Glass artist Susan Lorenzana knows something about perseverance. Although the Ventura artist had struggled with learning disabilities and shyness in her youth, art was always a refuge for her. “I could express myself through art but not through words,” she said. 

Lorenzana discovered art glass in 2005 while working in an office across the street from Calico Art Glass* in Ventura. “I walked in there and my life changed,” she said. “Everything was so beautiful and bright, I thought, ‘I need to learn more about this art form.’”

Susan took classes in leaded glass from John Tarca at Callico and in mosaics with Ventura based artist Larissa Strauss*, and for the next seven years she created increasingly sophisticated portraits and mixed media landscapes in stained glass mosaics, sometimes adding beads, shells, and other embellishments. She developed a technique of embossing the back of fused pieces using aluminum craft foil and printed vellum paper to create dimension and pattern.

Lorenzana exhibited her work in 2010 and donated pieces to charity fundraisers. 

Then, in 2012, a case of the flu turned into something more sinister. “My body just erupted with pain and chronic inflammation,” Lorenzana said. “It was extremely scary because I did not think I would be able to do my artwork. I couldn’t even lift a finger.” It took five years before doctors reached a diagnosis of spondylitis* and fibromyalgia. 

It wasn’t until about a year ago that she got on a treatment plan that made her pain manageable enough for her to get back to her artwork on a regular basis. “The whole experience has humbled me beyond belief — it has changed everything about how I live my life,” she said. “In a sense my diagnosis has had a positive outcome, I was able to slow down and see things differently and appreciate my life and those around me.”

Lorenzana’s work has evolved since she was able to come back to it. She started using more electric than hand tools, particularly the Taurus 3 Ring Saw, which allows easier, precision cutting while reducing hand stress and preventing further joint damage. “It has kind of made a change into abstract design for me… Instead of cutting up tiny little pieces, I have become more creative in what the glass tells me,” she said. “The glass itself is art.”

She uses the direct method technique of adhering the hand cut glass pieces to the supporting surface, usually HardieBacker® cement board for most of her projects. 
“I see the world in shapes,” Lorenzana said.… “I have always been very shape specific — when I see an object I see a series of shapes that make that object. That is how my mind works, it always has.”

Her work is very three-dimensional and even includes shadows. “A lot of things I do are based on memory, others are from life experiences. I am thinking glass all the time,” she said. “It is always there.”

The first piece Lorenzana did after her recovery was on an acoustic guitar her brother gave her to embellish. Titled “Arising Phoenix, Glass Guitar,” the piece is covered with brilliant stained glass images of the mythological bird, along with flames and music notes, including hand detailed foil embossed glass. Even the sides are covered with textured glass. 

“It is about rejuvenation and being born again. This is kind of how I felt inside,” she said. “The guitar took me five months from start to finish.” 

Lorenzana believes in healing through the arts. She works with private collectors and continues to donate custom art glass for charity fundraisers.
Nicole D'Amore

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