Suzanne Coley, “Gracious Light”

Suzanne Coley
Baltimore, Maryland

Gracious Light
textiles, linocuts, silkscreens, embroidery
14 x 1.75 x 9.5″

Artist Statement

Love Sonnets from Shakespeare to Baltimore is a textile book arts project that uses vintage Baltimorean wedding dresses, Shakespeare’s sonnets, patchwork quilts, and original printmaking to explore memory, mortality, love, and cultural symbols. The primary inspiration for this project is literary: I am fascinated with Shakespearean sonnets, the fourteen-line masterpieces structured like logical arguments about the emotions influenced by love and hate.

The secondary inspiration for this project is fashion history: I am interested in historical textiles and their social, economic, and cultural significances. Through the refashioning of wedding dresses from the 1930s to 1970 into new book pages, I re-examine how we experience textiles. Through the convergence of literature and fashion, the project is both a multi-sensory response to Shakespeare and a contemporary social commentary.

The artistic style of the work can be described as deconstructionist couture. The fabric of wedding dresses is cut, dyed, painted, manipulated, and collaged with other historic textiles into new patterns and designs that allow the material of the pages to speak. The final look of the pages is very clean, purposeful, and has a fit-to-measure feel. The connection to my community is emphasized through the use of traditional Baltimorean quilting, embroidery, and intricate needle work techniques.

The carefully screen printed sonnets gain additional layers of meaning on the book pages. The text is complemented by my linocut prints and screen prints. The pages move from one voice to many, offering multiple readings to a wide range of audiences.