the Governor's Arts Award Winners

Susan Contreras

Santa Fe

2021 recipient, Visual Artist

Born in 1956 in Mexico City, Susan Contreras comes from a great artistic lineage - her grandfather Jesús Fructuoso Contreras is considered the most representative Mexican sculptor of the 19th Century. Susan's family moved to Santa Fe in 1968, where she attended St. Michael's High School, graduating in

1970. After receiving her college degree in Santa Barbara, California, Susan studied in the U.S. and abroad, returning to Santa Fe in 1981. In short, she has been an artist all of her life.

The uniqueness of her mature style is expressed through the use of masks from her impressive collection of more than 150 from Central America. Susan expresses her fascination for masks and their use, in her own words in her artistic statement, saying: "Masks reflect a desire to escape and explore, and, when painting, I can be a space traveler, a deep-sea diver, or, say, a cat, a fish, a faster-than-fast greyhound, chasing a cat in space or a fish in the ocean. Sometimes when I'm painting, I feel as if the masks are painting themselves, singing their own operas, building their own sets."

Susan's generosity of spirit has been felt by many individuals and organizations. She has often given some of her best work in support of fundraising auctions and has been equally generous with her time and energy in artist-in-residence programs at colleges and universities.