by Randy Peyser


The Beauty Was Always There

Suzanne Martino was once told that she had a talent for communicating deep concepts and ideas - even troubling ones - and that she would use beauty to convey them, although the form in which she would present this information was then unknown. One afternoon, however, while participating in a women's art group, Suzanne became intrigued by a collage she'd just created on a small canvas. For the next two years, she explored the medium, while adding beads, shells, gemstones, found objects, and hardware as she felt so moved.

Over time, the process evolved, until eventually, the "calling" to do this form of artwork full-time impelled her to let go of the life by which she had come to define herself up to that point. Having been summoned by The Muse, she took the plunge into the cold waters of a new reality: she would extract the pearls of human experience, and then convey those experiences through her artistic expression.

In "The Beauty Was Always There," for example, she tackles the object of many a woman's obsession - her looks. The imagery includes a figure, clearly at peace, who is freeing her heart to fly. A mirror also perches atop a crystal, to remind the viewer of the beauty that she is. "This piece is about our own struggles with self-love, and what we think we need to attain," says Suzanne. "Our journey is often about uncovering those parts of ourselves that have remained hidden from our view. As this piece suggests, at some point, we discover that what we have been seeking has been there all along."

Now Suzanne has created a full repertoire of one-of-a-kind, devotional, and thought-stimulating pieces, perfect for one's altar, or as adornments for any desired space. Using the images of ancient figures as the basis for many of her pieces, she calls her art form, "collassemblage," a self-coined word referring to a combination of collage and assemblage.

With a talent for stirring up the depths of the unconscious, then being able to extol the clear gems of insight that bubble up to the surface, Suzanne is able to visually communicate both the joys and triumphs, as well as the trials and tribulations about what it means to be a human being.

Divided in Life

In "Divided in Life," for example, a character straddles between two possible realities, unsure as to which choice leads to ultimate freedom. With arms outstretched, the figure perches in a "Jack-be-nimble" fashion above an amethyst quartz crystal. A butterfly signifies the possibility that whatever choice is made, in time, personal unity will be achieved. Buyers love Suzanne's work for numerous reasons. For one, her objects are not only beautiful, but they also provide a sense of strength, solace, and insight or inspiration to the viewer.

In addition, many people are moved by the intentions, or stories, that underlie each piece. For example, two women are drawn to a particular image believing that it will inspire a loved one on her journey toward healing from cancer.

Meanwhile, a man who has recently experienced a near-death encounter, is intrigued with "Enter The Blue Door," a piece in which a black bird perches on the left shoulder of a solitary being. Suzanne explains to the viewer that, "according to Don Juan, the shaman in Carlos Casteneda's books, one should always carry death with you like a bird on your left shoulder," the implication being that as we go through our lives, we should always maintain the awareness that we will die. By bringing beauty to a subject that most of us would rather sweep under the mat, she conveys the necessity to acknowledge and embrace this experience that we will all one day encounter.

Tempering her excursions to the swirling depths of the inner realms, the artist also exhibits a flair for humor and playfulness as well. In "Bloom of the Heart: A Mixed Bouquet," for example, a figure poses with a hand across his body. By his side, vintage buttons and tiny metal doodads leap out of a vase made of jade and serpentine. "Romantic love is never simple," offers Suzanne in explanation. "Relationships can be very complicated, with all kinds of issues thrown in." The buttons and doodads represent all of the elements that are found in our relationships - the good, as well as the challenging - hence, the reference to a 'mixed' bouquet.

As she works in meditative repose, content-rich themes, such as "When Sorrow Becomes an Ally," "Asleep in a Sea of Possibility," and "The Heart Finds Its Way" emerge and demand to be explored. She describes her creative process as a "wonderful place" where something greater than herself comes through to enable a particular expression of form to evolve. For example, about to be birthed is, "Fantasy, the Final Frontier," which will explore the way in which we fantasize about our future as a means of not accepting what is happening in the present.

Also key to her creative process is the understanding that every awareness held and action taken has a direct impact on the quality of her work. "Everything effects the whole. There is no such thing as separation," says Suzanne, who is a practicing Buddhist. "I know that in order to keep my art flowing, I need to pay attention to how I'm living my life, because everything translates directly into the work." Therefore, practicing kindness, such as taking the time to visit an elderly aunt, or practicing generosity, become as much a part of her creative process as does applying paint to the canvas.

Along the way, Suzanne has discovered that many deterrents can nip at the heels of those who are committed to their dreams. For example, being a working artist during an economically challenging time can bring up the fear of financial uncertainty. "I named my business, Living Vision Arts because I believe it is important to keep one's vision alive," says Suzanne. "There's something to be said about letting go fully to follow your vision, and stay the course, no matter how difficult the external circumstances seem."

She encourages anyone in pursuit of their vision to stay true to themselves and not be swayed by the opinions of others. To this end, she also practices letting go of having any attachment as to what others think about her work, or even as to where the work might ultimately end up.

All in all, however, she is still a firm believer in beauty. "We're surrounded by so much that lacks beauty, and although beauty is subjective, I believe it is important to offer something that is beautiful."

Indeed, Suzanne's art is both beautiful - and affordable. In addition to the work she's created, she also accepts commissions. For example, one patron recently asked Suzanne to create four pieces based on a poem she'd written about the phases of a life transition she had recently experienced.

Whether her pieces are given as gifts, or are used for personal contemplation or to adorn a living space, the art of Suzanne Martino serves to enrich, inspire and uplift. In closing, the artist says, "I've always loved the image of the high dive, because, for me, it represents diving into one's fears. I tend to go to the depths of the hidden places." Fortunately for us, through the many Living Visions of this deep "see" diver, we come to understand ourselves and our journey through life a little bit better.

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