Hi, Sue. I’ve known you a long time, since the early days, when you were still managing Kerbey Lane, a landmark austin eatery. Did you have any inking at that time that you were gonna turn glitter art into a full blown career, quit restaurant gigs and make a living as a working artist?
I had no idea that it would turn into what it has become.
At first, making glitter art was just an activity that I did after working the late night shift at Kerbey Lane. It helped me to unwind. After a few months of making glitter art, I had so much work that I decided to try and get an art show and sell some of it because I was running out of room in my small studio apartment. My first show was at Magnolia Cafe on S. Congress and the response to my artwork was overwhelming, I practically sold out.
What do you think fell in place for you to achieve that holy grail? And what opportunities did you create with your impressive tenacity?
After about a year or two of booking art shows at restaurants and coffee shops like Ruta Maya, Kerbey Lane and Magnolia, I realized that my art was selling out at these venues and so, perhaps, I could persue it full time. Besides doing art shows, I was also vending. First Thursdays on South Congress, First Fridays in San Antonio, craft shows and the Artist Market on the drag, at Guadalupe & 28th. There were also craft or artisan fairs that popped up too. Let me tell you though, vending was a real fucking drag! I watched everyone else sell their hand crafted wares, jewelry, purses, leather cuffs, and those ladies would totally bank! I was lucky to make $150 or $200! And it was back breaking work setting up that tent, sometimes in 100 plus degrees. Vending is no joke! After a few years of vending, I was out. I just focused on booking art shows where I knew I could bank a couple of grand a month, and this is when my work was inexpensive… sometimes I would do two shows a month, especially during December.
How much did things like Miami Art Basil help?
Miami Art Basil proper is the big fair where all of the famous galleries and dealers show the famous artists. Within Miami Basil, there are hundreds of smaller venues, some of them are more well known than others, but still not Miami Art Basil proper. I was at a lesser known outsider artist fair, Fountain Art Fair, now defunct. I had done Miami Basil before, but had never attended up to that point. My friend Evo Love and her husband Romain, also artists, put together this show every year for Miami Basil called “Art Under The Bridge.” They literally set up an art show extravaganza, under a bridge, near all the action. They built art walls, they had lights and music, and a ton of great art from amazing artists. It was totally punk rock. Of course the powers that be got wise to their actions and shut em down.
Art Basil Miami was a bust. When you do these lower level art shows you need to do your due diligence. I did not. I was naive and it was a total shit-show. I spent thousands of dollars and barely broke even. But I learned a lot!
How do you feel about the Sue Zola copycats?
It used to bother me more when I first started…but, these days, I pay no mind. We are all inspired by other artists, and besides, I have my own unique style, so I try to stay in my own lane. But yeah, it definitely happens a lot.
Where is the weirdest place on your body that you have found glitter?
There are too many weird places I have found glitter to even mention, and the super fine glitter is the worst! It gets everywhere, not just on my body, but in my bed, in my bath tub, and I’m sure I have probably accidentally injected more glitter than the average bear. Ingested! Not injected!
I love the kinds of celebrities who purchase Sue Zola pieces. Tell us about themmmmm.
Megan Mullally called me and said her husband would love to have the Rocky Horror glitter art for his birthday. She left a message and I recognized her voice immediately. My friend was skeptical that it was her, but I knew it was. I met her and Nick Offerman at Kerbey Lane and I totally fan-girled over her. To be honest, Nick Offerman looked familiar, but I didn’t know who he was. Isn’t that ridiculous?? Steve, the owner of The Continental Club, was telling me that Billy Gibbons bought a number of pieces and I had no idea who Gibbons was. Even though I’m obsessed with pop culture, I’m really bad with celebrity names.
What do you think about AI in art?
I never went to art school, but my husband did, and they teach you in art school that it doesn’t matter what your process is, it is the final outcome that matters. Lots of artists use projectors which makes the process easier. As far as AI art is concerned, I’m all about the final outcome, not the process. If art moves me, then it’s successful, even if I hate it or it makes me angry, like minimalist art. Honestly, I would much rather gaze at AI art than at minimalist art .
What is your best advice for an artist who wants to skip the drudgery of day jobs and do art?
You better work, Bitch. Selling art is feast or famine…it is not a steady or reliable paycheck, by any means, so you better be good at budgeting your money…and also hopefully have a partner that does have a full time gig. Hahaha
Ahhh. Any thoughts on capitalism and art?
The art world is all about capitalism and it’s a total fucking con. The higher you get in the art world, the bigger the con. Most of the art dealers running things are so full of themselves and their hoity-toity attitudes are ridiculous. They are very lacking when it comes to integrity in my experience and they don’t care about the work, they care about money and prestige. Not to mention that they take 5O% of the sale. I have had my fill of art dealers, no thank you, I will sell my own work, I don’t need to hang my art in fancy shmancy galleries.
Like a natural born capitalist, I asked about your favorite sales, But What are your fave pieces? Also, speaking of faves, can we please use “Art Is Whatever You Can Get Away With” for the cover of Our First Mum’s Garage Issue Spring 2023?
I have so many favorite pieces but most of them are from the last ten years. Art Is What You Can Get Away With is definitely one of them.
Do you still do custom projects?
I do a lot of commission pieces, and they can be great fun, because it is usually stuff that I would never think to do.
Do you have any art goals for 2023?
The same as it ever was ..to just keep on truckin’ and keep on making kick ass glitter art.
for years, you were my most relatable facebook friend. you’d do these early morning posts about working all night long in a cloud of glitter and sleeping through hot Austin days. It was a cloud of words (and smoke) for me, but it was the same idea…neither of us were in step with our neighbors and fellow Facebook posters.
I do miss the days in Austin of staying up all night and blasting music and making glitter art into the wee hours of the night/morning. These days my life is the opposite because I moved back east to be closer to my Mom. She is getting up there in years and no longer drives, so I take her every where she needs to go…and sometimes places she doesn’t need to go, just to go for a ride, and get out of the house. She is an early bird, so I have had to adjust my schedule to fit hers. No matter my schedule, I will never be in step with neighbors or others in social media. I am definitely one to march to my own beat.
Interviewed by Dia VanGunten
About the Artist
Sue Zola used to use the lyrics from a Kanye West song as her artist statement…but now she can’t cuz Kanye is fucking whackadoo. Poopy-di scoop. Scoop-diddy-whoop. Whoop-di-scoop-di-poop. Poop-di-scoopty. Scoopty-whoop. Whoopity-scoop, whoop-poop. Poop-diddy, whoop-scoop. Poop, poop. Scoop-diddy-whoop. Whoop-diddy-scoop. Whoop-diddy-scoop, poop.
[…] role of the artist. We’ll talk to Ferg Cooper, B Shawn Cox and Julia Lichtt. Our art cover is by Sue Zola, who began her career in Austin where she’d stay up all night, in her garage, turning blank […]