Thursday, February 28, 2013


handmade paper by Suzanne Coley
A few weeks ago I began my new series Monsters.  I have been trying to keep the linocuts and handmade papers concise, simple, and clean.  Sometimes this means destroying some pieces and starting over.   We will see . . .

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Color of Life

My artist's book Khroma is a true account of my battle with a life threatening disease.  These words are from my diary and art journal.  

We all handle our mortality differently.  This is how I handled mine.  During my cancer treatment I created over 2,000 hand printed color and black & white photos in the darkroom.  I would spend all of my waking moments there, trying to leave evidence that I was on this planet.

Khroma by Suzanne Coley

Khroma has 10 movements.  The following is an excerpt from movement 3.  At some point I will post the actual artist's books.  (Each movement has its own livre d'artiste.)  Characters are Black, Magenta, Yellow, Cyan.  


Black is the key, all others follow.
My breasts are so sore.

The biopsy seemed more 
medieval than modern.  
Did you see that metal table with the 
holes in the middle just for the breasts?  
Didn’t see any of those
 things on the Discovery Channel.

After the biopsy, my gown was covered 
with blood.  The nurse said they
had to change it, give me a crisp new one.  
I said I didn’t mind going back to the waiting 
area with my bloody one.  She said, “We 
don’t want to scare the other patients.”
A bomb is being set off inside of me.  
I am imploding. 
My emotions are scattering all over this
finely decorated
waiting area.

I had dreams, you know?
I could have been a mathematician.
Hey, I know a little sumin’, sumin’,
about tangent vectors as directional
Math isn’t always about numbers.
That’s what trips people up.
It’s about the patterns.  
The maps.  
The thoughts.  
Working alone at 3 
in the morning,
figuring it all out.

2:30 pm  
Youngest one in waiting area.  
All the faces around have seen
many winters and summers. 
I wonder how many summers
I’ll have.  Will they be hot or mild?  
Will I sweat or enjoy the sun’s rays?  
I loved the chemistry of photography.

Is this a dream or a nightmare?  
My hopes.  I was going to be the
lead photographer on that Vogue shoot.  
Just got hired.  
Milan here I come.

You are dreaming.
Concentrating on numbers?

3 pm.   Cancer.  Cancer.  
Cancer.  Omigod!  
If I had waited five years, 
I’d be dead.  
I wonder where I’ll be in five years.

No wonder you understand him.

If I would have become a nun 
like I had planned, then 
maybe I wouldn’t have this.

It was physical?


Intellectual intercourse, 
that really jolts the mind.

We are genetically programmed to die,
my science teacher once said.  
But somehow we program ourselves
to believe we will live forever.

You and he have a special chemistry.

It wasn’t about the numbers. 

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers. . . 
What is the message I must get from it?

We must face it.

Some problems take years to figure out.

We don’t have years.

I can’t run from this.  
It’s part of me.  I must 
embrace all of it, like a 
dream deferred – the good 
and the bad.  
The pain and the joy. 

I thought if I painted 
the patterns he would see them.

The contradictions of life.  
Accept them.

He saw them.  
He was figuring them out.

Record them.  
Remember them.

I put them with the faces, 
so he would know.  
Only one person 
would understand them 
– him.

Maybe they will help others.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A careful merger of Titans

A Careful Merger  by Suzanne Coley

A day in the life . . .

Coleyism: 26 II 2013

Connected by Suzanne Coley

Giving voice to a tale of pursuit and desire
He wanted to know her secrets
Republicans sign brief in support of gay marriage
Beneath the raw sienna paint

Remove each layer, delicately, gently
Yahoo orders home workers back to the office
Thoughts, passing moments
Children work in India mines despite a ban

Ocher colored oil beneath their fingernails
How women changed America
Brush against the winds of time
Recipe for a perfect photo
South Korea: First woman sworn in as president

Venetian red lips open the talks

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sonnet XXIV

For through the painter must you see his skill
to find where your true image pictur'd lies

Mademoiselle by Suzanne Coley
Before some of my painting workshops, I would read a Shakespearean sonnet and let the participants use the poem as inspiration.  

Sonnet XXIV

Mine eye hath play'd the painter and hath [stell'd]
Thy beauty's form in table of my heart;
My body is the frame wherein 'tis held,
And perspective it is best painter's art.
For through the painter must you see his skill,
To find where your true image pictur'd lies,
Which in my bosom's shop is hanging still,
That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes.
Now we see what good turns eyes for eyes have done:
Mine eyes have drawn thy shape, and thine for me
Are windows to my breast, wherethrough the sun
Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee,
Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art,
They draw but what they see, know not the heart.
Wm. Shakespeare

The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd Edition, 1997, p. 1847

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Garden of Hope

An excerpt from my artist's book Garden of Hope.

