Old and New and Natural

Old and New and Natural

Artist Profile: Suzanne Stryk








The desk in Stryk's installation at the McLean Project for the Arts gallery.

Suzanne Stryk is the artist behind "Genomes and Daily Observations," an installation on display at the McLean Project for the Arts gallery through Nov. 3. The MPA gallery, part of the McLean Community Center at 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean, is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Saturday 1-5 p.m.

Where are you from originally? Where are you living now? I grew up in and around Chicago, Illinois. I now live in Bristol, Virginia.

Who are your major artistic influences? My influences are an odd assortment ranging from biological diagrams, Morris Graves, Pieter Brueghel and Persian miniatures, to name a few.

Any local community influences in your work? Other influences? Only the communities of plants and animals in the woods and fields around my home. This Southwest region of Virginia is the "salamander capital of the world," and that kind of lush biodiversity is certainly an influence.

What do you do when you aren’t working on your art? Walk, read. I mostly read science writers, poetry and fiction. For example, I just read "The Sacred Depths of Nature" by microbiologist Ursula Goodenough.

When did you first get inspired to create art? Did you always know that you wanted to be an artist? In the 1960’s I was attempting to make art in high school art class. My themes were similar to what I do now — one piece was a huge moth painted in a Pop art style, like Andy Warhol had he been a field naturalist, if you can imagine that.

Where do you do most of your work? I converted my garage to serve as a studio. I’ve outgrown it, but it’s great to have it as part of my home, allowing me to work at any time of day or night.

What do you listen to when you work? Is it reflected in the work you create? Right now I’m listening to the mockingbird sing his autumn "whisper song" from a bush in the yard. It’s almost as if he’s singing to himself, with all the same imaginative variations he uses in the spring, but softer. I love the subtle variations, like a meditation. And yes, it might be reflected in a work I create one day.

Favorite medium to use and why? I’m enjoying the dialogue created between loose washes and very meticulous details painted with acrylic gouache. It’s like two aspects of my sensibility. The washes drip, puddle, and form unpredictable marks. The more studied details are focused and controlled.

What would you consider the theme of the exhibit? What I’m exploring is the weird combination of old and new while observing the natural world. By "old" I mean traditional ways of studying nature with ones eyes, and by "new" I mean awareness of high-tech genetics.

What do you hope viewers get out of the show? I hope viewers enjoy looking at creatures they might otherwise overlook, and share my conviction that there’s really no "greater" or "lesser" creatures in the world — all living things are fascinating and have their own deserved place on earth. Also, I want viewers to realize, because of what the genetic code has revealed, that we’re all made of the same stuff.

Do you have a favorite piece in the exhibit? Right now, the drawing with the snakes or maybe the one with the cicadas.