Susan Beallor-Snyder: From conception to creation
Susan Beallor-Snyder, an American artist born and raised in New York City, has come full circle after moving around the United States for much of her adult life. Back in New York she is putting her artwork front and center.
The challenges in her life have informed the work that she is currently creating. The twists and turns of her large-scale manila rope sculptures evoke the emotions that she has experienced.
In this article Susan shares with us an intimate and moving story of one of her works.
Name of piece: Broken
Year of piece: 2014
Size of piece: 100” x 36”
Materials used: Natural manila rope
Techniques used: Hand knotting and weaving
A shift in priorities
TextileArtist.org: How did the idea for the piece come about? What was your inspiration?
Susan Beallor-Snyder: From the time I was married in 1988, we moved around the country for my husband’s work. Every 3 or 4 years we sold our home and went to a new city and started a new life. It was exciting and fun in many ways but also very stressful and because of my chronic fatigue and undiagnosed autoimmune disease, it was an ongoing challenge to keep up with the demands of being a corporate wife in a very busy household.
My artwork has taken a back seat for much of my married life. Moving every few years, continuous renovations in each city, raising the girls, taking care of 3 dogs, lots of entertaining and taking care of aging and ailing parents on both sides kept me from pursuing a career in the arts that I longed for.
In the end, it was my choice to make family a priority but it also cost me dearly as I felt that I missed a great part of who I was and who I wanted to be. I sacrificed many of my desires as an artist and wanting to live closer to the earth in a more simple way in order to live the corporate lifestyle that was required and raise my children and be close to my family. It took a toll on my already challenged health and emotionally I wasn’t being totally true to myself.
As the children grew up and became more independent, I slowly began to focus on my art. I spent 15 years making jewelry in spare bedrooms in a few of the cities we lived in. I loved making and selling my jewelry but as the price of gold went sky high I began to contemplate the kind of art I was creating and began to desire working larger and more bold and be able to exhibit that work.
My focus on jewelry shifted to manila rope sculptures that evolved out of my time going back to school for professional development. It was a constant challenge to take time away from the family and focus on my art but I found it was necessary in order to keep my sanity and I got to a point where I knew I had to be true to myself whatever the cost. My husband who has always been supportive seemed to feel that I had shifted my priorities away from him and pursuing my art and following my passions began to drive a wedge between us.
Exploring personal goals
In 2013 our youngest graduated from high school and left for college. My husband was in a big corporate job and busy with that so it should have been a time for celebration. A time for each of us to explore our personal goals and spend time traveling and enjoying each other’s company without the distraction of children.
A year earlier, I had rented and set up a large studio space in Atlanta, Georgia where we had been living for about 8 years, the longest we had been in any one home, having outgrown my home studio. I was ecstatic and eager to begin the focus of my large-scale manila rope sculptures.
It was at this time that my husband began to question our life together. We had had our ups and downs over the years but to me there was never a question that we had a strong bond and that we wanted to be together. Suddenly, my life was turned upside down. How could this be? We finally had time and resources and our health to enjoy spending time together traveling to places we had always wanted to go. Following our passions side by side. I felt broken hearted and began the work I titled ‘Broken’.
Twists and turns
Take us through the creation of the piece stage by stage.
I wanted to express the sadness and pain I felt during this difficult time. My heart was broken and I decided to create two halves of a heart woven into the piece. I thought about fabric to represent a feminine side so I took a white pillowcase and cut it into strips. I wanted it to look weathered so I tea stained each strip and let them dry. I tied them into one side of the broken heart.
This was different than any of my pieces before. I liked the idea of the fabric strips. How to express the pain… blood, my blood. I took a pin and poked my fingers till they bled and dripped the blood onto the strips of tea stained (tear stained) fabric. I wasn’t able to bleed enough to create the effect I wanted so I tried using ink.
I stepped back from the work and thought long and hard about where this was heading. It didn’t feel right; It didn’t look the way I wanted it to. I thought a long time about where this piece wanted to go and felt the pain of what I was doing and what I was going through. I felt good about the process of using the fabric and the blood and the pain I felt to bleed onto the piece.
In the end, I decided to pull out the fabric and continue using only rope; the twists and turns of the rope expressed the emotions I was going through at that time in my life.
Keep your identity
What journey has the piece been on since its creation?
After I created this piece I was asked to donate a piece to an auction at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Atlanta, Georgia. The piece didn’t get any bids and I was happy to have it back.
About a year later, I was approached by the curator at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in lower Manhattan for a show entitled ‘Sew What?’
After sending images of my available work, she chose ‘Broken’ and I shipped the piece to New York for that show. By that time, I had become attached to this piece so I told them it was not for sale.
Soon after, my husband and I moved from Atlanta back to New York where we are both from. I gave up my Atlanta studio and now have a studio in Connecticut where I have the piece hanging in my studio.
My husband and I are still together and we have worked hard on our relationship. Our relationship has changed and evolved over the 30 years we have been together. I worked in film and television in the early years before our children were born. We went into our marriage with the idea that he would be the breadwinner and I would be the stay at home mom who managed the kids and house and all that goes with it. It was how we both wanted it so it worked well.
There comes a time where you grow and want to experience new things and pursue other interests. I have seen and experienced first-hand and in other relationships the difficulty and resistance that men have in supporting their wives leaving the nest once their children have grown to go on to focus on themselves and new interests or interests that were put aside for many years. Many husbands want to know that they are a priority. There’s a part of them that they don’t want to admit to that likes being taken care of. It’s difficult to please everyone and keep your identity.
I know that my decision to continue to follow my dreams is the right path for me. I don’t know what the future holds but the world is my oyster and the more I follow my heart, the richer my life becomes.
For more information visit: www.susanbeallorsnyder.com
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