Painter makes portraits of homeless to help them be seen
By Jessica Laskey
The first time Suzon Lucore was stopped by police for feeding a homeless man, her response was swift. “You have an ordinance to not feed the homeless,” she remembers saying at the time, “but is it illegal to feed a friend? This is my friend.”
Lucore has fed homeless people for almost two decades since moving to Midtown in 2007 after completing her bachelor’s degree in painting at California College of the Arts in the Bay Area.
“I saw all these people who were hungry and started feeding them,” she says.
The instinct to lend a hand was ingrained early as the daughter of a church elder growing up in Rio Oso, 35 miles north in Sutter County. She worked for the church food bank at age 9. Her love of art started young, when she sold candy and drawings of cartoon characters on the bus to finance her art career. “It never occurred to me to be anything else but an artist,” she says.
Years later, after attending Yuba College and the arts school, and launching a career in advertising and marketing, Lucore looked for a way to help. She combined her desire to do good with her love of art.
“I had been painting social issues—like painting the Capitol in oranges and reds to depict the chaos we’re in right now—and I was looking for new subject matter,” says Lucore, who moved to Pocket last year. “I suddenly realized I had been feeding these people for years and talking to them, so I started asking to take pictures of them to paint from. I use vibrant colors to draw attention. People’s eyes tend to glaze over when talking about the homeless, so this is my way of showing they’re not disposable.”
Lucore exhibited her portraits with Yuba Sutter Arts and Culture in Marysville this year. She launched a website called WeHaveCompassion.com to share her paintings and her mission. She hopes to add a database of resources to the site.
Ultimately, she’d love to sell the portraits as a collection to a nonprofit so it can tour the series around the country. She has one piece on display at Dignity Health in Rocklin, a 6-foot-by-9-foot painting called “The 19 Faces of COVID-19,” featuring diverse people wearing face masks. She plans to donate the work to a nonprofit.
Her son, Kaspian Khalafi, has taken up his mother’s mission and regularly straps a grill to his bicycle to cook for homeless people in his neighborhood. He grilled 300 turkey hotdogs last Thanksgiving.
“I feed people not because I want to be considered special but because it’s something small I can do that makes life better for someone for a moment,” Lucore says. “They’re not just the unhoused. They’re my friends.”
Jessica Laskey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.