Painter's Sanatorium by Suzanne Coley
rotten teeth spill out
with each attempt to laugh
contorted gestures sit 
on bent knees at the corner store

will he fall on his face?

life in Queensbridge is a rapper's
delight, a poet's hell
a painter's sanatorium

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Flip It

book cover with red ink splashes

I wrote the poem Flip It in 1998 when I worked at a homeless shelter.  One day a homeless lady at the shelter was having a bad day and she threw a cell phone at me.  She was always so calm and nice, and I did not anticipate her actions.  She unexpectedly "flipped out."  

I had always been interested in the brain and mental illness.  I wanted to know what brought people to the shelters.  How did they handle life?  What made people "flip"?

I revised the poem in 2005 when I knew I wanted to make an artist's book.  It was completed in 2007 and a New York City psychiatrist saw it at one of my art shows on the Lower East Side.  He left the show with the book in his hands.

Looking back, I am pleased to have found truth.  A truth about humanity which moved a professional so much he wanted to own my work.

Sir, thank you for sending me these photographs of the book.  s.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Through a quiet dream

Phase Transition by Suzanne Coley
Touch us gently, Time!
We've not proud or soaring wings,
Our ambition, our content,
Lies in simple things.
Humble voyagers are we,
O'er life's dim unsounded sea,
Seeking only some calm clime,
Touch us gently, gentle Time.

Complete poem see: The British Lyre by William Odell Elwell, 1863 (p.67)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

She Walks in Beauty

Fortuna by Suzanne Coley
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half-impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven trees,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.
Lord Byron

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Life Book

Last year I was commissioned to create an original "life book" as a surprise one year anniversary gift from a groom to his husband.  Together for thirty years, they were one of the first gay couples to marry in New York City when the state changed the law and recognized same sex marriage.  

Life Book by Suzanne Coley
The custom-made, hand bound book came with a matching gold leaf box.  The inside pages contained silkscreened and relief prints of the couple, their journey together in life, original art, and a poem.

Life Book  open box with book on right side
When I was in Italy I picked up a few yards of blue silk velvet fabric and some glass beads.  They were the perfect materials to hand sew an elegant pouch for the book and box.

Life Book box 
The brown paper was hand marbled with gold. 
Life Book is wrapped in postage paper before putting inside box
Life Book/box peeking out velvet pouch
Binding Life Book by Suzanne Coley 
gold leaf texture of cover 
Thank you for visiting my blog!  

I See By Your Fingernails

 Documenta 13, Kassel Germany.  100 days of art and creativity.

Ida Applebroog from New York City had a wonderful exhibition in the regal neo-classical Fridericianum/Friedrichsplatz. 

Poster by Ida Applebroog on the wall of her exhibition.

Ida Applebroog allowed everyone to take samples of her artwork and writings.  
It was amazing.  

Writings were all over the walls.  On the floors.  Everywhere you turned.

I will post more about my visit to Germany.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When Art Heals

things she couldn't tell her psychiatrist by Suzanne Coley
One year ago I left my job as Director of an art program for people with psychiatric disabilities to pursue a career as a full-time artist.  

I must say I miss working with artists and writers who think outside the box.  Every day was a wonderful adventure into the depths of imagination, working with unconventional materials, and engaging in artistic projects that allowed participants to express themselves in ways they couldn't to others.

Wishing all of you the best!


Monday, February 18, 2013

I am vintage

The Work of Art in The Age of Its Technological Reproducibility written in 1936 
by philosopher Walter Benjamin kept ringing in my ear today.

It began last week with the search for more Polaroid 669 film.  After trying to buy film from top camera stores in New York City and California I was politely directed to the Internet.  

Photo by Suzanne Coley
I was so excited when I finally found the link to purchase more film online.  But when the link took me straight to eBay's vintage section I realized my work is from a different era.  

Polaroid 669 had been discontinued in 2009.

Photo by Suzanne Coley
Like many artists, I am a petite hoarder and had boxes of these films to last a few years.  

Then I began to think about my darkroom days when I used to cross-process E-6 film and tweak C-41 film in chemicals. 

Yes, I still use a carousel slide projector by Suzanne Coley

I handprinted my color photos on Kodak's professional metallic papers.  I am so happy I kept a few of the boxes, with my handwritten CYM settings of the Beseler and Omega enlargers,  because I couldn't even find info on the Internet.

