Comfortably at Home with Provocative, Livable Art 

By Nancy Miller

Photos by Jolea Brown

Susan Moremen lives the way she works—surrounded by art. “I like to think my home is warm and inviting and generous. It looks like me and it shows off contemporary art.”

Her three-bay, two-story Georgian home, one block from Cherokee Park is, in many ways, an extension of Moremen Moloney Contemporary Gallery, which she owns with partner Susan Moloney.

“I don’t think anyone ever walks into a house and says, ‘Oh, what a great sofa.’ But that’s how they feel when they see art. If you have a party and not everyone knows each other, art that goes beyond matching the sofa changes and elevates the conversation. In my home and in the gallery is art that’s provocative but livable; it’s art you want to see every day,” she says.

She is just as zealous about her neighborhood, having “lived forever within a hop, skip and a jump” from her current home “except for a brief interlude living in 40207.” Being within walking distance of some of Louisville’s top restaurants is an undeniable draw, as is the conviviality of neighbors she sees every morning on her three-mile walk.

Each room in her home is filled with art, and each piece has a connection to her she cherishes. “I think art gives a house a soul, which doesn’t minimize good design. Susan Moloney provided that for the house,” says Moremen. When she isn’t at the gallery, she works from home, which allows her plenty of quality time with Cooper, her English Spaniel. “There’s no room in which I don’t really live. I read and entertain in the living room, watch television in the sunroom, work in the study, and I love my bedroom.”

The intimate study, secluded by large trees on the side of the house, was formerly a dining room. A wall of bookcases is testament to her being a voracious reader. It’s with obvious pleasure that she relates the history of each painting, each sculpture. A painting by Mary Tatum, an artist of the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in New York, was purchased by Moremen’s husband in Spain before they were married. Of particular significance to her are pieces by artists at StudioWorks, a studio for people with and without disabilities.

Art is the star in the living room where furniture is meant to be moved around and walked through to reach another seating area or to view paintings or sculptures. Two nine-foot tall canvases by Carlos Gamez Francisco are focal points in the room as is an abstract painting by her late husband, John Moremen. “Some art collectors have said it is their favorite painting in the house. He would be so pleased,” she says.

Placed on a secretary he bought for her one year for Christmas is a small terra cotta sculpture they found at an art gallery in Paris. In front of the secretary is an African tribal throne carved from a single piece of wood. Also in the living room is a Tom Pfannenstiel collage of cut wood.

“The living room is comfortable and flexible and not terribly formal. If I have one person over, we may have a drink there, but it’s also where 25 or 30 people can gather,” says Moremen. She recently entertained 30 people for dinner following an opening at her gallery.

Entertaining with ease is her style and she doesn’t pretend she labors for hours in the kitchen. On that menu were a salad, lasagna from Lotsa Pasta and Steel City Pops. Costco is one of her go-to stops for party (or anytime) dishes. “Their chicken pot pie is to die for. And Cooper and I love their chicken noodle soup,” she says. “My oven hasn’t worked properly for years, so I have to choose my menus carefully.”

That doesn’t mean her kitchen isn’t used or appreciated. “It’s nice and homey, with its green cabinets, gray Formica countertops and painted sideboard. When I say maybe I should redo it, people tell me I shouldn’t. So far, I haven’t,” she adds.

Guests at small dinner parties sit at an antique round table in the dining room. Next to it is a Sheraton sideboard on which are placed two lamps made from architectural fragments. Above the French console in the corner are three Indonesian puppet heads. On the wall, a Michael Madzo collage is striking for its colored threads sewn into the work.

“River Trash” by Al Gorman in the sunroom prompts a second look, then a third before one realizes it’s a sculpture made from driftwood and trash, all found at the Falls of the Ohio. Her eye for unusual objets d’art led her to discover in a junk store an architectural model of a house that now sits on the coffee table in the sunroom.

No space in her home is without art. An ethnographic fetish shirt, crafted of animal skins and wood, hangs in the hall and fulfills her hope of art being provocative.

“It’s easy to mix genres of art as long as you love the art and have a place for it. There should be something in a piece that asks ‘Why?’ and ‘What is this?’ Sometimes there’s never an answer. Anyone buying art needs to be careful. It may be easy to be taken with a seascape while you’re looking at it during a trip to Maine, but when you get it home, it may not work. Or, you can get attached to a Bohemian, tropical landscape in Key West or Western art in Colorado, but they may not translate to your home. Most of all, look at something and know you will love it for years,” she says. VT