Suzette Haden Elgin's Art Gallery
Suzette's husband has now set
up an online gallery selling limited edition prints of her drawings, at
Suzette Haden Elgin is a self-taught artist. Not because she was so arrogant that she felt no need to be taught, but because every time she enrolled in an art course the same thing happened: The teacher would watch her struggle unsuccessfully for half a dozen lessons with that obligatory Apple-Sitting-By-A-Bottle, and then gently advise her to take lessons in something else. She therefore taught herself to draw by using her crocheting skills to make fiber art pictures that she calls "crochaintings," and moved on from there. Suzette has been crocheting for half a century; she uses no patterns, which means that no two of her fiber art pieces are ever alike; and she could crochet a Volkswagen — with an automatic transmission and a catalytic converter — if she had enough yarn. She now works in three media: fiber art; gourd art; and drawings in ink and colored pencil; her work can be seen at the science fiction convention art shows. (Check the "Schedule" link for times and places.)
Crochaintings (that's crow-shaynetings) are 'paintings' done almost entirely in crochet; Suzette sometimes adds a little embroidery, a few beads and bells and buttons, that sort of thing. Thanks to sturdy reeds from the river at her home that go through crocheted loops at the top of the picture, and thanks to the indestructibility of acrylic yarns, crochaintings are ready to hang without any need for glass or frame. They are completely touchable art, impervious to peanut butter; most will go straight through a washer and dryer if you take the reed out of the loops first.
The Ozarques [that's oh-ZARKS] are "guardian spirits of place" that appear in Suzette's science fiction. The Ozarques she creates as art pieces are crocheted and embroidered figures, about eight to twelve inches tall. Suzette makes little girl Ozarques and elderly woman Ozarques and everything in between, and wraps each one in a wonderful crocheted and embroidered quilt that honors her native Ozark landscape.
Suzette also crochets baskets and dragons and dolls and vests and necklaces and fandangous artful toys.
Suzette raises her gourds herself, in her garden; they're gathered, and dried, and encouraged to age — all naturally. That means she uses no pesticides or herbicides or othercides to grow them; and she doesn't scrub them with bleach or throw them away at the First Sign Of A Spot in the ageist fashion prescribed in books; she mops up after them when necessary till they're "cured," but that's all. When they're ready to paint, she uses the traditional method of Ozark whittlers who, to whittle a goat, remove all the parts that don't look like a goat. She looks at the gourd carefully to see what it wants to be, paints in those things that are already there — dragons, angels, castles, cathedrals, mountains, waterfalls, whatever the gourd itself provides — and then adds finishing details to tie it all together. No two finished gourds are ever exactly alike, because you never know what will turn up on one next.
Most of Suzette's gourds are Gourdworld Gourds. These are painted with the fanciful landscapes that make up Gourdworld — stone walls, tiny villages and figures, seas and rivers and waterfalls and forests and mountains — and, when the gourd allows it, windows into an outer space through which can be seen glimpses of still other worlds. She also makes a few Star Bowls — gourds cut for use as bowls and painted with the blues and whites and golds of a starry night sky, with layer after layer of color added until the whole bowl glows. Why only a few? Because they're made from gourds that have aged naturally without a single mark on their surface, and those are rare.
Suzette's drawings are done in
black-and-white ink, or in ink and colored pencil, in a wide variety of
subjects. She draws Tornados — including TornadoCrones; she
draws Intersections, which are fractured landscapes of intersecting
worlds; she draws a series of Rejoicery landscapes and Gloryscapes,
which are just what they sound like. And then there are the drawings of
an "alternative fiction" Ozark world filled with multicolored possums,
elaborate (sometimes quilted) cattle, Ozarques on duty, and many other
Copyright © 2002 by Suzette Haden Elgin
Photos Copyright © 2002 by George Elgin, all rights reserved