Suzanne Sidebottom is in a state of flux, spreading her art wings but not quite ready to soar. Yet she’s showing all the signs that she’s about to leap off that cliff and fly. Her specialization is ceramic trompe l’oeil. French for “deceive the eye,” it calls for highly detailed and realistic work that fools the viewer into thinking something is when it really isn’t. Her work needs yellow caution tape around it, stamped with the warning: “This object is not as it appears.”
Making these optical illusions was her first love at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and something she’s returned to after a long absence. The interim years certainly weren’t idle; selling her functional wares was a success, as is her career as an art educator. She has reason to be proud of her educational years, as she helped develop the Visual Art Magnet program at DuPont Manual High School, where she teaches ceramics.
“It is difficult oftentimes for an artist making a transition from functional clay pieces to returning as a sculptural artist,” Sidebottom says. “Not only is the artist questioning themselves as to why they are making it, but wondering as to whether the theme will be of interest to an audience. It’s nice to know that someone is interested in your work.”
There’s interest, without a doubt. The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference was in Louisville in 2007, and that’s when she decided to become fully invested in her art.
Ceramicist and The Gallery on Pearl co-owner John Guenther is one of her mentors. “I needed someone to push me out of my safety nest,” she says. “He pushed.”
“Her pieces are wonderful,” Guenther says. “They are quite creative and very imaginative, unique to the world of ceramic art and personal. I don’t know anyone within the Louisville Metro area or, for that matter, the region who is creating this sort of ceramic artwork to the high degree she is.”
Since December, things have taken off creatively. She made 40 pieces in four months while teaching full time. The muse was calling her big time. Sidebottom is now creating a series of “newspapers” and what she calls “memory drawers.” Her second act is upon her — stay tuned. —Jo Anne Triplett