Award: Artist Research & Development Grant
Discipline: Visual Arts
Project Collaborator(s): Lainey Prather

City/Town: Phoenix
Year: 2018
Artist Website:

The most successful works of art combine the personal heart of the artist with the issues that tap into the collective and universal pulse. I am grateful for and especially joyful when my artistic endeavors are personal, yet can become the voice or symbol for the larger community. This is what especially motivates me.

In 2015, muralist Suzanne Whitaker collaborated with Lainey Prather, an artist whose specialty is plaster finishes, on “Abigail,” a portrait/chair honoring Abigail Adams, a founding mother of the United States. Through their research, the artist were surprised to learn how much influence Abigail had had during her time, primarily in respect to laws around women and education. Even still, like all other American women prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, Adams was not allowed to actually vote. With their new project, funded in part by an Artist Research & Development Grant, Whitaker and Prather will tell the stories of 19 American women via portraiture accompanied by short essays. They hope to complete their project in time for the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment in 2020.

Each peice will reflect the product sources, artifacts, fabrication, techniques, styles, etc. of the subject’s time period. For example, “Abigail” emerges from slatted and plastered walls, the look of which we copied, after a bit of research, from Abigail’s last home. Further, having learned that much of the information about Abigail’s contribution to American history was preserved through letters to her husband, John, the artists fashioned a three dimensional outpouring of “aged” parchment.

Using their talents to spotlight women’s stories of bravery, strength, standing up to the status quo, stories that have so often gone untold or relegated as less important, the artists hope to play a part in preserving the importance of women’s voices in the United States.

“Abigail” by Suzanne Whitaker and Lainey Prather

Dimensions: 3-1/2′ w x 5′ h
Structure built by TruCollective, LLC, to artists specifications.

“Abigail’s Roses” by Suzanne Whitaker and Lainey Prather

Dimensions: 3-1/2′ w x 6′ h
Structure built by TruCollective, LLC, to artists specifications.

Suzanne Whitaker

After completing a BFA in Painting from University of Cincinnati, Suzanne Whitaker spent several years working in publishing, doing production work and illustration for books and magazines, before launching her own business, working as a muralist and decorative finisher, in 1993.

Over a span of nearly 25 years, Whitaker worked closely with her clients, collaborating with them to create “authentic beauty and joyfulness” in every space she had the privilege to help transform. Many of these spaces were documented in Whitaker’s book, “Creative Kids’ Murals You Can Paint!” Published in 2006, the book offered a helpful step-by-step guide to mural painting for parents, amateurs, and professionals alike.

Whitaker continued to work as a mural painter and decorative finisher for residential and commercial clients after relocating to Phoenix in 2005. She also works with local schools, non-profit organizations, and homeowners and enjoys teaching painting to adults and children. Recently, she has returned to canvas work in acrylics.

Lainey Prather

Inspired by a fascination with patina, peeling paint, and the art and design of ancient cultures, Lainie Prather pursued training in decorative painting and, in 2009, launched her own business, “Absolutely Gorgeous Walls.” Prather is particularly drawn to authentic plaster finishes in interiors and enjoys giving life and character to once plain and boring walls.

In addition to learning decorative paint and plaster techniques, she received a degree in Interior Design in 2014. During her time as a student, Prather became more involved in the local design community, meeting fellow designers and artists, leading to a successful collaboration with artist Suzanne Whitaker on “Abigail Chair” which served as the catalyst for their vision of a broader series of portraits of pivotal women, both well known and obscure, who have furthered women’s equality.

Artists photo by Samantha Marie Enloe of “Endless Dream Pictures, LLC

Interested in following their work? Whitaker and Prather post regular updates to the project’s Facebook Page.