Grace Summanen was born in Ashtabula, OH, and currently lives and works in Euclid, OH. Her artwork pushes traditional definitions through material exploration and systematic approaches to abstraction. She works in various media including relief painting, installation, and works on paper. She received her MFA in painting from Kent State University in 2011 and her BFA in painting, drawing, and printmaking from Carnegie Mellon University in 1996. Grace has shown at numerous locations in Northeast Ohio including Abattoir Gallery, Zygote Press, Spaces, Waterloo Arts, and Yard Projects. She has shown nationally in group exhibitions including To See Is To Have: Navigating Today’s Art Ecosystem at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, TX; Big Idea at the Painting Center in New York City; and surface/material at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Grace has taught at local universities including the University of Akron, Kent State University, and Lakeland Community College. Currently, she is the Visual Arts Instructor at Lake Erie College.
My work blurs the lines between high and low art by using everyday objects and materials. I draw with #2 pencil or sharpie. I create my painting surfaces with fabric. I mold this fabric with house paint. My installations include plastic bags, toilet paper tubes, & fabric. These materials are familiar to me and ground me in my history. We live in a mass-producing, consuming, and purging society. I am not interested in judging this but reflecting it. It is a part of who I am; who we all are.
In an art historical context as a trained painter, I am pushing the boundaries of painting by using dimensionality and non-traditional materials. Definitions and rules can often be limiting and inaccurate. As individuals, we are full of contradictions of thoughts and actions. I am embracing this through material play. The materials I use do not stand as I find them but are transformed with paint into something else, by doing this the viewer is confronted with new possibilities for common objects. It changes how they think, to see the magic, the beauty in the mundane. It also underscores the transformative qualities of paint.
Currently in my relief paintings I use folded fabric as a means to explore texture, line and movement. I have used curtains, blankets, and scraps from other projects. The fabric I use has been collected by me for various reasons. Different fabrics allow for experimentation with multiple textures and paint applications. Traditionally in painting, fabric is a common still life subject; but instead of painting the illusion of the fabric, I am painting the fabric itself. This abstracts the subject matter for inspection, exploration, and transformation. I am also interested in the traditional associations with feminine crafts.
Fluidity is an element I am exploring. Paint is fluid like water, fabric, and life. When we try to pin-point truth it is always moves. We must accept the fluidity of its nature. The nature of life itself. I know nothing for sure, but I am certain. When I make art, I know this to be true; through my art I attempt to capture this idea through exploration and experimentation.