"Inspiring Artists!" Susan LaMantia

Meet artist Susan LaMantia…

I was so happy when you asked to participate in this interview series. From your work as an art therapist to your expressive paintings, I have always admired your connection to art as a healing force.

“Twilight II”

Please introduce yourself and your work a little bit.

I have been drawing and painting all my life and an art therapist for over 30 years. Since living in Cary for the past 5 years I’ve had several one woman shows at local galleries – Jordan Hall and Cary Town Hall. I also had a showcase of my work at Duke Hospital in Durham on “Art as Therapy”. For the past 2 years I have also been one of the artists on the Western Wake Artists Studio Tour. In November and December of this year I will have a one woman show of my work at the Chatham Hill Winery in Morrisville. As an art therapist living in St. Louis I co-wrote a book about a prominent psychiatrist, it was called “Crisis and Grace in the Life of a Psychiatrist, Dr. Conrad Sommer”. Even though I am semi-retired I continue with a small art therapy practice in my art studio space behind our home in Cary.

Where can people find you and your work?

I have 450 sq. ft of studio space in a detached 2 car garage behind our home in Cary. If people are interested in seeing my work and my studio I am happy to show them. All they need to do is send me an email and we can work out a day and a time. I have a website: susanlamantia.com – that profiles the art therapy with a link to my artwork. My email address is: lamantia@nc.rr.com I will also be giving a gallery talk on Abstract Art at Chatham Hill Winery in November, as a preface to my show that will be up for 2 months. The Chatham Hill Winery is located at 3800 Gateway Centre Blvd., Suite 310, Morrisville, NC 27560. I don’t have the specific date for the talk as yet, but will let you know when I do.

Wonderful! I will be sure to post the date on my site so that others will know as well.

“O Fortuna”

Finish this thought: For me art is…

a place of comfort. A place of connections.

I answered this without looking at the next question and had to smile at how I see both the art and art therapy as being about connections.

Can you talk a little bit about how you see the connection between art and healing?

The connection is through the process of creating art and reflecting on the art product and process. That’s where the healing takes place by increasing one’s sense of awareness, increasing one’s ability to cope, learning a new kind of creative language, as well as enjoying the process of making art.

“Blue Butterfly Wings”

What is your process like as you create your expressive paintings?

Prior to painting I spend quiet time in which I may look like I am doing nothing other then daydreaming or meditating. It is during this time that I am thinking about what I want to paint. I have a general idea when I am facing a blank canvas but that evolves as the painting evolves. I tend to start with familiar forms, such as squares or rectangles or triangles and decide if I want those shapes to be prominent or obscured. I use familiar shapes so that a connection can form between the viewer and the painting and I like connections. I like color and texture as well. As the painting develops, color, texture and form become layered on an intuitive level.

I don’t use a paint brush. Rather I use my hands when I paint, that’s because I don’t like to have anything between me and the canvas and I like the feel of the paint as I move it around. Moving my body while I paint allows for me to paint loosely; it is a wonderfully involving process. I want my work to look spontaneous, but organized; gestural but not chaotic. I prefer using large oil sticks made of compressed oil paint but when the price of oil fluctuates, so does the price of oil sticks. In the past couple years I’ve begun to use acrylics and have found they have come a long way with additives that increase the luminosity and density of the pigments. There is a product on the market called liquid gloves and I slather that on my hands so not to expose myself to anything that may be toxic in either the oils or the acrylics. Sometimes when I am challenging myself I will take an old painting I’ve done on paper, tear it up then combine it with a new work.

What do you do as an art therapist?

The first session I have with a client in the art therapy I usually ask for a series of drawings I’ve designed to gather information about the individual.

As the sessions go on I may direct an art therapy experiential exercise to illicit more information to help in the discussions. If there is a specific issue that presents itself that the client wants to resolve then I will ask for an art therapy exercise that addresses that issue. Clients can use a variety of media: acrylics, oils, clay, color pencils, color markers, watercolor, collage, mask making, as part of the art therapy process. I also ask for clients to use their non-dominant hand at times; I do that as a way to loosen an individual if they are becoming critical or judgmental of their own work.

“You Are The Guiding Star Of His Existence”

Your healing work with art is inspiring! Who has inspired you?

Thank you for saying my work is inspiring. Inspirations for me have been the pure colors, distortions and boldness of the Fauve’s like Matisse & Gauguin.

Also the impulsive and gestural interpretations of the Abstract Expressionists like Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Joan Mitchell.

I play music while I paint. Depending on my mood I will listen to anything from Blues, Jazz, Classical, R & B, Spirituals, old Standards as well as flute music of native Americans. I also burn incense while I paint. All my senses are very keen during my own creative process and I like to have them all stimulated; smell, hearing, touch. Being open during the creative process adds to the richness of the experience. I think how lucky I am to be an artist.

“Letting Go”

Are there any other tips to living a creative life that you’d like to share?

I think we are all creative in a variety of ways. Accepting our creative differences is important to leading a creative life. Children seem to be able to do this more easily then adults. I also think art is contagious and being around creative people stimulates one’s own creativity.

I’ve never heard it put that way before, but it’s so true. Art is wonderfully “contagious!” Thank you Susan for such an intimate look into your experience and connections with art and healing.

“Inspiring Artists!” will be an ongoing series. It will run as long as there are inspiring artists out there wanting to share their stories. If you are an artist and would like to participate please contact me at jhutchins@joyfulartsstudio.com. I would love to hear from you!!


  1. Shu
    July 12, 2010

    Hi my dearest friend. Great art work and webpage. I would love to schedule to see you and your show.

    Love from China,

  2. cheryl
    July 13, 2010

    Yes, art is contagious. Your work is so pretty and colorful. You know what when I try to draw or color I dont even think of my surroundings. I think next time I go to draw i’ll put on some nice music. THanks

  3. Mary Boyce
    July 14, 2010

    Love your colorful art! Are all of your canvases large?

  4. rose firestone
    July 15, 2010

    i totally enjoyed reading your intervies…i could feel a connection to your style and shapes…your color and inside movements……thre is a dance waiting to be born in your work…such a wonderful talent and such a great way to use it…wonderful!


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