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Work Samples

Torn But Not Broken

Torn But Not Broken
Torn But Not Broken. Printmaking on manipulated textile, 22 x 24", 2017

Goats

Goats
Page from handmade textile book, 16.5 x 22.5", 2017

Unperson

Unperson
Page from handmade textile book. Hand-carving on manipulated fabric, 16.5 x 22", 2017

Pyrrhic Meters

Sounds of the sun Shining on Migrants
Page from handmade textile book Sun Mirrors. Printmaking on handwoven linen, 16.5 x 22.5", 2017

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About Suzanne

Baltimore County

Suzanne Coley's picture
Suzanne comes to the art world with a background as a child abuse investigative officer.  She believes in the power of art to shine light on society's darkest moments, to document the forgotten, and to find humanity in the most cruel situations.  The complex format of book arts allows Suzanne to engage the viewer through a variety of senses, and on multiple cognitive levels. "Are artists' books really art?  I've never heard of artists' books, what are they?"  Yes, I get these... more

Burgundy Lives

Why make books? I love books! For thousands of years, prior to Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type in Germany during the mid 1400s, each and every book was made by hand. Books were expensive, highly coveted possessions of wealthy collectors, monasteries, and aristocracy. If you were somebody, you owned a beautiful, well crafted book! Maintaining the high quality traditions of handmade books of the past is important to me. In recent years, I have replaced handmade paper with hand-woven and luxury textiles. These textiles are innately tactile and relatable: Fabric pages are not flat and completely blank. Each stitch adds texture and dimension. The fabric moves and molds itself in the hands of the reader. Even people who never or rarely work with paper will recognize the textures of fabric from their own experiences.

All I Have

All I Have is part of a larger year-long project that was inspired by African textiles I received from the National Museum of African Art Library. While working on this project there were multiple news reports about hundreds of migrants traveling in unsafe, overcrowded rickety boats in the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. A few strong winds, bad weather conditons or strong currents could easily capsize these boats, drowning everyone on board. One survivor of these "death voyages" described the ordeal as "it was our only hope."

One of the textiles I received was a woman's garment from Northern Africa. I imagined her story based on these news stories and "it was our only hope" and created All I Have.

All I Have

My seventh son is all I have.
We must go to land that doesn't
birth grenades. What good is fertile
soil when Earth knows only graves.

Blessed is the garden of Eden
Our Eves are kidnapped
before they know apples.

My seventh son is all I have.
We must go to land that is dry and calm.
They burn our breath as we pray.

Gorillas teach apples the secrets of war.

We heard the crash, then the waves.
Please blow air into his lungs,
my seventh son is all I have.
- Suzanne Coley

  • All I Have

    All I Have
    mixed media fiber arts, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • All I Have

    All I Have cover
    Wooden cover for handmade textile book: All I Have
  • My Seventh Son

    My Seventh Son
    My seventh son is all I have, we must go to land that is dry and calm.
  • Alive

    Alive
    Nothing is alive.
  • Magical Rainforest

    Magical Rainforest
    Our magical rainforest lost its power.
  • Spells

    Spells
    Spells no longer work.
  • Rebels

    Rebels
    They say rebels put poisoned gun powder on roots.
  • God has left us

    God has left us
    God has left us. Gorillas are spooked.
  • Metal Reflections

    Metal Reflections
    Metal reflections send them into violent dances like our boat had in the ocean.
  • Blow Air

    Blow Air
    We heard the crash, then the waves. Please blow air into his lungs, my seventh son is all I have.

Primary Lessons

A work of art is a refined and intensified form of experience. Working with African textiles from the National Museum of African Art Library allowed me to use finely hand-woven and hand printed fabrics of the past and turn them into new stories. All of my books contain stories or information that I believe are culturally and socially significant. Marrying the book form to textiles as page material, elegantly argues that fabric doesn't just have to be wearable, but that it too has stories to tell, and has a past worth sharing. The history and stories behind the vintage textiles are essential components of the handmade books. They add extra layers of meaning that can be quite personal: Using fabrics that are personal to the author, unique to a particular culture, and/or relatable to the reader again fuses the material form of the work to its meaning and adds complexity to the work.

During my year-long project working with African textiles from the National Museum of African Art, I had the opportunity to speak with scholars from the Congo, Benin, and Nigeria. It was one of the most amazing experiences as an artist to see how art historians view the artistic process and the final art piece.

Poem for Primary Lessons
New primary school curriculum
lots of biology lessons.
Last week we dissected spinal columns
24 true, 9 false vertebrae.

Cicadas, he said, so many of them come out
at the same time that all the birds eating
them get full and leave the rest alone.

"Predator satiation," my teacher explained.
A defense mechanism.

