Remembering Susan O’Malley

Artist and curator Susan O’Malley passed away suddenly on February 25. Our Street Art Spotter, Eva Glettner, remembers her life and her legacy

38-year-old Bay Area artist and curator Susan O’Malley, whose multi-modal artwork and social practice made her a unique voice on the California art scene, passed away tragically on February 25 after O’Malley, who was pregnant with twins, collapsed and never regained consciousness.

Rarely does an artist come along whose work has the distinct ability to touch everyone in an equally powerful way. In Bruno Munari’s famous tome, Design as Art, he writes: “Culture today is becoming a mass affair, and the artist must step down from his pedestal and be prepared to make a sign for a butcher’s shop (if he knows how to do it).” Susan O’Malley was very much an artist of the streets. In one of her most well known works, Advice from my 80-year-old self, she gathered advice from seniors, asking them how they would live in the moment, and then plastered the advice in the form of posters around San Francisco.

WHO: As visiting faculty at California State University, Monterey Bay, O’Malley taught socially engaged public art practices of which she was a living embodiment in her commitment to bring art to the people. On the “about me” page of her website, O’Malley writes: “ I make art that connects us to each other. To this end I have given pep talks, asked for advice from strangers, and installed inspirational posters in public.” Susan O’Malley cared deeply about inspiring those who encountered her art, which is why we, perfect strangers, feel such a loss with the news of her passing.

WHAT: I urge you to check out O’Malley’s memorial website, aptly titled More Beautiful Than You Could Ever Imagine, which is taken directly from one of her posters and contains both information on her memorial service and ways to honor her memory by supporting the arts.