Sue Ireland was the mother of one of my middle school students. Like a lot of teachers, I remember most of my students well, but only a handful of parents. Sue was definitely one of those parents I remember! She drove a wild-looking car, she wore unusual clothing and jewelry, and she (mostly) approved of my unorthodox teaching methods. She was, for lack of a better term, really cool!
Over the years, I have crossed paths with Sue on numerous occasions, usually at the art openings on Julia Street or on St. Claude Avenue. Each time, I found her to be extremely interesting.
The other day, my wife ran into Sue, and she invited us over for dinner and drinks.
“Wow,” is all I can say!
A visit to Sue’s home and studio is like a tour of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. There’s a huge mural of hers on the wall of a nearby school and her hand-painted car is parked on the street; djinns or little spirits hang from the trees and bollards covered in a mosaic of colorful ceramic tiles guard the curb; the sidewalk is studded with glass marbles and a Little Free Library designed and decorated by the artist is attached to the front of her 19th Century Marigny shotgun.
The first room, traditionally a living room, is Sue’s studio, and the adjacent room is a woodworking shop used by her husband–a pulmonologist by training. The house and backyard are both filled to the brim with Sue’s whimsical work: stacks of painted glass bricks, the stenciled hood of an antique car, pop figures that look like the offspring of Warhol and Lichtenstein, a lighted glass case containing four inquisitive stuffed minks, an “installation” of old Aunt Jemima syrup bottles, pen and ink drawings you might find in an illustrated children’s book, vintage black and white photographs embroidered with yarn, and, well, you get the picture.
Yes, Sue Ireland is still really, really cool!