Doesn't work with all predators, I guess.
Today they opened my teacher's throat
for all to see. The whole school was
commanded to come out at the same time.
All the guns shooting us never stopped.
Play dead.
- Suzanne Coley

Please visit my blog for details.

  • Scream

    Scream
    A defense mechanism.
  • PrimaryLessons

    Primary Lessons
    mixed media fiber arts, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • Bones

    Bones
    Today they opened my teacher's throat . . .
  • School

    school
    The whole school was commanded to come out at the same time.
  • Primary Lessons

    curriculum
    New primary school curriculum.
  • Primary Lessons

    Primary Lessons
    mixed media fiber art, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • Torn but Not Broken

    Torn but Not Broken
    Cicacadas, he said, so many of them come out at the same time that all the birds eating them get full and leave the rest alone.
  • The Shooting

    The shooting
    The shooting
  • Play Dead

    Play Dead
    But all the guns shooting us never stopped. Play Dead.
  • Defense Mechanism

    Defense mechanism
    A defense mechanism. Does not work with all predators, I guess.

See Us

The fine vintage velvets and rare hand-loomed linens in See Us are innately tactile and relatable. The fabrics move and mold themselves in the hands of the reader. Even people who never or rarely work with paper will recognize the textures of fabric from their own experiences. It was important to preserve the history and story behind each piece of fabric while creating new stories. Please read more about the project in my blog.

Poetry for See Us
Doctors who crossed barbed wire borders
told me to write my story. Perhaps if others knew
what was going on here I . . . we would get help.
Help. Ease. Alleviate. Assuage.

I search for the right words with my limited
vocabulary. How do I say, "Take that 200lb
man off my 12 year old body without that
gun breaking my front teeth?"

How can anyone undo the damage.
Fix all of these broken bodies.
Revive souls already in Psychopomp's arms.
Palliate. Temper. Diminish
- Suzanne Coley

  • Assuage

    Assuage
    Doctors say 12 year old girls in America have birthday parties with lots of pink balloons . . .
  • Assuage

    Assuage
    They try to make us laugh and dance. mixed meida fiber arts, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • Crossing Barbed Wire Borders

    Crossing Barbed Wire Borders
    I want to write about delicate butterflies.
  • Crossing Barbed Wire Borders

    I want to write
    I want to write about lovely blue feathered parrots who live in the majestic Congo rainforest.
  • Promethean Bound

    The open sores . . .
    The open sores are healing but the pain is still here.
  • I Carry

    I Carry
    I carry too much weight and fall over with this balloon inside of me.
  • Mask

    Mask
    My ankles can't bear the load. They made sandals from plastic water bottles and string.
  • See Us, Soothe

    Soothe
    mixed media fiber arts, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • Blue Feathered Parrots

    Blue feathered parrots
    I want to write about delicate butterflies and lovely blue feathered parrots who live in the majestic Congo rainforest.
  • Blue Feathered Parrots, detail

    Blue Feathered Parrots
    I want to write about delicate butterflies and lovely blue feathered parrots . . .

Asymmetrical Zeal

Asymmetrical Zeal is part of a larger year-long project that was inspired by African textiles I received from the National Museum of African Art Library. One of the textiles I was given was beautiful, but couldn't be printed on. It resisted every paint, ink, stain, and dye. I was amazed at its durability and strength. During one of my visits to the museum I explained that I couldn't really work with the fabric, and it was different than anything I had ever seen. One of the curators told me that it had been woven with the thinnest strands of copper. Copper gave it its beautiful shine and made it tough.

With this in mind, I created Asymmetrical Zeal. I wanted to show the strength of the textiles. Please read my blog post for more information.

Goats

This mixed media textile book project was inspired by African textiles I received from the National Museum of African Art Library. Goats is an exploration of the inextricable ties between man and the environment. In desperate times, how do people find hope and inspiration? For more information on this project please see my year-long blog posts.

  • Lions

    Lions
    Lions learned from your courage. **Mixed media fiber arts, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • Monkeys

    Monkeys
    Monkeys basked in your splendor.
  • Goats

    Goats
    A thousand shades of green was your kingdom.
  • Burning Air

    Burning Air
    Wet wasteland, with your burning air, we inhale suffering
  • Bellies Bloat

    Bellies Bloat
    Wet wasteland, our bellies bloat.
  • Goats

    Goats
    Green wetland, hot tempered and feisty, your rugged terrain we roam.
  • Goats: Roots

    Roots
    mixed media fiber art with hand beading, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • Goats:Roots

    Last Tears
    detail
  • Billy Goats

    Billy Goats
    Billy goats don't eat roots.
  • Morning Dew

    Morning Dew
    Our children's last tears make your morning dew.

Exodus

(Mother and daughter are on the side of a road cleaning windshields.)

Don't spray so much cleaner! I pay money for it, you know.

Why do dragonflies come out of mudbugs, uh, you ask?

