Just a few years ago, Susie Frazier's slate creations were displayed in 60 galleries from New York to Los Angeles. Using power tools, she cut the sleek material into small pieces, then arranged them in mosaic fashion to decorate furniture, candles, picture frames and other furnishings. But while she was building a solid career as an artist, she was also acquiring health problems: Dust particles from the cut stone were entering her bloodstream, causing free-radical damage -- a condition that could have become chronic if she continued her work. Reluctantly, she closed her business, Set in Stone, in early 2000.
"My world as I knew it was ending," she says. "But I figured I wanted to have a family, and it's better to be safe than sorry."
It wasn't long before Frazier, 30, found another artistic outlet, one with no potential health risks. These days, she uses leaves and plant remains to create abstract and representational wall art. Her year-round search for these materials leads to a plethora of colors and textures. Frazier keeps it natural, eschewing paints or finishes that would alter the colors of the plant materials, and using the unavoidable curls and cracks as a sign of the dominating force of Mother Nature. "I work with the premise that nature knows how to create itself," says the Lakewood resident. "I'm just a good partner in the process."
"Lights on Chi," one of Frazier's works currently on view at Bockrath Gallery in Murray Hill, is a collage of crimson and purple leaves that evokes memories of walking through the woods on a crisp autumn day. "Meadow Grass on Wood," also on display at Bockrath Gallery, has a windswept feeling; you want to reach behind the glass and run your fingers through the tan reeds.
Frazier says her work allows her to illustrate respect for the earth, something instilled in her as a child growing up in Colorado. "My mother often encouraged me to gather materials like large tree branches, river rocks and oversized pine cones to decorate the interior of our house," she says. "This practice of bringing found objects from nature into the home has been a dominant influence in my life and artistic career."
On Sept. 29 at 1 p.m., Frazier will be speaking at Willowick Public Library on how to "look to nature as an opportunity to expand our self-awareness. I like to think that my work is building links between contemporary art and mankind's relationship to nature," she says. "By utilizing elements from the earth, I learn how life organizes itself, naturally." Examples of her artwork will be displayed during the discussion, and one piece will be on view at the library during the entire month of September.
Frazier's husband, Tim Mueller, is an ardent supporter of her artwork. In fact, he's currently building a cabin in a wooded area of western Pennsylvania, where Frazier can spend the weekends scavenging for materials for her pieces.
In the meantime, Frazier continues to gather leaves and grasses from the Cleveland area as she awaits the birth of her first child this winter. She finds the advent of motherhood another fascinating side of nature. "There's definitely a rebirth and renewal process happening in all aspects of my life," she says.