Feminine, durable, inspired
Walk into Gallery Cui-ui, and you’ll be face-to-face with a very unusual woman. She’s short, thin and wears fire-engine-red lipstick to match her polka-dotted red dress. She doesn’t have hair, but she does have sassy sunglasses and delicate silver earrings. Oh, and she’s made of welded steel. She’s “Girl in a Red Dotted Swiss Dress,” and she’s a creation of sculptor Susan Flakus.
Flakus has been creating art her entire life. She began with drawing and painting and only recently started working with metal. Re-entering the work force in 1999 after being a homemaker for many years, Flakus enrolled in welding school. She was immediately struck with its artistic possibilities and has been creating metal sculptures ever since.
First, Flakus chalks a sketch onto scrap metal, usually steel. She cuts the intricate design out with a plasma cutter, then adds details like cut-outs and stenciled patterns. Subjecting the metal to various conditions—applying acid, submerging it in the river, or leaving it on wet grass to allow patches of rust to develop—adds unique finishes. Each piece takes about 40 hours to complete.
“Seaflower” depicts a mermaid mid-swim. From her flowing, three-dimensional hair to the delicate floral stencils on her fishtail, the figure is full of motion and playfulness. Tiny metal beads outline a fish-scale pattern. A hand, outstretched, cleverly becomes a small shelf; Flakus wants her art to have function as well as form and wants the owner to be able to customize and interact with each piece. Describing the underlying themes of her work, Flakus offers up a succinct four words: “Feminine, durable, functional and inspired.”
“I’m driven to do art about women,” says Flakus, “because I’m a struggling woman, and an imperfect woman, and I feel that that’s what my art is about.”
Also currently featured on Cui-ui’s walls is the work of Anastasia Keriotis. Working in acrylic on wood, Keriotis creates colorful, large-scale paintings of hearts. Tall and elongated, rendered in bright hues that contrast vividly with their backgrounds, the hearts are appealing.
“Night and Day” divides a heart in half. On the left side of the painting, the heart is blue, with subtle highlights of orange; hash marks of paint seem to stitch the heart to its soft green background. On the right side, the heart is a bold red, streaked with orange and yellow, and leaps out from a dark gold background. Up close, the texture of the wood panel shows through, adding an uneven and organic effect.
“I like the texture,” says Keriotis of her paintings. “I wanted them to be textural, and I like the physicality of the paint to show. They’re kind of heavy, and at first I was concerned about that, but I think it goes with what the subject matter is.”
Keriotis started out working with ceramics but then studied printmaking and photography while earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at the California College of Arts and Crafts. Now, she paints and does documentary photography in Mexico and Greece. “I’ve had many galleries tell me that I have to choose [between painting and photography],” she says, “but I won’t give up one for the other.”
Although she is primarily an abstract painter, the colorful hearts have proven popular among art lovers. “[It] came out of something I wanted to do for myself,” she explains. “I wanted to come up with something that would be a little more affordable because I think art should be something that everyone can afford.”
It’s no exaggeration to say that Keriotis puts her heart into her art.