ACC Art Professor Haydee Victoria Suescum never set foot in an art museum during her formative years because there were none in Panamá at that time. Since then, her work has been displayed more than 50 times in museums around the world — from major U.S. cities such as New York City; Miami; Washington, D.C.; Boston; and San Antonio to countries such as Italy, Korea, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, as well as the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MAC) in her hometown of Panamá.
Recently, the MAC Panamá featured her painting "Naturaleza Escondida" (HIdden Nature) to celebrate National Women's Day. "Of all the women artists, they photographed all the young women in front of my painting," says Suescum. "I was just blown away by this huge honor."
Last year, her bright orange painting titled "Yadira en la Península de Azuero" (Yadira in the Azuero Peninsula), was the featured centerpiece for the installation used in the MAC's digital promotions.The museum also has included her work in several other exhibits throughout the years and currently has three of her paintings in its permanent collection.
"I draw inspiration from my everyday experiences. I look at the services around me, the furniture, fruit cups, butcher shops, nail salons, and dentists. There's beauty in everything we encounter."
Suescum was born in D.C. to Panamanian parents. Her family moved back to Panamá when she was 10 years old. She returned to the U.S. at 18 to study art history at Wellesley College and went on to earn her MFA from the University of Texas — San Antonio and also attended the New York Studio School and the Wesleyan University Program in Paris.
Growing up in both the U.S. and Panamá inspired her to develop two very different series of work.
Her first series, Cuadernos (Notebooks), was inspired by the imagery that comes from living in a dictatorship — the paintings are monochromatic and abstract.
Tienditas (Little Stores), her second series, was inspired by the colorful hand-painted signs on the walls of mom-and-pop stores in Panamá and Spanish-speaking cities in the U.S. Her upbringing also led to a fascination for Spanglish — a portmanteau of Spanish and English — after moving back to the U.S.
Pieces from this series take a humorous approach to mispronounced English words. For example, her work titled "Zasthebys" is surrounded by an inflatable vinyl frame. Suescum calls this piece "brilliant by mistake." The painting features the Spanish words "Piezas de bicicleta" (Bicycle Parts), but the only visible letters are "ZAS DE BIC."
"My friends thought I was trying to write Sotheby's in Spanish. There's a lot to be interpreted in their reaction. It represents much of the struggle I faced when I moved back to the U.S. speaking little English."
She carries these lessons forward in the classroom.
In fall, Suescam will combine technology and the arts by incorporating the use of iPads into her Drawing 1 course to improve student learning outcomes. As a member of the inaugural ACC Digital Fellows, she learned how to adapt and apply new technology-based teaching skills to the classroom.
"I paint my own reality. That's what I want my students to understand, too. Teaching is really rewarding. I love the work that comes out of the classroom. I see so much growth, and it makes me proud."