The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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August 31, 2011

Creating peace and comfort through paintings

— When Susanne Crane announced to her family at age 4 that she was going to be an artist someday, they laughed. But now, Crane’s passion for art has grown into a full-fledged career.

“My mother was an artist … and she took up painting as a hobby when I was a little kid,” Crane said. “I would just sit by her and watch her painting, (and) I used to just want to do that.”

Crane was born in Bohemia but moved to America as an infant. She moved to Minneapolis in 1991, and she founded both art cooperatives and art galleries. Besides teaching art students for 20 years, she has also shown her own pieces in numerous exhibitions.

Currently, her work is on display at the Emy Frentz Arts Guild in Mankato. Her exhibit, “Reverie,” features about 35 original paintings themed around relaxation and peace.

“The paintings depict dream-like imagery (and) positive energy,” Crane said. “I feel like we have enough negativity in the world, and I’m hoping that my work will help people escape into a peaceful state of being for a while.”

Crane began working on her exhibit about two years ago, when she was in town to talk with MSU’s student government group about an arts-based project. Since she had time to kill, she started looking for local art galleries and organizations, and someone directed her to Twin Rivers Council for the Arts, an arts-focused organization dedicated to bringing art and culture to the Mankato area.

Twin Rivers often features exhibits by area artists, so Crane filled out an application to create her own show.

After inviting Crane to show, Twin Rivers gave her a layout of her exhibition room so she could plan how to best arrange her paintings. While 35 paintings may seem like a lot of original work to create in a short period of time, Crane said she never runs out of inspiration.

“I think if I painted day and night for the rest of my life and didn’t talk to anyone, I wouldn’t be able to get all my work done (and finish) all the paintings I have in my head,” she said with a laugh. “I have this little book that I write down ideas in … (and) it’s full of painting ideas.”

Crane works on her paintings in her opera house studio in Albert Lea. She obtained the building a few years ago and plans to remodel it to all its original 1916-style glory. The building, which has four stories plus a basement, will hopefully one day function as her home, her studio and a haven for other artists and writers to come work on their own projects for a few weeks.

Crane said she has grown into her craft during the 27 years she’s been a professional painter. She credits some of her growth to her travels, as she draws much of her influence from different cultures’ folk tales and mythology. She said she is especially interested in Asian, Mexican, African and Native American history. Still, as affected as she is by different perspectives and new experiences, she said she remains true to her core principles and ideals.

“I’ve stayed very true to my vision, to my message: basically, things that raise the spirit and relax people,” Crane said. “I’ve definitely mastered the skill of painting in my own personal way and broken away from just the basic things I learned from school.”

Crane’s painting style is very colorful and vivid. While she started out studying realism, she moved on over the years to a more dreamlike and exaggerated painting style. She works mostly with acrylics, though she’s able to make her canvasses so smooth and vibrant through the several layers of paint that many people mistake her works as oil paintings.

Crane said she hopes many people will visit her exhibit and find a small oasis of comfort through her works of art.

“I’m always happy to get my work out to a new audience,” she said. “If successful, I think that people who visit the show will just feel a little shift inside themselves, maybe a little transformative experience (to) take you away from worries and bring you somewhere else.”

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