It is with immense sadness that I share that Susan O’Malley suddenly passed away.
Susan was an artist, curator, and member of the tight-knit San Francisco Bay Area art community. She was my friend and collaborator. She recently contributed to Make Things (Happen), and I last saw her at the opening reception on February 6. She was pregnant with twin girls, and almost due. Susan was radiant, and as characteristically good-humored as ever.
Susan’s positivity in person and via her artworks left countless people with brighter days. I aspired to be more like her: to embody more compassion, forgiveness, and kindness; to be magnanimous in my relationships and outlook; and to let go of what I can’t control.
I have always admired her work—an enthusiastic blend of relational and text-based practices—for its elegant simplicity, humor, and unabashed enthusiasm. It was borne out of her unshakable faith in optimism. She embraced the risk of being sentimental, trusting that sincerity is a virtue that redeems feeling self-conscious or ridiculous. All of us, Susan insisted, are capable of wisdom and love. She asked us to open our hearts to possibilities.
Many of us defend ourselves from the slings and arrows of everyday life with cynicism. Susan remained unapologetically affirmative, even in sustained grief as her mother endured a lengthy terminal illness. That fact speaks to the courage of her humanity.
I saw this in her work, One Minute Smile, when I was still fresh in the clutch of bereavement of my dad. Exemplifying her generosity of spirit, Susan shared an intensely personal, vulnerable moment with a room full of strangers and friends. As she made eye contact with us, we became more present and mindful. Together, Susan helped us acknowledge: Yes, we are fragile… and yes, we have yet-undiscovered reserves of resilience within us, too.
I’m grateful for Susan for sharing her light with me, and helping me and many others find more of our own. She will be dearly missed.
Learn more about public memorials and a memorial fund for the arts: morebeautifulthanyoucouldeverimagine.com