Susan Beallor-Snyder and her Manila Rope Sculptures

Susan Beallor-Snyder- Crossroads Large Scale Manila Rope Sculpture which is made from Natural Abaca Fibres

This much sought-after artist uses a ‘free weaving’ technique to create sculptures that reflect the path of countless women as they struggle to hold on to their identity while balancing work, motherhood, and marriage. She sees the power of the work in its scale, and in the narrative embedded within – its swirls of chaos, layers of inner turmoil, and endless knots of stress. These one-of-a-kind sculptures allow her to infuse simple materials with thought provoking depth and profound emotion. This artist works with sustainability in mind. Through these large-scale raw rope sculptures, she expresses and evokes her feelings as such work originated from 2011 and “feeling tied in knots” herself. According to Beallor-Snyder, she wanted “to create work that would represent the most extreme dark side of my life as it was in.” In a search to find the right material to express her feelings, Beallor-Snyder went to Home Depot and saw Natural Manila rope. “It was rough and smelled like some kind of musky oil,” she said. “The little shards were uncomfortable to touch. It was perfect!”

Susan Beallor-Snyder- Crossroads Large Scale Manila Rope Sculpture which is made from Natural Abaca Fibres

The Manila rope, which is made from natural Abaca fibres, gets its name from the Philippines where Abaca grows. Abaca fibre, unlike most other leaf fibres, is obtained from the plant leaf stalks. The Abaca plant grows quite quickly. Because it is considered a useful plant for staving off erosion, Abaca is thought of as very environmentally friendly. Upon discovering this rope at Home Depot, Beallor-Snyder immediately bought all the store had in stock and returned to her studio where she began weaving and working out how to express her emotions with the rope.

Manner of Susan Beallor-Snyder- Large Scale Manila Rope Sculpture which is made from Natural Abaca Fibres
Susan Beallor-Snyder- Woven Walls Large Scale Manila Rope Sculpture which is made from Natural Abaca Fibres
Susan Beallor-Snyder-Healing Hearts and Self Portrait Large Scale Manila Rope Sculptures which are made from Natural Abaca Fibres

The artist stated that the very first piece I made entitled “Inner Struggle” is one that holds a special place in my heart. It was the first piece I made in this body of work and was also a turning point for me as an artist. This was the first piece that was conceived by having a purpose in mind; to express personal emotions. It was the first piece that was autobiographical in concept.

My current body of work is created with natural manila rope. My technique is what I call free-weaving and I use the rope in different thicknesses with a wire cutter. I work on the floor and create as I go. I do not sketch studies or create maquettes for the work. I have an idea of size and shape and begin the work. Sometimes I work for days only to realize that something is not working, and I pull it apart and start over. Although this does not happen often, it allows me to see what does not work which is sometimes more important than what does.

The work is spontaneous and intuitive. I get lost in my thoughts and the work just flows. When I am stuck in a particular spot, I step back and watch the work and ask where it wants me to go. I feel like a vessel for the work to come through. This work is very emotional and spiritual, and it cannot be rushed or forced, or it just does not work.

I feel an affinity with this artist’s process and use of materials. As someone who works with print and weave within environmentally supportive ways I can relate to the use of materials like manila rope to create warp and weft in disrupted and distorted ways, of being increasingly freed up with weaving and its relationship with print.

Susan Beallor-Snyder- Detail from Healing Hearts Large Scale Manila Rope Sculpture which is made from Natural Abaca Fibres

Through relational difficulties in 2014 the artist used her creative practice to express and process how she felt. Susan Beallor-Snyder stressed I wanted to express the sadness and pain I felt during this difficult time. My heart was broken, and I decided to create two halves of a heart woven into the piece. I thought about fabric to represent a feminine side, so I took a white pillowcase and cut it into strips. I wanted it to look weathered so I tea stained each strip and let them dry. I tied them into one side of the broken heart. This was different than any of my pieces before. I liked the idea of the fabric strips. How to express the pain…  blood, my blood. I took a pin and poked my fingers till they bled and dripped the blood onto the strips of tea stained (tear stained) fabric. I was not able to bleed enough to create the effect I wanted so I tried using ink.

I stepped back from the work and thought long and hard about where this was heading. It did not feel right; It did not look the way I wanted it to. I thought a long time about where this piece wanted to go and felt the pain of what I was doing and what I was going through. I felt good about the process of using the fabric and the blood and the pain I felt to bleed onto the piece. In the end, I decided to pull out the fabric and continued using only rope; the twists and turns of the rope expressed the emotions I was going through.

Susan Beallor-Snyder-Broken Large-Scale Manila Rope Sculptures which are made from Natural Abaca Fibres
Susan Beallor-Snyder-Self Portrait Large Scale Manila Rope Sculpture which is made from Natural Abaca Fibres

The artist noted I am currently working on self-portraits that express various emotions. The self -portrait pictured here is in response to my experience at Art Basel Miami 2014. My original inspiration for this body of work came from the emotional aspects of my life and experiences. Inspiration also comes to me from the natural world. Light, shadow, texture, form, and repetitive patterns all play a part in my rope work.

Susan Beallor-Snyder-All Tied Up in Knots Large Scale Manila Rope Sculpture which is made from Natural Abaca Fibres

More recently the artist said I am also interested in working on large community murals where anyone can be a part of the project, working alongside me as much or as little as they want on a series called “Joining Forces,” to move her work beyond the confines of the individual to group perspectives based upon related themes of emotional expression.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s