Book launch celebration will honor local author | Arts & Entertainment

BRISTOL — Suzanne Stryk has published a book related to her “Notes on the State of Virginia” project.

Arts Alliance Mountain Empire will sponsor a book launch event on Thursday, March 31, at 7 pm at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Virginia, to celebrate the publication of Stryk’s book. At the event, Stryk will lecture and show images from the book. She will also be selling and signing copies.

“There’s no such thing as the middle of nowhere. Everywhere is the middle of somewhere for some living being.” That was the mantra the Bristol artist carried with her as she journeyed through Virginia on a mission inspired by the reflective, encyclopedic sensibility of Thomas Jefferson’s book, “Notes on the State of Virginia.”

The result of these efforts was Stryk’s own “Notes on the State of Virginia,” a series of place-based assemblages developed from 2011 to 2013. Stryk’s multimedia collages are composed of the artist’s paintings and drawings, dead bugs, book pages, pressed leaves , rusty farm equipment, animal bones and handwritten directions, all artistically arranged on US Geological Survey topographic maps.

Some pieces explore the land Jefferson described, while most focus on other places in the state that are ecologically or culturally distinctive. To create the series, Stryk researched and traveled to special regions in Virginia’s Coastal Plain, Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Valley and Ridge, and Appalachian Plateau.

Stryk’s book, “The Middle of Somewhere: An Artist Explores the Nature of Virginia,” captures the essence of her traveling experience and creating her assemblages.

While acknowledging the moral contradictions in Jefferson’s work and life, Stryk offers a contemporary interpretation of Virginia’s natural and cultural ecology from a visual artist’s point of view. The book is comprised of essays, artwork and ephemera from her travels.

In a challenge that is universal, Stryk invites us to travel slowly, tread lightly and look closely at each “somewhere” that defines a place. Her personal accounts and conversational tone of her make readers feel as if they are traveling across Virginia with a friend, one who is at times funny and at other times deeply reflective.

Stryk’s fascination with the natural world and art began in childhood, which she alludes to frequently in the book.

Born in Chicago, she’s made her home in Bristol for over 30 years and during that time exhibited her conceptual nature paintings and assemblages in solo exhibitions throughout the United States.

Her art portfolios and related writings have been featured in publications such as, Orion, Ecotone and the Kenyon Review. She is the recipient of a George Sugarman Foundation grant and a Virginia Commission for the Arts fellowship for her project, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” which evolved into “The Middle of Somewhere.”


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