Darkroom Kodak papers from 1997-1999

Today I pulled out Walter Benjamin's profound essay and reread it again, after years sitting in my collection of "important papers."  He opens it with an excerpt from Paul Valéry, Pièces sur l'art, 1931.  And, I will never forget Paul Valery's words, "We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Moon Shadows

Sometimes my fascination with scientific information I don't really understand allows for interesting experiments in my studio.
Cover of artist's book Moon Shadows by Suzanne Coley
book arts
Inside pages of Moon Shadow 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Shape of Memory

The Shape of Memory, Both Fragile and Fierce is a wonderful New York Times article written by Ben Brantley about The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.  Mr. Brantley writes, "Memory is a force of gravity in this "Glass Menagerie," which is such a thorough rejuvenation of Williams's 1944 drama that I hesitate to call it a revival."

Directed by John Tiffany, the play stars Celia Keenan-Bolger, Cherry Jones, Brian J. Smith, and Zachary Quinto.   The Glass Menagerie is currently playing at the American Repertory Theater.

I feel like catching the next train to Cambridge.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Уральские горы MMXIII

A ten ton meteor blasted over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb.  When I saw  the home videos and raw footage on the news and Internet I had to make this new series of paintings.

Chasing science: Chelyablinsk 15
Chasing Science: Mach 43 by Suzanne Coley
I really wanted to write a poem, but I couldn't find the words.  Perhaps the words will come when we learn more . .  .  My main thought while making these paintings was Science is chasing Nature.
Mach 22 by Suzanne Coley
four color abstract painting
Mach 12 by Suzanne coley
4 color painting
Mach 7 by Suzanne Coley
Mach 3 by Suzanne Coley
Mach 1 by Suzanne coley

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Life is a dream

In 2005, I had a solo exhibition at NCAR's Mesa Laboratory designed by I.M. Pei.
Life is a Dream, 2005 by Suzanne Coley 
Called the master of modern architecture, I.M. Pei studied under Bauhaus designers Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.  Mesa Laboratory sits on the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder, making it one of the most amazing spaces I have ever exhibited.

Life is a dream was one of twenty-five images I created for the exhibition.  It was the perfect place for science and art.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Experiment #127: Pink Excitement

Experimenting with unconventional materials and detritus from my garden (a few trees fell down during Hurricane Sandy and I collected the leaves, bark, and wood).
Handmade paper by Suzanne Coley
handmade paper by Suzanne Coley
I added red ink to the pulp.  When the paper dried it turned this color so I titled it Pink Excitement.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Memory: A Visual Approach

Handmade paper by Suzanne Coley
When I was Director of an art program for artists with psychiatric disabilities I often visited them in psychiatric wards.  I remember during my visits from 2006 through 2011, how I increasingly became interested in how humans create and store memories. Recently, while working on The Beholder's Share show with Generous Company, I became obsessed with how brains create and store memories.

The more I learned and read, the more I wanted to create an external visual counterpart, if possible.

WORDS: I began by shredding a few of my old Greek philosophy books and a discarded novel.

What would I remember if . .  .
I felt memories went through a delicate internal blender that somehow scrambled certain memories, like a Greek expression I used to know well when I was younger, but can no longer recall.  So, I put the shredded paper in a blender.

Handmade papers.
handmade paper
Details in the light.

Monday, February 11, 2013

3 Mathematicians + 1 Visual Artist = Drama

linocut inspired by mathematics, Suzanne Coley
Over the past three weeks, I have worked with 3 mathematicians from Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, and Russia on the Generous Company theatrical production of The Beholder's Share.  I engaged the mathematicians in a few art projects at my studio in Baltimore.

Each mathematician has a doctorate in a different type of math, therefore I had each write a few mathematical problems (from their fields of expertise) on my drawings and designs.  The results were very complex and layered.

As a visual artist from Brooklyn with a master's in humanities (classical literature and philosophy) I felt a little intimidated by their brilliance.  (They said the same about working with a visual artist!)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Transparent Eyeball

And as the eye is the best composer, so light is the first of painters.
                 Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1936)

Photos of actors Tanner Medding and Jenna Rossman by S. Coley
Working on a theatrical project that examines how the brain responds to art and creates memories has made me re-examine how we see and what we remember.

I worked on the set design, papermaking, and visual arts components of the two week show with Generous Company at the Theatre Project in Baltimore.  It was an amazing process!'sGumbo/

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