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This Week’s Cover Artist: Sue Tatem

Imagine having the opportunity to paint mountains, dunes and oceans, all in the same year but not in the same place. This week’s cover artist, Sue Tatem, does just that. Simply put, Tatem lives in three parts of the country: Aspen, Maui and Stone Harbor, New Jersey. While these locations are all geographically different, Tatem manages to capture both their individual and collective characters. Wondering if she wants to live any other place on the planet, we get the impression that her current residences suit her and her husband just fine.

The diversity of Tatem’s lifestyle makes sense considering that her professional career has also been varied. She has spent many years as a biology professor at Temple University and is now a writer and artist since retirement. Art and science do mix, it seems.

While you appear to enjoy variety in your life, your art series duplicating Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” is the same no matter what place you apply it to. For example, the cover has to do with Sag Harbor. In what other locations have you painted a “Starry Night?”

I have done 14 of them, including one in Aspen.

So you’ve never been to Sag Harbor?

No, but I really want to. I also want to come to see the Montauk lighthouse and windmills in the area.

Q: How did you first get the idea of doing “Starry Night?”

I wanted to create a night scene, and Van Gogh’s is the most famous. But I do other subjects, too, like mountains and lakes.

I notice you like being by the water. You have a condo by the ocean in Maui and in Stone Harbor. Did you get flooded in New Jersey by Sandy?

Our condo was all right. Both the state and federal government built dunes to protect the town, but there was flooding from the bay side. But our condo is on the third floor anyway. If you live by the water, you know the risk.

You enjoy doing things that some people might find risky, like your trip around
the world.

In 2008, we took a National Geographic 23-day trip around the world, in a 757 jet, with 88 people. The highlight was landing in the Serengeti, Africa, and in five minutes seeing herds of elephants and zebras.

Before you retired as a biology professor, did you have some interest in art?

I took an art course at Temple, where we painted nude models. It was very good training. As a young girl I always drew horses. My parents said I couldn’t earn a living as an artist, so I majored in biology.

When you retired, you got back to art because you had time.

Yes, but I also wrote four textbooks on science. I also did two nonfiction projects, one on the author James Michener, and one titled Michelangelo: Faces and Anatomy in his Art. There is a lot of anatomy in his sculpture. And did you know he dissected animals?

Besides writing, what about the art you are doing now?

I do plein air paintings which are semi-realistic. I use the color theory, including red with green. But like with my books, I don’t do art for money. I just like to do it; it opens up the whole world to everyone.


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