PARKERSBURG — Susan Sheppard is widely known for her ghost tours, writing and poetry, but many may not know she was an accomplished artist.
When Sheppard passed away this past April, her ex-husband Roger Sheppard and daughter Scarlet Sheppard decided to lend her pieces to be displayed in an exhibit at the Parkersburg Art Center starting next weekend.
“There’s a lot of stuff that people don’t know that she did. I don’t think people are aware that she was a painter or that she painted these poppet dolls. I think that the show is going to take a lot of people by surprise,” Scarlet said.
From poppet dolls to divination cards to portraits and poetry, Susan’s art isn’t limited to one style. Scarlet said she took inspiration from artists like DaVinci and Frida Khalo and also was interested in Native American culture, which was part of her heritage.
“It changed a lot throughout her life and depended on the medium that she was working with. She was very inspired by the classics,” Scarlet said. “I think all of her pieces evoke high emotion, it was something she practiced as a young person.”
From childhood, Susan had a passion and natural ability to create art and Roger said art was a way for her to find inner peace.
“Art, for her, was an escape. When she was a very young person, I think her art was a way to create her own world (by) creating her own beautiful reality,” Roger said.
While attending Doddridge County High School, Susan’s teachers noticed her talent and made it possible for her to earn a scholarship for a summer art program in Wheeling.
“The family had no transportation to get her to and from, so I took her up and she was there for a week. It was her fist time being away from home and she did many wonderful things, including a sculpted head we think will be on display,” Roger said.
Throughout her life, Susan suffered several illnesses which made it hard to function at times, but Roger and Scarlet said that did not stop her from chasing her passion.
“As much as it was a tragic part of life, it almost pushed her to do more than a person who had regular energy levels would,” Scarlet said.
A reason she drew inspiration from Frida Khalo was that Frida also had health issues but was still able to produce timeless art. Khalo, 1907-1954, was an artist from Mexico.
Scarlet said Susan and Khalo are kindred spirits.
“Frida is going to be present obviously and not so obviously at this art show,” Scarlet said.
About 50 of Susan’s pieces were handed over to staff members at the Parkersburg Art Center. Roger and Scarlet said Jessie Siefert and Abby Hayhust helped to make this art show possible.
“Abby and Jessie have been marvelous. They helped us understand the whole process. They’ve been so helpful and so welcoming,” Roger said. “Another exhibit is going on at the same time, (from) another artist who was inspired by Susan.”
To kick off the exhibit, an opening ceremony will be held Oct. 15 from 5-7 p.m. The event is open to the public and tickets are $10 while art center members have free admission.
Susan’s work will be on display from Oct. 15 through Nov. 7 and can be viewed during Parkersburg Art Center hours Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission for the gallery is $2 for non-members.
Susan Sheppard’s Haunted Parkersburg Tours also are held 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in October with tours meeting at the Blennerhassett Hotel. Tour tickets can be purchased online at hauntedparkersburgtours.com or through the Facebook page.
Candice Black can be reached at email@example.com.
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