Susan O’Malley (American 1976-2015)

Susan O’Malley’s work is a celebration of life and a cheerful affirmation that we are on the right path.  Having passed away suddenly, this Bay Area Artist and Curator will be remembered as a voice of wisdom and ernest encouragement. She received her MFA from California College of Arts in San Francisco in Art and Social Practice and through whimsical performances, conversations, and text with bright gradients of color she conveyed a message of hope and trust in ones self.

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O’Malley created an art project called Pep Talks, where she counseled others on how to keep a positive attitude and not give up. Her work is a reminder that things will get better and that there is beauty and meaning in the world.


Below is O’Malley’s work: “An Unsolicited Open Letter to the Young-ish Artist (this means all of us, right?).” May 29, 2013.

Dear Young-ish artist, I noticed that you needed to be reminded of a few things – many of which I’m sure you already know. But it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. So here it goes.

Taking the path of an artist is a radical one. There is no steady paycheck, 401K or linear trajectory. You do it because it’s either art or insanity; or because you have a gift that needs to be shared with the world; or because you want to be famous. But here’s the deal: it takes time to cultivate it. Very few of us can jump out of undergrad and earn a living as a novelist. Sometimes you have to take a job writing copy at an internet company to prove that you can take care of yourself; or you have to take several jobs so you can buy the materials for your giant octopus sculpture; or you have to experience the darkest grief of your life in order to find your voice. And there will be lots of bad poems and terrible paintings and bad decisions before anything comes of it. It takes time and it takes space and sometimes it takes doing very little alone or in the company of other like-minded people for these things to happen. Everything is part of it. So be patient, pay attention, and be kind to yourself.

Maybe it will take 15 years, so in the year 2028, when you quit your day job writing ad copy for Hologram Space to begin. Maybe then you’ll decide to finish the novel you’ve been plugging away at in your free evenings. You decide to do it because it’s been nagging at you for years, sometimes making you feel so empty inside that you don’t recognize yourself, your spouse, or your children. And as you finally jump into this adventure it dawns on you: it’s always been here. You’ve always had everything you needed to do it. It just took you this long to accept this and the uncertainty of the process. And, now finally, you’ve said yes and things are happening. Don’t scold yourself for taking so long, just appreciate that you’ve finally made it here.

Sincerely, Your friend Susan O’Malley,



Since her tragic passing this year her work has taken on extra meaning.  The messages seem to come from a place beyond time, yet fully human and brimming with love and understanding. Susan O’Malley’s work will be remembered as courageous, joyful and inspiring.


Her book entitled “Advice From My 80 Year Old Self,” is being published and is due to release this year. The book serves to point out how perspective in life can be a gift in helping us get through the hard times.


During her life Susan O’Malley participated in an artist residency at Montalvo Arts Center, a retreat in the mountains of the peninsula. Here she created a healing walk for the benefit of all and to complete this walk seems like a great way to pay tribute to her contribution and experience her message to the world.