All artist needs to do is take a walk outside her front door
By Mary Reid Barrow
December 16, 2001, The Beacon

After seeing snow geese at Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge a couple of weeks ago, I thought about artist Suzanne Stevens.

I have one of her works hanging over my fireplace. Stevens' images of bright white snow geese swirling in from the sky at sunset to settle among the toasty brown marshes at Mackay Island are the next best thing to being there. Though her paintings don't portray realistic images, they bring TO mind all the natural beauty of the Mackay Island landscape in winter.

Everything about my geese is suggestive of their graceful flight over the marsh. The grasses appear to be bending in the breeze. Stevens' magical use of colors are reminiscent of a beautiful sunset with darkness approaching. I can even hear the geese calling.


Although Mackay Island is still one of Stevens' favorite places to paint, she recently found another more civilized, but equally beautiful, spot right on the shores of Lake Smith, Stevens recently moved to a 1940s vintage hunt club In Lakeview Park, one of many little neighborhoods on Lake Smith.


 

Suzanne Steven's painting of her view of Lake Smith from her home reveals the often haunting beauty that the area offers.

Lake Smith, like Stumpy Lake and Lakes Bradford, Chubb and Joyce, was built a century or so ago by Norfolk to feed its water supply. The city created Lake Smith by damming off a large wetland area associated with the Chesapeake Bay. The dam kept saltwater from Intruding into the lake, and over time the water became fresh - fresh enough to drink. The lake grew into an ecosystem in its own right.

Now home to freshwater turtles, fish and snails, Lake Smith is also a hunting ground for herons, egrets, osprey and other birds. Tall, old oak, maple, dogwood and pines grow along the lakeshore and cypress trees skirt the water's edge.

The lake has shed any look in which man may have played a role and is as much a part of our city's landscape as any natural feature. It also has become part of Stevens' art portfolio. She sits on her front porch and gazes out to the water through a window of venerable tree trunks surrounded by autumn leaves and paints. She takes her little johnboat out on the lake and travels down to a shallow area where cypress trees grow and she sketches their stark beauty.

On the way to the swamp in the late afternoon she watches as cormorants come from all directions to roost for the evening In two lakeside trees, a future canvas for Stevens.

On the other hand back in her yard, she can turn to her left, to the right and look behind and see beautiful gardens that have been lovingly tended.