There are times when Suzanne Donazetti literally bleeds for her art. She has the extraordinary ability to weave and paint strips of copper into soft grassy fields or glowing sunsets, but that doesn’t take away from the hard reality of working with the material.
“It’s just the little tiny edges on the copper,” says Suzanne. “When I first started, I would tear my fingers up.”
By the time her painted weavings are hung on the wall, all danger is smoothed away. Rolling peaks and valleys beautifully distort complex copper grids, and colorful abstract paintings dance at the will of the warps and wefts. In her upcoming show “Woven Dreams,” Suzanne plays an alchemist, turning solid metal into liquid windows that frame other worlds.
Suzanne, who lives in Maryland, started weaving sheet silver 23 years ago. She’d been creating jewelry but her concepts kept pushing her somewhere else.
“I just wanted to weave and warp it, and do things that are hard to do with jewelry,” she said. “That’s when the adventure began.” Over the next few years she switched from silver to copper and from dull patinas to a rich array of liquid acrylics, airbrush inks and powdered pigments. “It just kind of evolved,” she says.
“Woven Dreams” shows an exploratory process perfected. The originality of Suzanne’s techniques makes the effortless, natural quality of the finished products almost shocking to the uninitiated eye. It’s a bit like diving into Wonderland, the eye a curious Alice traversing billowing checkerboards.
To create the works, Suzanne applies metallic leaf on two sets of 36 gauge copper—a warp and a weft—and sands them. Then she paints abstract designs or “two-dimensional landscapes” on them, carefully planning her brushstrokes so that they’ll fit together in the final weaving. After waxing over the pigments she cuts the warps and wefts and fits them together, ready to be surprised by how everything meshes.
“It never turns out the way I plan it, but it’s always interesting in the end,” she says.
Suzanne lived in New Mexico for a while in the 1980’s, so her journey to Santa Fe for the August 3rd artist’s reception is something of a homecoming. This time she’ll be accompanied by her daughter, son-in-law and two important collaborators: her grandsons.
The artist has taken to hiding motivational messages and prayers under the leaf of most of her paintings. When one of her grandsons took an Arabic class, Suzanne began weaving his old homework into her compositions. Her other grandson is a violinist, and his music homework soon caught her eye as well.
“I’m letting the words show,” she says. It’s a new direction, an experiment with the abstract symbols that turn into speech or beautiful music. Suzanne’s violinist grandson will be playing at the event—an aural landscape to accompany her visual ones.
Suzanne says viewers also see her shows as tactile adventures. It’s hard to keep gallery goers from sliding their fingers across the works. Perhaps they hold the memory of those hardworking fingertips.
“It’s very touchable, but you have to be gentle,” she says. “Sometimes you make little nicks in the copper.”
Come see Suzanne Donazetti’s “Woven Dreams” from July 31st to August 13th, or come to the reception on August 3rd and ask the artist if you can reach out and feel. Just don’t hurt the work—or vice versa!
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