Inspiration From the World Over
German artist brings dynamic mixed media artwork to her life in Charleston
By Liesel Schmidt
“True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.” – Albert Einstein
Even for someone as left-brained as Einstein, there was an understanding that creativity—and the visceral, inherent need to create that comes with true creativity—is something that lies deep within a person. It is undeniable, the desire to express an emotion or feeling, the need to capture a moment or a place or a memory. And, having been deeply creative her entire life, Susanne Frenzel understands that need intimately.
As the daughter of artistic parents—her mother was a self-taught musician who played the accordion and the piano, while her father loved to draw and often took her to art museums as a child—Frenzel certainly came by it naturally, finding inspiration and encouragement in those around her. Still, she did not pursue art as a career until many years later.
Born and raised in Germany, Frenzel worked as a teacher for many years, teaching math and textile design. She attended the University of Dortmund and the University of Kaiserslautern, receiving an MA in Elementary/Secondary Education and an MA in Adult Education.
Later, she took workshops with internationally-known artists, her favorite being artist Bernd Klimmer in Germany.
Over the years, she traveled throughout Europe and lived in different parts of the world, which afforded her the unique opportunity to explore, observe people of different cultures and experience “the captivating spirit of interesting places,” she said.
In 1990, Frenzel moved to the U.S. with her husband and their six-week-old twin girls, brought to the states by her husband’s job at a German company with international locations including Charleston. During that time, she dedicated herself to raising her daughters and her love for art. Later, she proudly became an American citizen and now holds dual citizenship. From 2010 until 2020, she taught German at The Citadel and continued to paint and further explore her own creativity.
That exploration has led to a successful career as an artist whose mediums are not limited—much like her imagination.
“I absolutely love working with mixed media and acrylics,” says Frenzel, who signs all of her work with an amalgamation of her first and last name: Suzel. “They support my desire to extend the boundaries of art with regard to materials or techniques, and I like to think out of the box. To me, there are no boundaries in art. I enjoy experimenting with different tools, materials and techniques to maintain versatility. I often use brushes, palette knives, scrapers and other tools to make my work dynamic. Every now and then, happy accidents occur, which inspire me to create new ideas. Over the years, I have learned to let my inner voice guide me while creating a painting, rather than fight against it. This can take a painting into a very different direction than I may have initially intended. But in the end, it is worth the journey.”
As creative as she is, Frenzel finds inspiration for her work all around her.
“The beach always inspires me,” she says. “I love to include sand, shells and other textile material like yarn and nets, sometimes as imprints, sometimes incorporating the material itself. In general, my art is inspired by emotional responses to places and objects I have seen and people I have met throughout the years. It always amazes me how people who have never met find a common connection through my work. I feel very passionately about communicating through my art, initiating emotions and feelings. Words cannot always convey what you feel or want to say, but I express my personal emotions by using the powerful energy of colors and texture as I create my paintings.”
A contemporary artist with European flair, Frenzel loves experimenting with different media and multiple textures, using lots of layers to build and create pieces that have a dynamic meaning. “Sometimes I scrape through multiple layers of paint, revealing vibrating colors, patterns and interesting views,” says Frenzel, whose favorite artists include Gerhard Richter, Wassily Kandinsky and Jackson Pollock. “My ‘Women’ series, for example, is a powerful series, connecting to many women. It is emphasizing their power and strength. It stresses a determined attitude not to give up, believe in yourself, and rise to the occasion.”
Connecting with people, conveying a message and evoking an emotion are Frenzel’s greatest goals in her work.
“Sometimes I am lucky enough to meet with buyers and hear personal stories or memories that my paintings have sparked,” she says. “My goal is to connect with anyone looking at my work, and when I achieve this, I am ecstatic.”
Interestingly, Frenzel chooses the music by which she works according to her mood and the emotion she is trying to express in her painting, ranging from rock music that includes Queen, Dire Straits and Rolling Stones to classical music from composers such as Beethoven and Bach.
As with so many artists, Frenzel’s greatest struggle lies in knowing when to stop.
“To know when a painting is finished and then to stop painting is my hardest challenge,” she admits. “The best thing is to walk away from the painting for a day or two. Then, I revisit and let its voice tell me if it is finished.”
In all that she does, from painting to photography, Frenzel finds an expression of more than what is there. There’s a significance to it, a meaning that can be seen, if one takes time to look and let it speak.
Frenzel’s award-winning work is represented by the Charleston Artist Guild Gallery and can be found in private and public collections throughout Europe and the U.S. She is also a juried member of the National Association of Women Artists (NAWA) and the Charleston Artist Guild. Her work can be found online at https://www.susannefrenzel.com.