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Boardman artist does a sole search

October 20, 2011
By J.T. Whitehouse
Award-winning visual artist Suzanne Bort Gray will be collecting soles this weekend in Boardman. It's not a Halloween project, but part of the Davis Family YMCA's third annual Afternoon of the Arts featuring a craft show, art show, live music and dance, poetry readings, a book signing by “The Orphan” author Anthony Manna, and several artists at work.

As YMCA art coordinator, Gray is including her current project in the day's events.

“Much of my art features the soles of feet... with the statement... Foot for Thought,” Gray said. “We are all the same where our soles touch the earth.”

Gray is taking part in The Global Art Project for Peace, a biennial art exchange. She has been doing GAP projects since 2006.

“This will be our 4th photomontage,” she said. ”Very few artists use this format for the exchange.”

The montage is actually a collection of photo images. At this year’s art event, visitors are asked to outline their feet and then write a message to the world inside the tracing. Each one will be photographed and the images placed in a computer program that Gray uses to create her montage masterpieces.

In one of her past works, titled “Cathartic Heeling,” she had people trace both feet, then on one they wrote one of their virtues, good qualities, or talents. On the other they wrote a vice, failing, or personality trait they'd like to amend. 

“The idea was when you write something down, you acknowledge it, you own it, and you can let it go... a very cathartic experience,” Gray said. ”We sometimes have trouble recognizing both the good and the less than wonderful about ourselves.”

For “Cathartic Heeling,” Gray received more than 200 images. She placed them into her computer and began designing the piece. When asked what this year’s piece will look like, Gray said it is best to wait and see what images she'll have to work with. She said often a piece will turn out very different from what is originally imagined.

“The final image hasn't been conceived yet,” Gray said. ”I wait to see what images/messages have been collected, then work to make it all fit together cohesively.” 

Many area residents may have already seen some of Gray’s work. She created a “Faces of the Fair” montage during the Canfield Fair, and has completed several pieces for a Maya village in Mexico under the non-profit program Soles4Souls that provides shoes for people in need.

Under the GAP project, Gray won’t be the only artist assembling a montage. She said her finished work could end up anywhere. This year’s piece will be titled “Soleful Reflections” and will become part of a worldwide art exchange and peace exhibit. Past montages have traveled to Australia, Canada, Crete, France, Germany, Japan, India, Iraq, Ireland, Mexico, The Netherlands, Russia, and across the United States.

“The Global Art Project for Peace is a biennial art exchange,” explained Gray. “The director of the program will match us with a group somewhere in the states or another country. We have no control over our exchange partner, but the GAP director has been so impressed with our earlier montages, that she takes copies of them on her peace tours. Our 2008 montage was used in a global peace calendar.”

Gray said anyone who participates in the GAP project and provides an email address, will get a digital copy of “Soleful Reflections.”

Gray said the project is a global one, but it shouldn’t take away from the large group of artists who will be at this year’s YMCA event. She said it is worth stopping by from noon to 4 p.m. to check out the talent that exists in the Boardman area. She is hoping for a big crowd on Saturday, and welcomes participation in the new montage.

“I would personally like to involve as many people as possible in the Global Art Project,” she said.

Article Photos

Photo special to the Town Crier
Suzanne Bort Gray, an award-winning visual artist and local YMCA art coordinator, showcases a past montage made up of messages on outlined feet. The one pictured here is titled, “Cathartic Heeling.” She will be working on a new piece this weekend as the Davis YMCA in Boardman plays host to its third annual Afternoon of the Arts.



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