Because they think they are better than everybody, that's why. Because they don't want to be working at this truck stop cleaning windshields all their lives like us.

I told that boy: Nothing good will happen if you try to make it to Europe. But no, he wanted "normal life." He wanted Sweden. So he spread his wings and made it all the way to Algeria. Was beaten and robbed three times along the way. All so that he could drown in the sea.

At least they don't send dragonfly mothers pictures of their squished son
- Suzanne Coley

  • The Sea

    The Sea
    mixed media fiber arts, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • The Sea, detail

    The Sea
    Crossing the sea . . .
  • Migrants

    Exodus
    mixed media fiber arts, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • Migrants

    Migrants
    handmade textile book page. hand embroidery. 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • Barbed Wires

    Barbed Wires
    I told that boy: Nothing good will happen if you try to make it to Europe.
  • Exodus

    Exodus
    But no, he wanted "normal life." He wanted Sweden.
  • Exodus

    Exodus
    So he spread his wings and made it all the way to Algeria.
  • Exodus

    Exodus
    mixed media fiber art (with hand embroidery), 16.5 x 25.5 inches, 2017
  • Exodus

    Exodus
    He was beaten and robbed three times along the way. All so that he could drown in the sea.
  • Exodus

    Exodus
    At least they don't send dragonfly mothers pictures of their squished sons on Volvo trucks.

King

King is part of a larger year-long project inspired by textiles I received from the National Museum of African Art in October 2016. When I received the textiles I did a lot of research on the origins of each textile. During my research I came across the Mende of Sierra Leone. I became fascinated with the Mende helmet mask and the ideals this mask conveys. Worn by only women, this mask has a broad forehead representing the sharp, contemplative mind of the ideal Mende woman. The mask also has a bird on top that symbolizes a woman's ability to see and know things others don't. I visited the National Museum of African Art to see the Mende helmet mask in their permanent collection. The story of King is inspired by my visits, the textiles, research, and current events: What if a little girl dreamed of being King?

Please read my blog posts for more details.

Poetry for King
when i grow up i want to be king
with body guards dressed in red
on horses with royal names
shielding me from these bullies
no more broken bones

when i grow up i want to be king
like the one on postcards my teacher
sent me: King Goerge VI
i don't care about castles, a mud brick
house will do. i don't need electricity
i see in the dark

when i grow up i wan to be king
to have a team of doctors,
to take care of my whole family.
to stop my brother from throwing up red.

when i grow up, i want to be king
when people see me, they will say hello
even if the sun isn't shining.

when i grow up
tell them to water
the hurt
grow i,
girls can
be
kings
when
- Suzanne Coley

  • Girl Kings

    Girl Kings
    when i grow up i want to be king
  • King

    King
    Title page of handmade book King, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • King George VI

    King George VI
    mixed media fiber art, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • King Georg VI, cover image

    King George VI
    when i grow up i want to be king to have a team of doctors to take care of my whole family to stop my brother from throwing up red
  • Chartreuse

    Chartreuse
    when people see me, they will say hello
  • Feathers to fly

    Feathers to Fly
    Girl King
  • Fractured Shadows

    Fractured Shadows
    mixed media fiber arts, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • Fractured Shadows

    Fractured Shadows
    King George VI stamp
  • The Sun

    The Sun
    handmade textile page, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017
  • The Hurt

    The Hurt
    mixed meida fiber arts, 16.5 x 25.5 x 2 inches, 2017

Selected Artworks 2008 - 2018

  • 365 Painted Songs

    Painted Songs
    Painted Songs: In 2015, I created a book a day. This is an image of the books from January 2015. ** All books measure 8.75 x 11.75 x .5 inches, have at least 20 pages, and no two are the same.
  • Dreams

    Dreams
    mixed media fiber arts, 22 x 25 x 1 inches, 2017
  • Dreams

    Dreams
    mixed media fiber arts (book), 14 x 11 x .5 inches (closed), 2017
  • Mouth

    Mouth
    mixed media fiber arts,22 x 25 x 1 inches, 2017
  • Mouth

    Mouth
    mixed media fiber arts (book), 22 x 25 x 1 inches (opened), 2017
  • Hope

    Hope
    mixed media unique book with matching clamshell box, 15 x 13 x 1 inches, 2016-2017
  • Once Upon a Time

    Once Upon a Time
    mixed media fiber arts (book), 8.75 x 11.75 x .5 inches, 2015
  • Relief

    Relief
    mixed media fiber arts, 8.75 x 11.75 x .5 inches, 2015
  • Supersonic Realities

    Supersonic Realities
    mixed media fiber arts, 8.75 x 11.75 x .5 inches, 2015
  • Cygnets

    Handmade textile book
    Handmade Textile book page, 2017

Connect with Suzanne

website:

Suzanne's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.