Sukhum’s paintings conjure up inner and outer worlds

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by Dennis Dalman

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A 1989 graduate of Sartell High School, Pamela Sukhum made an amazing career change in 2003 when she fell so in love with painting that she left her job as a cardiovascular health and electrophysiology researcher at the University of Minnesota.

Her dazzling paintings have been exhibited worldwide. Fifty-nine of them are now on display at the Reedy Gallery at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska. The show, titled “Hymns to Nature,” opened on September 8th and runs through November 7th. On October 7th she will give a lecture in the auditorium of the Arboretum. It’s Sukhum’s first show in Minnesota in seven years.

“I’m so excited to share my work with people in my home state of Minnesota,” she said during an interview with the Newsleader. “This show is like a homecoming for me.”

Inspired by nature, Sukhum’s paintings are radiant bursts of color and movement, shimmering and vibrant with vibrant color and a flurry of texture. Many shine with bright light, like stained glass windows. Some border on abstraction and even resemble cosmic telescopic views of objects in space, but all are rooted in the terrestrial world of nature – fields, grasses, green plants, flowers.

Sukhum said her paintings are informed by experiences she’s had in her travels around the world – from the monasteries of Tibet to the refugee camps in Africa.

When Sukhum began painting full-time nearly 20 years ago, it was a bold leap. Despite barely having enough money to pay a month’s rent, she moved into a studio in downtown Minneapolis to fully pursue her newfound passion – painting. In the studio she began to paint, paint and paint. Despite struggling to earn a living, she eventually achieved great success and critical acclaim.

Sukhum, a Sartell “part-timer,” also has art studios in Minneapolis; Crestone, Colo.; and Bangkok, Thailand, her parents’ country. Her family moved to Sartell in 1985, but her father and mother later moved back to Thailand. Her father is a cardiologist and her mother is a financial expert.

Sukhum lives part of the year in Sartell with her husband Ben who helps run their painting business. They live in the Pine Point neighborhood of north Sartell, where there are some fellow artists whom Sukhum admires, such as painter Judith Bergerson and potter Peder Hegland.

Sukhum’s paintings are part of the collections of many art galleries in North America, Canada and elsewhere in the world. She has won many awards and received many honors, including the Director’s Choice Award at Art Expo New York. Sukhum and her paintings were the subject of an Emmy-nominated film produced by the Public Broadcasting System.

Her works are also in the corporate collections of companies such as Medtronic, Ernst & Young, Novartis, and Deloitte and Clifford Chance Worldwide based in Dubai in the Middle East.

Sukhum firmly believes in sharing art personally with others to help them see the visionary beauties and possibilities of the inner and outer worlds. One way she shows off her sharing is through her live “painting” demonstrations, including one celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Governor’s Mansion in St. Paul.

In 2006, Sukhum founded a non-profit organization called The Beautiful Project. It’s a way for her to share her passion for art with others and to help people use art as a healing and self-empowering force in their lives. The Project has worked with people in eight countries, including children in refugee camps in Africa and in more than 20 American cities.

Sukhum’s mission statement is: “As an artist, my desire is to celebrate our inner and outer worlds and our common humanity.”

For more information on Sukhum’s exhibition and October 7 presentation at the Arboretum’s Reedy Gallery, visit arb.umn.edu/art-galleries/reedy-gallery.

To see more Sukhum paintings and watch her paint, visit her website at www.ArtofPamela.com

contributed photo
Pamela Sukhum shares some of her brightly colored images. Some border on cosmic abstractions, but are always anchored in the earthly world of plants and flowers.
contributed photo
Entitled Amethyst Fields, this painting by Pamela Sukhum is a radiant swirl of lilies and stems that depicts a visual symphony of movement and color.
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