Growing up, Suzee Corbell wanted to be an astronaut. She was so certain of it that she joined the US Air Force and worked hard toward that goal. Early in her career, she was informed that she would never be allowed into the program. A doctor made that call. It forced her to redefine herself.
She’s had to do that a few times over the years.
Suzee moved to Hollywood where she worked in the film industry. She’d decided that if she couldn’t be an astronaut she could at least make films about space. With a new goal of joining either the writer’s guild or the director’s guild, and running her own show, Suzee worked on almost every film project she got a chance to. She stayed away from the seedier parts of the film industry, but she worked on a number of low-budget horror flicks, as well as, some very high budget projects. She wasn’t so much on a career track, as an organic path across the breadth of cinematic experience. She felt this would help her become the best director she could be.
During her time working in the film industry, Suzee had produced a show for PBS called “Eye of the Beholder.” Her show was about artists and about creativity. She especially enjoyed celebrating creators who think like nobody else. One of her favorite shows was about a man who made waterfall sculptures out of metal and stone. He’d run tap water or spring water through them until it evaporated. The changes made by the water as it flowed and evaporated were the reason he did it. Suzee said studying the corrosion and the sediment trails made her feel a similar peace she got watching a mountain stream.
While things were moving along swimmingly in her work, back home things weren’t going so well.
Leaving her film career behind was hard for Suzee, but it was also easy. She knew if she ignored her grandparents’ needs she would never be able to live with herself, no matter what kind of career she built.
During a phone call one day, her grandmother told her that the light bulb in the wash-room needed to be changed. Neither of her grandparents was able to safely climb ladders anymore, so the bulb that had burned out two weeks prior to their conversation remained in place. Because Suzee’s brother lived a mile away from them, her frustration continued to build. You could say she had a light bulb moment, that situation being the final straw. She told her grandparents to give her a month to get rid of all her stuff. She was moving back to Artesia to ensure they would be okay for the rest of their lives.
Suzee was forced out of her first career for medical reasons. She was forced, by her love of her grandparents, to step off of the next path she had chosen. But as an artist, she had grown so much that it wasn’t an ending. It was just another fork in the road.
Television and film are two of the most collaborative forms of art known. That’s a big part of the joy she felt in her work. Returning to New Mexico with no idea what her future held, she started at ENMU-Roswell. Later she moved to a television station in Artesia. While there, she took great joy in teaching local high school students about the craft.
One of her favorite moments at that job came from working with a young man considered a nerd. As she taught him about videography, sound, and studio work, they filmed a number of Bulldog football games. He had to learn about football to know where to point the camera. Football players were coming into the studio and working with him quite a bit so he befriended some of them. As his time at the station was ending, he thanked Suzee for helping him see the importance of working with people who were different than him.
The television station shut down. Her grandparents have passed on. Now, as she prepares for the next part of her life, she’s looking back at all the forks in the road behind.
This is a time of introspection for Suzee Corbell and it shows in her paintings. In one painting in her shop, a raven sits on a branch. He talks to her all the time. Sometimes a customer will stand in front of that canvas and he’ll talk to them too, if they’re paying attention. Monochrome woods with pathways and creek beds meandering among the roots frame a night sky, promising to take you to the morning star, if you’ll just believe.
Her art speaks of a lone journey-sacred moments…lonely moments…sometimes both at the same time. Suzee is diving deep within to find the purest expression her soul will allow. Her creativity is not so collaborative at this point in her life, but she hasn’t forgotten the power of working with others. She loves honest feedback. If someone gets what she’s saying in a piece, she’s overjoyed to know she got her point across. But if someone doesn’t get it, she wants to know that too. Sometimes when something in a painting doesn’t feel right, Suzee asks someone else what they think. When she does, she’s not fishing for compliments. She’s hoping for a broader understanding of how to reach people and how to let others know they’re not alone in this world either.
Suzee has a third act coming up. She envisions it in the Pacific Northwest with salty breezes blowing in from the ocean. She sees her painting, her teaching, and her work in television and film coming together in a greater way than she could have imagined when she returned home.
As a long-time friend, I’m certain of this. Wherever she lives, everything she’s ever done and everything she’s ever learned will be expressed body-and-soul through her work to get people into space. No, not outer space. Inner Space. That’s where everyone’s creative power is located.