By Haylie Navarre | LSU Student
Fabric, chicken wire and drops of paint are spread across a clear plastic tarp that covers the floor. This isn't an art studio. It's the home of Baton Rouge lawyer and artist Vickie Suplee.
Suplee graduated from LSU Law School in 1986 and currently serves as an assistant general counselor at the Louisiana Department of Transportation, but her passion is creating art.
For the last six years, Suplee has shown her work in art shows. Her first was created by a group of artists called Artful Dodger. Suplee said the show was more like an exhibit, and the artists' let people hang their work on display.
"If I find something that is visually interesting I'll add it to a piece."
Suplee likes working with small items and combining them into a larger piece of work. She stuck with a monochromatic color scheme in the past because she feels color can take away from the many textures she uses. She said she is trying to move away from that idea by adding color she thinks enhances the texture of a piece, rather than distracts from it.
Her most recently displayed piece of art, featured in Surreal Salon IV at Baton Rouge Gallery, contained many colors. Called "Open for Business," the piece is a 29x12x10-inches, three-dimensional cocoon-like structure composed of mixed media.
"Without color, you wouldn't be able to see the circular pattern in the disks."
The interior of the piece is lined with multi-colored, circular disks that Suplee made by rolling and gluing canvas into cylindrical shapes. She created the structure of the piece by bending chicken wire into a desired shape and then applying layer after layer of molding paste to the exterior.
"Mostly I experiment with different materials and make different shapes."
She intends to create a series of similar cocoon shapes to hang from the ceiling but needs a material lighter than the molding paste.
To that end she settled on yarn and recently began teaching herself how to crochet through YouTube videos. She plans to make several cocoons of yarn, from two-feet to nine-feet long.
Her prototype cocoon, made from chicken wire, was 11-feet in length and was large enough for her to get inside, she noted, but the structure collapsed under its weight. She said she still hasn't learned how to start small.
Suplee is most intrigued by the genre of conceptual art. She said in this category of art, trying to convey an idea through a piece is more important that what it actually looks like.
She created a series from an element of a completed piece and incorporated it into her next design. She created a Braille message of a quote by the artist Joseph Beuys about the interdisciplinary nature of art and science by using empty Nicorette packs, "wiggle eyes" and metallic scraps.
She often flips between projects, notes Suplee. "I'll get tired of doing something or it's not working out because it very time consuming and tedious so I'll move on to something else and then go back to it."
She currently is working on a piece to enter into Art Melt, the largest juried art exhibit of the state set to take place in July. This piece also involves chicken wire, as well as embroidery and the use of light to create shadow.
Former executive director of Baton Rouge Gallery, Amelia Cox Gracia, has seen several pieces made by Suplee and says her work usually has a punch line that adds a humorous layer to her art.
Gracia said the non-traditional materials Suplee uses in her art make it interesting, noting that Suplee is able to recycle found objects, such as the Nicorette packs, and to transform them into art.
"She unites the two-dimensional with the three-dimensional in such a way that leaves the viewer asking: Is this a drawing? Is it sculpture? Is it painting?"