Veterinarian Dr. Susan Eyr Anderson delighted residents with her special artwork June 10 and tales of her adventures as Anza’s mysterious “Phantom Artist” Saturday, June 10, at Anza Valley Artists Show and Sale at the Community Hall.
The Anza “Phantom Artist,” whose true identity was revealed earlier in the Anza Valley Outlook, laughed while telling her story of painting the colorful street signs along Highway 371 and other byways in Anza right under the eyes of passing Anza motorists without anyone knowing what she was doing or who she was. Suddenly her work, identifying Anza, its main streets and places like the Anza Veterans of Foreign Wars with colorful Mustang horses as the background appeared much to awe and pleasure of residents.
This multi-talented lady, a veterinarian, artist and musician, was the highlighted artist at the Anza Valley Artists Show and Sale that brought dozens of residents to the hall to meet her, see her artwork and the artwork of many other talented Anza and Aguanga artists.
“They wouldn’t even see us,” Anderson said, describing how she and her husband Dave Anderson were painting the signs on Highway 371 during daylight hours. No one questioned their presence but were surprised the next day to see the colorful Welcome to Anza sign, like the one on Highway 371 approaching northbound from Aguanga, appear. There are signs at Carey Road, Bautista Road, Terwilliger Road and many more; all 10 signs are beautifully painted on once old and dilapidated plywood road signs, now no longer eyesores.
She laughed, remembering when “one day we even put on disguises. My husband, who had long hair then, put his hair up in costume. It was so much fun. The people were looking at us very strangely.”
There is a story behind her thoughtful road sign paintings and her emphasis on what are called “Kiger Mustangs,” the horses that appear in all of her signage.
At the show, she told of how she grew up with her mother and father, both talented commercial artists, who hoped she too would become an artist. Her father bought her an easel and encouraged her to paint.
“I tried to please him with my artwork, but he was very hard on me,” she said. Time went on.
“I decided to become a veterinarian,” she said. “You know, because I wanted to make a living.”
Her small animal practice, now almost 30 years in San Jacinto, continues to be very successful. She still commutes to her ranch in the Tripp Flats area of Anza, where she and her husband care for two rescued Kiger Mustangs and other horses.
For a time, she said they cared for her 92-year-old mother on the ranch, and her nurses and caregivers had a hard time finding the ranch. Thus, she decided to paint her first road sign at the end of Tripp Flats Road help the nurses find the ranch. It helped.
But to her surprise, “It cracked me up,” she said. “Everyone who saw the sign were so loving about it so I painted another.” The response encouraged her to begin painting again, this time in an effort to beautify the roads leading to Anza and surrounding areas.
Helping and further encouraging her was a painting she made of her favorite Kiger Mustang named “Misteno” that she entered in the Riverside County Fair and won first place in the horse painting category in 2016.
“Misteno would not stay still for me,” she said. “He was so wild.” Her painting shows his wild eyes. She said, the breed called Kiger Mustangs, are descendants of the horses first brought to North America by the Spanish Conquistadores.
“We have two,” she said.
Anderson had prints of her road signs for sale along with other paintings at the art show.
“I want to keep my originals,” she said.
With the show ended, Anderson said she still wants to help beautify Anza and is looking to find volunteers who might help in her mission. She mentioned some of the old trailers and broken-down signs along the highway leading to the township need to be cleaned up so the community will look better to its residents and visitors.
She is on the Anza Trail Town Committee and will be sponsoring an upcoming equine endurance ride of 50 miles in the area. It will involve about 100 to 129 riders from the American Endurance Riders from all over Southern California and will take place Sept. 23. Her ranch on Sunshine Hills will be the starting point.
“We are here to give them support,” she said. “We are always looking for other artists to join us. We inspire and encourage each other to produce meaningful creative artwork in a variety of media.”
For more information about the Anza Valley Artists, call Rosie Grindle at (951) 928-1248 or visit www.Facebook.com/AnzaValleyArtists.