Artist, actress, and psychotherapist Susan Schrott gave an inspiring talk at the Shelter Island Library July 19 about the side-by-side exhibition of her and her mother’s art and the connection between the themes and styles of their work.
A part-time Shelter Island resident, Ms. Schrott creates colorful “art textiles,” she said, that depict rejoicing women in hopes of “inspiring people and bringing a sense of hope, healing and renewal.”
She has a textile studio in her home on the Island and is here every weekend during the year to work on her creations. Her art has been showcased in galleries around the country and in Israel and she regularly donates pieces to Mashomack Preserve and children’s hospitals in Israel.
When reflecting on the influence of her mother — accomplished painter, playwright and Islander Leah Kornfeld Friedman — Ms. Schrott recalled being “totally saturated with art” as a child.
“My mother back in the 1960s and 1970s was playing Bob Dylan and Nina Simone and we were exposed very early on to color, form, theater, opera, ballet, everything,” she remembered. “The home environment was a canvas.”
Much like her daughter, Ms. Friedman focuses on imagery of women, Judaica and the Holocaust in her work. She is the author of a collection of monologues called “Essie Finkelstein, Monologues for an Actress.”
“Some people can’t tell which art is mine and which is my mom’s,” said Ms. Schrott, who practices psychotherapy in White Plains, New York, specializing in patients with eating disorders. She works from a cognitive, values-based perspective and uses her textile art to “get out of her head” and practice empathy and compassion in another medium.
“Working with textiles is really a beautiful balance,” she said. “It’s more heart-to-hand. I’m clearly experiencing things and imagining things, but my hands talk for me.”
Before working as a clinician, Ms. Schrott had a successful career as a musical theater actress, attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and doing eight shows a week at the Jewish Repertory Theater. Having always been interested in women’s mental health, she returned to college in her mid-20s and began studying women’s studies and therapy.
Her book, “Rise with Radiance,” featuring 365 drawings of empowered women created daily over the course of a year, is currently under review for publication.
“During the week when I was in the city, I was very frustrated because I couldn’t work with my textiles. I was seeing patients all the time,” she said. “So to keep up the connection I cut pieces of white fabric and I took them to the city with me. Every day for 365 days I finished my meditation and then I would do a drawing.”
The images she draws are diverse, spotlighting different faces and different bodies. She also created a “Rise with Radiance” calendar, and donated dozens of copies to the Shelter Island Library.
Ms. Schrott serves on the board of the Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Fund and is a member of Artists of Shelter Island (ArtSI.) Speaking about the Island, she noted that “there’s a sense of community and love and connection here that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. It’s been a place where my family has come together in the most joyful and simple way. People share with each other.”