Naoe Suzuki

How does your work address the relationship between the human and natural worlds?

In my Extinction Studies series, I research maps of the Adirondack region and trace animal names from the maps for my drawings. These animals made their marks on the maps as names of places, such as “Eagle lake,” “Little Otter Pond,” “Buck Mountain,” “Beaver Brook,” “Salmon River,” and so forth. 

 

Once unknown and unexplored by the early Europeans, this region was shown as a blank space in a 1771 map. But by 1850, the European settlers had destroyed enough of the Adirondack forest that it became a growing concern for the public. It was not just the lumber industry, but also the tanning, the paper, and the charcoal industries. They all chopped up trees as if they were an infinite resource. 

 

In 1885, the Adirondack Forest Preserve was prompted by the public outcry over declining water quality and the deforestation of the land due to these heavy commodification of natural resources. Today’s Adirondack Park, a six-million acre parcel of public and private lands, was established in 1892 to protect the region from uncontrolled deforestation, and it remains as protected lands to this day.

 

Water, land, animals, and human—we are all interconnected. These animals found on the maps, while some of them were no longer exist or are in danger in this region, remind me that we are all temporary tenants of a habitat which needs constant balance in check, protection, and preservation. 

 

Floating in a sea of blackness as tiny names, these animals become stars in the sky, constellations, and ghosts of our memories of places we hold dear.

Biography

Naoe Suzuki was born in Tokyo, Japan, and came to the US in 1985. Her work is conceptually driven by exploring our relationship with the environment through drawing, language, maps, and history. 

 

She has received grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council (2001 and 2006), Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (2004 and 2013), Puffin Foundation, Artist’s Fellowships, Inc., and the Blanche E. Colman Award. Her residency fellowships include Blue Mountain Center, MacDowell Colony, Jentel, Millay Colony for the Arts, and Tokyo Wonder Site in Japan. Suzuki’s appointments as an artist-in-residence include the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in 2016–2017, Boston Arts Academy in 2017, and Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University in 2013. 

 

Suzuki received a BA in Art from Bridgewater State University with double minors in Dance and Women’s Studies in 1992 and an MFA in Studio for Interrelated Media from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 1997.

Map of New York Wilderness, 1869

Walnut Ink and ink on paper

42” x 62”

2020

photo credit: Stewart Clements

Map of Saranac Lake and Surrounding Area 1954

India ink on paper

42.5”x 53”

2019

photo credit: Stewart Clements

Map of New York Wilderness, 1869

Detail

Map of Adirondack Wilderness 1888

India ink, walnut ink, and ink on paper

86”x 70” (diptych)

2019

photo credit: Julia Featheringill