Susan Leanza has never had an art show or sale before and it shows.
The North Tonawanda woman’s two-story townhouse is crammed to nearly the brim with the hundreds of pieces of art she’s created, in so many different styles and mediums, it’s like a teeny tiny art festival.
Much of it will be available for sale at her first ever art show from noon to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at the Tonawanda Moose Lodge, 75 Washington St., North Tonawanda. “It’s a bucket list thing,” she says of the event.
The 66-year-old artist, who signs her work Suziani —from a combination of two married names and her favorite artist, Amedeo Modigliani — has filled nearly every wall with her paintings, and loaded her cupboards with wire sculptures, pottery and dot-painted glassware. She has taken classic record albums, like those of the Rolling Stones and Linda Ronstadt, melted them and turned them into candleholders, she has sewn rock star sock beanbags in versions of Jimi Hendrix, Sonny and Cher, Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia and created another series of dolls with wool thread in a style called wool roving, which resulted in an entire doll house family.
She reaches into a cupboard and pulls out a doll she has roved. “Look at the detail,” she notes proudly as she points out the different colors of the doll. “That’s not paint. Each color is from different threads of colored wool.”
Even when she was at her lowest financially, she created art using whatever she could find. A series of sculptures of slender ladies were made from pop cans, pizza box cutouts and drinking straws, with faces from Christmas ornaments and caulking for features. “I call it garbage art,” she smiled, as she pointed out another series of sculptures made from floral tape, black paint and sealer.
“If nothing else, I’m prolific,” she said, jokingly. “You know how it is when you wake up in the middle of the night with an idea ... “
It’s easy to see where the Long Island born-artist with a New England accent from her days in Vermont, gets her energy to do so many different types of projects. As she escorts a visitor through her home, she talks with fast and expressive passion about the different styles and pieces, tossing in details about her life, including that she loves painting beach art because she was a “beach baby,” and that she hasn’t driven in 14 years due to health reasons, which makes it hard to sell her work, because even online sales require trips to the post office.
Her son and his wife and some friends will help her set up the show and sale, where prices will start as low as 50 cents for painted rocks. She has no idea what to expect from her leap of faith or what people will think of the artwork she’s never shown.
“If the stuff doesn’t sell, it won’t bother me,” she joked as she gently replaced a wire sculpture in a cabinet. “I like it where it is.”