Whether it is the expressionistic strokes that sweep over Dartmouth Rooftops or the light daubs of color in the playful Jellyfish!, Sue Dragoo (Lembo) paints landscapes and architecture with a precise eye, bringing her subjects home with sublime color, light, and shadow. When she brings out her clothing-themed art, it’s clear that no matter what the subject is, a thread of sentiment runs through all her work.
Dragoo’s “Clothing Series”, a blend of fine art and illustration, has entrancing stories behind it. In 2001, after the death of a loved one, Dragoo was devastated. “After he died, I realized the connection people have with clothing,” she says. “For me, creating paintings of clothing was a healing process.” It also held two important firsts for Dragoo: her first cohesive body of work, and the first time a gallery accepted a piece of her art.
For what can be a pedestrian subject, clothing and shoes are very different through Dragoo’s vision. “In my family, instead of reminiscing over photos, we reminisce over clothes,” she says. “I can get lost in fabric stores, taking it all in. I love patterns, texture, materials.”
Much of Dragoo’s fine art is pegged on architecture: old Victorians with beautiful clay chimneys, columned porches, a red barn just visible behind the house. Dragoo painted these when she moved to Melrose, Massachusetts, where she lives today with her husband, and discovered history on every street. Her careful execution of buildings and clothing—the lines, texture, shades of color—may be due in part to her first profession, graphic design (which remains a part-time business for her). She studied under the plein air painters Kim English and the late Charles Sovek, and is thankful for her experience with her first oil-painting teacher, John Kilroy.
Now, Dragoo is working on a series of beach clothing. “Literally, in my studio window, I have a clothesline with bathing suits strung on it,” she says. “Neighbors must wonder if I’m trying to start a new design trend.” It is a part of her art she treasures, and rightfully so. As she says of her clothing theme, “it’s gotten me where I am today.”
Sue Dragoo’s art may be seen at the Little Beach Gallery, located at 539 South Street in Hyannis (littlebeachgallery.com); South Shore Art Center at 119 Ripley Road in Cohasset (ssac.org); The Copley Society of Art at 158 Newbury Street in Boston; the Hourglass Gallery at 458 Main Street in Melrose, and at suedragoo.com.