A! Magazine for the Arts

“Layers (Blue Wings),” mixed media on plexiglass and mirror, is part of Suzanne Stryk’s Mirror Series.

“Layers (Blue Wings),” mixed media on plexiglass and mirror, is part of Suzanne Stryk’s Mirror Series.

Stryk: From scientific illustrator to artist

February 28, 2018

Suzanne Stryk started as a scientific illustrator in the ‘80s. While she enjoyed parts of that job, it didn’t fulfill her artistic desires to explore the mysteries of the natural world. Nature is central to Stryk’s work. It may be a painting of a bird or a nest pulled into a sculptural shape in a mixed media piece, but the natural world runs through her work. It’s also throughout her studio, which is filled with samples she’s collected on her walks.

One of her series of paintings, “The Mirror Series,” is designed to draw the viewer into the landscape she creates.

“Years ago I discoveredan old mirror with the silver peeling off the back; you could see right through it. It gave me the idea of layering things behind such a mirror while painting things on top, creating multiple layers. I use mirrors with the silver backing partially removed in several of the small assemblages in ‘Notes on the State ofVirginia.’ It relates to my idea of glimpsing layers of the landscape.

“Artists often look for a way to get people into the work. With the viewer’s reflections in the mirror, they are literally part of the art, at least for a moment.

“I hope viewers gain a greater interest in how they might personally experience a place how they might weave their own direct observations with science, history and culture. And that, that greater awareness will lead them to take action to preserve the living world.

Stryk’s latest project is documenting observations of a place north ofBristolcalled “GwendolynRidge.” She is doing the same thing on this terrain with its ponds, glades and hilly woodlands that she did with the state ofVirginia. This project is still at the drawing and collecting stage.

About Suzanne Stryk

Suzanne Strykwas born in Chicago and resides in Southwest Virginia. She received a Master of Arts in painting from East Tennessee State University and her Bachelor of Arts (art history) from Northern Illinois University.

She’s had solo exhibitions in locations throughout the country, including the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, the Eleanor B. Wilson Museum in Roanoke, Virginia, and Gallery 180, The Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago.

Her paintings have hung in more than 60 group shows, including those at The Anchorage Museum of Art in Alaska and The Butler Institute of American Art in Ohio. A mid-career survey of the artist’s work, “Second Nature: The Art of Suzanne Stryk,” spanning the years 1990-2005, was organized in 2005 by the William King Museum in Abingdon, Virginia, an affiliate of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

The artist’s images have appeared in numerous publications, includingArt PapersandNew American Paintings,with full portfolios inShenandoah,The Kenyon Review,OrionandEcotone.

Among the collections that own her work are the Smithsonian, Washington, D.C., The David Brower Center, Berkeley, California, The D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson Collection, Scotland, and the Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia.
Her series of drawings “Genomes and Daily Observations”appears in the Viewing Program at The Drawing Center, New York City. She is the recipient of a 2007 George Sugarman Foundation grant and a 2010-11 Virginia Commission for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship for her project “Notes on the State of Virginia.”

She is affiliated with Blue Spiral 1 Gallery, Asheville, North Carolina and Cumberland Gallery, Nashville, Tennessee.

“Although they utilize Mylar and Google Earth, these 3-D collages do have an 18th-century feel. They suggest curiosity cabinets and the childhood of natural science, when men boyishly collected bones, leaves, feathers and the like. Stryk doesn’t feign innocence of contemporary knowledge, though. Her ‘How the Past Returns’ features a bay-shaped black blot and text from a booklet titled ‘Climate Change and the Chesapeake Bay.’

“Layered with images and information, these pieces reward close inspection. They’re part Jefferson, part real-world hypertext documents.” Washington Post, Mark Jenkins

“Like the enigmatic Rosetta Stone, Stryk’s beautiful mixed media panels invite close investigation, beckoning decipherment of a personal iconography . . . . She is as much a sculptor as a painter, teasing fibers from a bird’s nest to render them tactile or scratching notations into her gesso that are part science, part poetry and all obsession.” Leah Stoddard, Director Second Street Gallery, Charlottesville, Virginia

“In her exhibition “The Collector’s Plan,” on view at Second Street Gallery, Stryk explores the human impulse to order and organize the natural world, to detect an underlying design, to contain and master time, birth, death, in a futile but irresistible urge to make the unknowable knowable.”

“Grappling with such an enormous theme could easily get heavy-handed, but Stryk keeps things light literally. By using a vocabulary of small things eggs, feathers, insects, even DNA"she creates a visual conversation that is both intriguing and amusing.” The Hook, Laura Parsons

THERE'S MORE: Stryk’s ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’ is on exhibit