Wandering artist Susan Wythe finds her home
Ryan Summerlin April 18, 2014
Susan Wythe was born under a wandering star, the daughter of a "gypsy" mother and a military father. The 50-something artist careened across Illinois, Oklahoma, Ohio, California, Nevada and Texas for decades. Her vagabond lifestyle came to an end in 1996 when, married with young children, she arrived in Park City. They were living in Houston when her husband accepted a position with Nutraceutical, a local pharmaceutical company. Wythe packed for yet another move, not expecting it to be her last. "I’d never seen the place before we moved here," she recounts. "I thought we were moving to the ‘boonies’ and I actually bought a sewing machine so I’d have something to do."
Her eyes widened when she saw the town for the first time. "I couldn’t believe it! I’d spent most of my life where everything was asphalt. The air here was so clear and the smell of sage hung in the morning air. This is a magical place. For months I would drive around town with a stupid smile on my face. It was the biggest thing that had ever happened to me."
It’s a bold statement for a woman who struggled mightily to get by during her formative years. Her own mother had been given up for adoption by circus performers during a tour through Oklahoma. "I learned later that my grandmother had been a trapeze artist and my grandfather a knife thrower," she says. Wythe’s mother married an Air Force test pilot who later became a traveling mechanical engineer, hence the endless series of moves.
Wythe had talents of her own. "I always loved to draw. It was a way for me to change the world through drawing, to make anywhere a place of beauty through my own reflective lens," she explains. After attending six high schools in Texas, she ultimately graduated from a high school in Rockford, Illinois. She went back to Texas for college, graduating from the University of St. Thomas in Houston with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. She was among the first group of students to attend the Glassel School of Art in Houston. Later, she earned her Master’s degree in Architecture at the University of Houston.
"I went into architecture as a profession because I wasn’t prepared to make a living as an artist. I had no business sense," she explains. "In retrospect, it was an odd choice. I didn’t have a passion for architecture. I never even liked straight lines." She laughs.
Soon after starting graduate school, the reluctant architect met Henry Wythe. They married a few years later and children followed. The fledgling family made the life-changing leap to Park City in 1996.
The Wythes settled in Pinebrook. Their son Hunter (Wythe’s maiden name), and daughter Julia Morgan (named after the famed female architect of the Hearst Mansion in California) both attended Jeremy Ranch Elementary. Wythe chose to be a stay-at-home "cookie mom."
"For years I did what every good, non-working woman in Park City does I volunteered," she says. She volunteered at Jeremy Ranch Elementary for seven years, teaching the "Masterpieces in Art" course to hundreds of students. She also helped raise funds for local nonprofits by donating paintings to be auctioned.
Wythe began volunteering at a hospice in Heber a few years ago, where she met Eva. "I got very close to her," she confides. "Eva was nothing like me. We were vastly different and almost 40 years apart in age, but there was something there. We talked about all kinds of things. From her I learned what was really, truly important and meaningful in life. That is being true to yourself and who you are. In a lot of ways I am just now learning how to do that. Every day is a gift. Eva died last January. She was 94. She gave me a little ceramic angel that I keep on my bed stand. We still talk sometimes."
Wythe’s marriage ended four years ago, though they remain good friends. Her children are grown. Hunter, 22, is pursuing a career in restaurant management. Julia, 20, is a talented artist and an aspiring outdoor guide.
Wythe has recently refocused on her art. "I love to paint landscapes and unusual still lifes, she says. Like many artists, she works a full-time job to support her painting habit. She works in a retail shop at Montage Deer Valley. "I really enjoy the job. I meet and talk to interesting people from all over the world. It’s fascinating to me. I also like the values and principles Montage stands by as a company."
Wythe is currently looking for outlets to showcase her work. She’s also building a website with the help of her ex-husband (www.hwytheart.com ). It will be active in a few weeks and will feature many of her oils and pastels. She has the next three weeks off from work, during mud season. "I plan to do a lot of painting," she says.
- Favorite Activities: Park City Film Series, Park Silly Sunday Market, summer outdoor concerts, hiking, gallery strolls.
- Favorite foods: "Dark chocolate, sushi, salmon, more dark chocolate."
- Favorite music/performers: Alternative, classical, reggae. "Everything from The Flaming Lips to Ben Howard and Imogen Heap."
- Favorite reading: Historical fiction
- Bucket list: Sky dive, scuba dive, act on stage, DJ at KPCW, ride a motorcycle along the coast of Spain.