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Meet Assemblage Artist Suprina Kenney

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In her senior year of high school she studied sculpture formally, apprenticing under a husband and wife duo that owned a small art school in Halesite, New York. Having only ½ day classes at school she spent her afternoons and weekends learning casting, welding, modeling, and drawing.

She studied sculpture at Philadelphia College of Art. Focused on the figure and anatomy early on, then tried glass blowing, ceramics, metal work, wood carving, you name it. “I had a ball in school, learned everything I could”. She also created her very first ‘found object’ sculpture. “Looking back on it I didn’t study under any teacher that worked with trash. I was struck by the beauty I saw in the gutters of Philadelphia and a lifelong marriage began”.

Suprina took to the road for the next few years as she traversed the West Coast, spending time in Nevada and California before returning home. “The northeast is where I belong”.

It was shortly after her return to the East Coast that Suprina began working at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade studio, a job that would shape her craft in a significant way. After sculpting for the parade for a year, “I asked if I could work for the head carpenter to learn more about structure. It was such an important year in my life. Once you have the theories you can build anything”.

Departing from the commercial pieces she crafted for Macy’s she began to create wearable art “personas” for private collector- personalized portraits using old photos, tin types, cherished objects and found objects combined. Rather than aim for a visual representation of the individual, Suprina strived to evoke emotion and tell a story. Over the course of 3 years she sold over 1,000 “personas”, not including private commissions. All the while creating oversized props on a freelance basis, working with clients like Apple Computer, Annie Liebovitz, NY Botanical Gardens, Bloomingdale’s, and Vogue on an ongoing basis. Suprina welcomed the challenges of this transition, drawing on her real-life experience—“I went from making a 15 foot moon to a scene that was ½” in height. I loved being able to do all those scales successfully.”

In 2002 Fortunoff offered Suprina a position as art director. She managed a team of 7 visual artists, coordinating seasonal displays for the home goods chain as well as year-round artistic direction. She continued her private sculpting work, slowly gaining the confidence and skill needed to show it publically. Retail was short lived for Suprina, “ it’s hard to find the value in the massive amounts of home goods products produced to make a sale, I call most of them ‘landfill’”. She left Fortunoff to devote herself to art.

The figure is a constant element in her work. She explains “Art is made for humans, so to communicate in the same voice feels natural to me…it’s all ego-centric, it always relates back to us.”