Art outside the lines

Jan. 12, 2013 @ 03:44 PM

Sudie Rakusin’s “One Woman Show” is at the Horace Williams House at 610 Rosemary St. in Chapel Hill and it runs through Jan. 27. For more information, call 919-942-7818. Rakusin may be reached at or

With an admission of guilt, I confessed, “I don’t really know much about art.” I was standing by Sudie Rakusin, a local artist, who lives on Arthur Minnis Road in Hillsborough, and we were a few feet away from her exhibit entitled “One Woman Show.”
Perhaps the space of time between Rakusin speaking and me speaking was brief, but her words quickly put this writer at ease when she said, “Art moves in a deep level in us.”
For Rakusin, moving in a deep level does not just involve her art; it was the method of how she came to Hillsborough and to the place she recognized immediately as home. Even though she was born in Washington, D.C., studied in Boston and received her master’s in fine arts from the University of Arizona, Rakusin admits that the first time she drove to the home she would eventually purchase, she knew she would never leave this new place called home.
Rakusin came to Hillsborough like a slow pour of molasses. Upon completing school, which also included time in Europe in some of the most influential and noted galleries in the world, Rakusin embarked on a personal journey, that she says, “Being an artist was something I was going to be right from the womb; I was born an artist.”
To her credit and experience, Rakusin devoted much of her life to painting and note cards and other mediums of art as the sustenance from which she lived. “I basically showed at festivals and other events from D.C. to here and along the way I met people that lived in the Hillsborough, Chapel Hill, and Durham area and when I first arrived I knew this was the place for me,” Rakusin says.
Admittedly, the life of an artist is often referred to as starving for good reason. Which is indirectly how Rakusin references a period in her life when she almost didn’t know if she would continue her intrinsic artistry. “I had reached a point that I was almost done. Then, about four years ago I literally invented a form of art, referred to as mixed media, and it became something larger than me,” Rakusin says.
There are certainly art experts that would be able to describe Rakusin’s work more eloquently and technically than this writer. However, upon speaking with Rakusin my confidence soared to learn that art and its interpretation is an independent act that, unlike much of this world, is neither right nor wrong.
Inside the warm room at the Horace Williams House in Chapel Hill, an exhibit of dynamic wonder, creativity, personality, colors, characters and astonishment exists.
Rakusin doesn’t just paint inside the lines, she bends them, molds them and incorporates papier-mâché, and wire, and sticks, and beads, and fabric, and bold colors, and vivid creativity, and a splash and pour and gesture of creativity to create something beyond a painting that is known as art. Still, Rakusin stretches her life work and eye and mind for creativity and she has created other works, known as journey books and notecards, a coloring book for women, and she has also penned children’s books, too.
“I have a niece named Calla Ruth and my Great Dane at the time was named Savannah Blue. Calla Ruth came to visit and when she was 7 years old I began sending her letters as a pen pal, that were written in the voice and imagination of my dog. My sister kept these and encouraged me to put them into a book, which I did, and I illustrated the book, too,” says Rakusin.
The series of books involve the idea that the dog and young girl become pen pals, how sickness is viewed through the eyes of the dog, and comparisons of how birthdays are celebrated both by dog and humans alike. Rakusin offers that much of her art and other creations are just simple products of her creativity and energy that she finds in the most basic elements of earth, nature and being inspired by anything, without boundary.
“I draw a lot of my subject and ideas from time spent out in nature and in the rawness of earth,” Rakusin says. It is as if Rakusin is producing her journey through life, through her artwork and she is very open to the idea that anyone, even those self-professed who don’t claim to know about art, will find themselves relating to her artwork in ways that are not wrong. Rakusin references life, frequently while she speaks, and she acknowledges that this medium she has created is a reflection of who she is as an artist.
Of the pieces created by Rakusin, this writer finds much parallel in a piece titled “The Art of Living: A fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” Standing a few feet from the work, there is much to draw any observer in. However, as we all walk these lines of life, we can all recognize that there really is a fine line between letting go and holding on.
For Rakusin, and all of us, we should all walk these lines of life. When we feel the urge, we all might be better served coloring outside the lines, too.
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