Suzanne E.

My Artist's Story

I grew up in the small town of Vermilion, Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie. My father’s family were Norwegian immigrants who built freighters and sailed the Great Lakes. My mother’s family were German pioneers who farmed and stayed close to home. My father, an engineer, had a sense of adventure and playfulness and my stay-at-home mother, the more practical of the two, usually went along with his whims. I am the oldest of their six children, five girls and one boy.

My love of fabrics began when I was @ 3 years old when I was given small scraps by a neighbor who let me sit and chat with her nearly every day as she sewed. Later, when I was @12, my mother sent me to the Singer store for a series of proper sewing lessons. I have been sewing ever since.

Photography has long been a passion of mine. With my father’s 35mm camera I began taking photographs in junior high. I grew to love the darkroom process when, as a young mother, I “escaped” to adult education photography classes. My interest in photography continued and broadened in part because I had access to photo and computer classes plus wonderful darkroom equipment until I retired from teaching art history at a community college.

I had married at 19 and the first of my four sons was born when I was 20. Although my undergraduate degree is in Home Economics Education I could not apply for a teaching job because I had a child under the age of two. Instead, I stumbled onto a job as a social worker and eventually earned an MSW degree. All along I was creating photographs, weaving, needlework and sewing, etc., on the side. It was not until my 25-year first marriage ended that I left social work and earned an MFA degree. That period of time was challenging and freeing. Being an official art student was the most fun I had had since I was a girl! I later remarried and began teaching and making art.

Childhood memories--changing patterns of light, shadow and shape formed by water and ice floes of Lake Erie and riotous colors in my mother's prodigious gardens are the marrow of my visual vocabulary today. As a photographer I look through the lens at sections of life and this plays a role in how I approach each work. I am also influenced by my travels and the hundreds of slides I have presented over the years in art history classes.

Since moving to Florida I have been compelled to photograph the amazing sunrises appearing behind our home on Lake Henderson, sunsets at beaches on the nearby Gulf and other native flora and fauna. Since early childhood I have been drawn to water and nature. I often have at least two cameras with me when I travel. I hope some of my art conveys my concern for the environment.

Beginning with photographs of trees, flowers and other natural objects, I download the images or scanned objects onto the computer and alter them using various software. The resulting digital collages are a combination of elements real and imagined. The images are tweaked in my digital darkroom before printing onto fabric or printed as more traditional photographic works on paper. I add stitching and other embellishments to the fabric pieces and frame the works on paper.

I am interested in creating images that draw the viewer in to discover what is there. As I have played for years with color and shape in traditional darkroom photography and other media, I am now enjoying the challenges of using similar approaches to create and modify images using a computer simply as another tool. I love the process!