Views of pond and port


Art: Suzan Rouse's works in many...

November 10, 1996|By Stephanie Shapiro

Views of pond and port; Art: Suzan Rouse's works in many 0) media capture the nuances of nature.

At different hours and in different seasons, artist Suzan Rouse returned to the placid fish pond with the water lilies and slender nymph sculpture on the Johns Hopkins University campus in North Baltimore. Each time she went, in rain, snow, blazing sun and twilight, the light, the air, the mood was different.

Rouse's sketches led to a series of monoprints gloriously saturated with the pond's nuances, in which she abstracted "the spirituality of nature."

Rouse's pond series, portraits, still lifes, and prints and etchings inspired by Baltimore's waterfront and 14th century Arabic fables are featured in an art exhibition called "Beast and Beauties." The show at the Metropol Cafe runs through Dec. 29. Six other Baltimore artists also have work in the show.

Much can be be gained from returning to a place "that changes all the time but is always there," Rouse says. "You get to really know it. It becomes part of you."

The nymph, in some of her prints, is clearly a nymph. In other prints, it is a stylized, turquoise wiggle. In yet another print, an enormous dragonfly engages the nymph in druidic communion. Lily pads may leap, electric green, from the murky water. Or they merge in a profusion of joyous color.

One print is dotted with rain spots, from when Rouse was caught in a downpour as she worked.

A blade of grass, stuck in a solution of adhesive and water-color, left another beautiful imperfection.

From the pond, Rouse moved to the Fells Point waterfront. The resulting prints are turbulent with color.

Several, streaked in bright hues, and specked with sails and tugs, could just as likely be set in Brittany. Others, in angrier colors, suggest Baltimore's working waterfront heritage, and perhaps its polluted underbelly.

Rouse was captivated by the Arabic fables told from the anthropomorphic view of animals and often violent in nature. Their subtle depiction of "human foibles, jealousies and hopes" appealed to Rouse. While they examine good and evil, their "gray areas are so much more prominent than in Aesop," she says.

Over the years, Rouse, who has exhibited work in Japan and Bolivia as well as in Maryland, has devised an exceptionally simple form of printing that she has taught to school children throughout Baltimore. "Anybody can do it," she says.

Once, when ill, Rouse made several prints in bed. She brushed liquid Ivory soap as an adhesive onto her plastic plate, sketched her tea pot and cup with watercolor crayons, and used plates and her thumbs to press the image onto a thick sheet of paper. The result, displayed in the Metropol show, is dreamy, painterly, something to hang on the wall and take comfort in when you are sick in bed.

On exhibit

"Beasts and Beauties" can be seen at Metropol Cafe, 1713 N. Charles St., through Dec. 29. Hours are from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and from 6 p.m. until midnight Friday and Saturday.

After undergoing a needle biopsy, Jill Lion had to fret through a week before she would learn whether she had breast cancer. As a sculptor, though, she did her worrying with clay, creating the models for four works that reflected her apprehension. She called them "Cancer Fears."

At the end of that week six years ago, she received good news. The test results were negative. But her ordeal was not over. There were more biopsies for Lion and ultimately a double mastectomy. But even as she experienced the traumas of breast cancer, Lion continued giving expression to her feelings through her sculpting.

That artwork -- collectively titled "Reckoning in Stone: Jill Lion on Breast Cancer" -- is now on view at the National Museum of Health & Medicine in Washington, where it will remain on display until April.

Slim and curly-haired, Lion answered the door of her studio in the Mill Centre wearing faded jeans and a pink shirt flecked with white powder. She is a warm and cheerful 55-year-old woman and she speaks without hesitation about her encounter with breast cancer.

Lion was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous condition known as "lobular carcinoma in situ." It did not mean, she was told, that she would develop a full case of breast cancer, only that her chances were three times higher than those of someone without that condition. Her doctor was concerned to find that Lion has a duct system conducive to the spread of cancer if it did develop.

By then, Lion, who is married and the mother of two grown children, had endured more than three years of breast cancer scares. "I'd had enough already," she says. She followed her doctor's recommendation and had the mastectomy.

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