Susan Varo is a local Queens visual artist who is also the author of the speculative science fiction book called The Happening. In the Fall of 1983, she began writing The Happening inspired by thoughts and visions she had about the future and a world in the midst of constant technological advancement. It wasn’t until 2017 that she finally published the book.
Always a lover of “science fiction, the universe, and mysteries,” writing this book was a way for her to tap into what she calls a “strange foresight;” “the future [had] presented itself to her.” In the interview below, Varo talks about her work as a visual artist and what inspires her art and writing of The Happening.
1) Tell the readers about yourself as an artist.
I am a visual artist and I reside in Corona, New York. I primarily create my artwork from my home studio. I began drawing from the age of eight and it has been my passion ever since.
2) What are some major themes that you explore in your art?
Some of the major themes I love to explore in my art are people, places, moments in time and the feelings and inspiration that I derive from all of it. My artwork consists of portraiture, landscape and still life.
3) Which came first in your life: visual art or writing? How do the two interact with each other in your artistic practice?
In my life, visual art came first and the second runner up was actually music. I always loved to have a means to express my creativity, but could only briefly pursue music, but then writing became my next calling. Visual art and writing are truly intertwined as having a visual perspective on a particular subject allows me to express it in words. Both are subjective to what I am feeling or experiencing at a particular time. I also write poetry, and some of my poetry is based on paintings.
4) Tell us a little bit about your book, The Happening. What inspired you to write it?
The Happening is a science fiction thriller written in 1983 for the year 2025. The story takes place in California in 2025 upon the return of a space mission. The material that is returned on this mission changes the world. I was inspired to write my book, as I began to see, what I thought would be the future of our world. Strangely, there were so many glimpses that I had foreseen, I decided to write them down. As so many of these ideas, and images were forthcoming, I turned it into a book.
5) Why did you choose to write your first book in the speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, etc.) genre? What is it about speculative fiction that is compelling for you as a writer?
I decided to write my book as speculative fiction because it is all based on futuristic technology, which I believe has not yet been developed. The writing was based on seeing what the future would be like with the advancement of technology on the human race. Speculative fiction is quite compelling to me because I love science fiction, the supernatural, history and exploration, but interestingly, these weren’t the basis for writing my book.
6) How does Queens inspire your art?
Queens inspires my art in so many ways. As a culturally diverse and interactive borough, there is so much to see, to become inspired with. There are so many different faces and places, and the ambiance and pulse of Queens has the charm of family life or visiting an old friend. It brings a serenity and a vibrancy which consciously and subconsciously appears in a lot of my artwork. One of my paintings entitled China Red Year of the Rabbit is one, as well as Tusks in Red, Briarwood Queens Sunset (Sold), Hot Summer Sunset on Junction Boulevard, Last Train Car and I’m finishing the painting Jamaica Water Tower.
7) What are some of your upcoming projects?
I have added some of my latest artwork onto new products which are available on my website though Zazzle. Last week, additional paintings were added to my current art exhibition at Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens. I am also continuing the painting series that are being exhibiting at Choices.
8 ) Since the name of my blog is Futuristically Ancient, how do you see yourself and your work as both futuristic and ancient?
I see myself as futuristic, as I tend to foresee what may become a reality. I see myself as ancient as for my love for things of the past such as Ancient Egypt. It’s been a source of fascination for me all my life and I find the way they lived so long ago as if they were already in the future. I see my artwork and writing as ancient, as it seems to hint on something of a bygone era in some of its detail. I see my artwork and writing as futuristic as it illustrates would could possibly become a reality through visualization.
9) Where can the readers find out more about your work?
Fun Fact: In my own fantasy novel that I am currently writing, The E, a few of the scenes will take place at the Jamaica Queens Water Tower. It has always been a striking image for me standing tall in the horizon as I rode the Q83 bus towards the subway. I actually went to visit the space where it is a couple of years ago.
Thank you Susan Varo for the interview and stay tuned in the coming weeks for my review of The Happening!