Northfield artist aims to pass on mentor’s legacy

  • Yolanda Suarez Merchant's artwork, which consists primarily of landscapes and still lifes, will be on display at the Greenfield Cooperative Bank in Northfield through April 30. Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Yolanda Suarez Merchant's artwork will be on display at the Greenfield Cooperative Bank in Northfield through April 30. Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/25/2018 4:37:14 PM

For 5-year-old Yolanda Suarez Merchant, there was never any question what she wanted to be when she grew up.

Being raised in Southampton, Suarez Merchant found herself surrounded by professional artists who were the parents of her friends and classmates, and determined early on that she’d be a painter, too — a decision she took quite seriously.

“I remember I used to tell my friends ‘I can’t come out and play, I have painting class,’” she said.

But when Suarez Merchant was 15 and became a student at the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies — at the cusp of its change to be Northfield Mount Hermon School in 1971 — she found a mentor in art teacher Doug Jones.

“He really taught me how to draw, taught me how to see,” she said.

It was Jones who inspired her with a love for nature.

“We spent any time we could outside,” she explained.

Today, Suarez Merchant, now 63, is back in Northfield as a part-time resident displaying her work at the Greenfield Cooperative Bank, work that highlights her love of nature that Jones inspired. In addition to still lifes, which Suarez Merchant learned while studying in Italy, her pieces on display are largely of landscapes.

“It’s very challenging to paint from nature,” she said. “You’re looking at a snowstorm and trying to capture it in some sort of literal sense.”

Suarez Merchant believes that even if you live in a city, bringing a piece of nature indoors through art “opens up a whole new way of thinking” and “has this very liberating impact.” Suarez Merchant herself lives part-time in New York City.

Her artwork will be on display at the bank, 144 Main St. in Northfield, during open hours through April 30. There will also be a closing reception on Friday, April 27, from 4 to 6 p.m. All her pieces are available for purchase.

Her creative process, Suarez Merchant said, involves becoming extremely focused and painting from the subconscious, rather than living up to anyone’s ideal.

“I don’t try to paint to do pretty pictures or to necessarily create what other people think is a pretty painting,” she said.

Suarez Merchant said she feels lucky to have achieved her childhood dream of being an artist, with her focus being primarily in oil paintings and pastels. Now, she wants to offer summer retreats and private lessons to pass on her knowledge, like how to use color and how to use lines and shapes to create depth.

“I’d really like to do for other people what Doug did for me, which is opening them up to seeing and maximize their art,” she said.


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