00AM – 8:00PM
Friday: 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Saturday: 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Sunday: 10:00AM – 6:00PM