Susan McCollough, an internationally recognized artist and alumnus from The University of Alabama, recently won one of Florence, Italy’s most prestigious art awards and has been invited to participate in several international exhibitions.
Her prize, the International Prize Leonardo Da Vinci—The Universal Artist, was awarded in January at the Borghese Palace in Florence. She was also invited to share her work at various exhibits between January and May in cities across the globe—New York City, New York; Tokyo, Japan; Marrakech, Morocco; Berlin, Germany; and Innsbruck, Austria.
“Everything seemed to take off for me after the Florence Biennale exhibit in 2015,” McCollough said. “I had curators and art critics contact me right after that, and that’s when most of the awards started coming in.”
At the Biennale, McCollough was one of 460 artists selected from 36,000 applicants to exhibit her work, and in the months to follow, she received four other Italian art awards.
“I paint from the excitement of the blank canvas,” McCollough said. “My ideas come from my travels, the faces I see, nature, architecture, and—perhaps most often—the feeling I get waiting to start a new canvas.”
McCollough paints primarily on large canvases, sometimes working on as many as three or four paintings at a time, and her works, which are made in the abstract expressionist style, use everything from oils and acrylics to charcoal, pastels, and watercolors.
“Between sketching, reading, and studying about art, I find that there are not enough hours in the day,” McCollough said. “Frequently before I paint a new canvas, I envision painting it as I fall asleep. I work it out in my head until I know the direction I will take the next morning—and sometimes I don’t wait for the next morning”
In total, McCollough has produced more than 500 paintings, many of which were commissioned. Her paintings are displayed in libraries, banks, hospitals, senior care facilities, interior design showrooms, corporate offices, and private collections. She has also opened The Susan N. McCollough Gallery and Art Studio at the McCollough Institute in Gulf Shores, Alabama, where more than 50 of her works are displayed.
McCollough loves having her own gallery because it gives her the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Rather than painting at home, her studio is directly within the confines of the gallery itself, so visitors can actually come to watch her work.
“I never stop painting,” McCollough said. “When I got married, I painted. When I had children, I painted. When I started my career in interior design, I painted. And when someone comes into the studio, I continue to paint. They can stand there and watch me.”
One of McCollough’s works, a portrait of the late Professor Al Sella, hangs on the first floor of Clark Hall on the UA campus.