Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Suzie Reid's "A Collection of Trees" art rooted in her lifelong issues

Saginaw Township artist Suzie Reid with three of her tree pieces

story and photos by janet i. martineau

On Thursday (Nov. 7 ), Saginaw Township artist Suzie Reid is taking a “Healthy Stand” at the Andersen Enrichment Center, 120 Ezra Rust...

...With her “A  Collection of Trees” pieces collectively thus titled,  created in the fine, fine art called pointillism -- using a micro-fine pen one tiny, tiny tip-point dot at a time until a piece is finished.

Why trees in the 8 1/2-inch by 11-inch pieces?

“Because I love their strength. That they are deeply rooted and I never have been. The fact they shed everything and then they begin anew.”

As Reid soon reveals, she has spent a lifetime battling depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar issues and social anxiety as well as a smoking addiction -- “and the labels, stigmas people put on you because of it; how they might see you.”

Finally, with counseling and medications, for the past decade she has been on more  of an even keel -- with counseling and medications AND getting lost in her art.

“It’s a big risk for me, doing this art show and talking about mental illness, but it is who I am and it is important to me to put it out there and hopefully destigmatize mental disorders and addiction. To suggest a path to wellness.”

So, she says, she rented a room at the Andersen, made affordable prints of 10 of her trees, framed some of them in unusual frames, and will hold forth from 3pm to 7pm Thursday to “open the lines of communication.”

And while each tree drawing has a theme about her lifelong battles and contains related words amid its branches, “from a distance they are just trees. You have to get up close to see the words.”

Saginawians may remember Reid who created Victorian houses out of Saginaw bricks and painted Michigan lighthouses on glass, among other themed art, and was a familiar face at art fairs. She also, over the years, has worked on set design at Pit and Balcony Community Theatre.

"When Lightning Strikes"
This new bent with pointillism she calls “very freeing, therapeutic, liberating” as she gets lost in the mechanics and any sense of time vanishes. She creates a basic outline, next come the branches and trunk, and then she fills in the twigs “and by this point I know where I am going with the verbiage. I have found the meaning of the tree.”

Some are created in a day; others may take up to a week. “You can make tons of mistakes with this art form and work them in. There is the fun of working with shadows and light -- figuring what way the sun is coming from.”

Among the titles of the the pieces are “Happy Face,” “Stunted,” “Deep Pockets,” “Stuck,” “Can’t Catch Me,” “When Lightning Strikes,” “Flagging Meadow,” and “In the Pits.”

The framed ones are framed in black oversized frames “because black speaks to depression. But they are unusual fames in that they are made of leather, linen

She will, on Thursday, discuss some of her emotions behind each piece -- what it is depicting and the finer points of the words -- if visitors wish. Or they can just enjoy the art at face value with its intricate dot patterns creating tree forms.

But just to offer a hint, “When Lightning Strikes” depicts a tree split in half. 

“We had this pear tree that was hit by lightning and split practically in half. Yet it still produced pears. This is symbolic of being bipolar. I cried when I was diagnosed. I didn’t want to be bipolar. But I was told, ‘You have no idea how many of our patients are.’”

Reid says she thinks society just focuses on the bipolar people who make headlines for their behavior, not realizing the hush, hush of people who are dealing with it effectively.

Next up Reid plans to explore “Family Facades” as a theme, using the old marble and granite architecture of Chicago as a basis.

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