Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Butterflies Flutter in Honor of Ponte Vedra Artist

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Butterflies Flutter in Honor of Ponte Vedra Artist

Article excerpt

Byline: Susan D. Brandenburg, Shorelines correspondent

On the morning of Sept. 11, Ponte Vedra Beach painter Susanne Schuenke was honored in an unusual celebration.

"It is meaningful that we celebrate Susanne's art by releasing butterflies on this day of remembrance," said sculptor Diane LaFond, presenting Schuenke with a white box that virtually vibrated in her trembling hands. "These butterflies represent the freedom that terrorists could not destroy. They are symbolic of the healing power of art that, like the butterfly, has survived centuries of war on this Earth. Freedom and healing are synonymous with Susanne's art."

As Schuenke stood in the hushed, sunlit garden of LaFond's home on San Jose Boulevard surrounded by friends and artists, a dozen Monarch butterflies fluttered from the box, one by one.

"I've spent months surrounded by butterflies," exclaimed the artist, "but never did I expect to hold a living one in my hand. This is very beautiful!"

Inspired by a visit last winter to the American Museum of Natural History's Butterfly Conservatory in Manhattan, Schuenke returned home to begin painting her most ambitious work to date, titled Give Me Wings, a 14-foot, six-panel oil and gold leaf painting of seven huge butterflies that hangs in the lobby of Mayo Clinic Jacksonville's Davis Building. Frank League of Ponte Vedra Beach, a benefactor and patron of the arts, presented the painting to Mayo.

"Susanne's butterflies will inspire and uplift patients and their families at Mayo for years to come," League said. "Her distinctive style is unlike anything I've ever seen. She is a genius whose insight and compassion for the human race is tangible in her paintings. Stepping into her studio is like entering a new dimension in the world of art."

Robin Wahby agrees with League's assessment of Schuenke's art.

"I was overwhelmed by the magnitude and brilliance of her paintings when I walked into her L'Atrium studio," said Wahby, a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach and president of Angelwood, an organization devoted to improving the lives of developmentally and physically disabled children.

Schuenke and LaFond were scheduled to team up Friday night for an exhibit of sculpture and painting at the law firm of Holland & Knight to benefit Angelwood. Tonight, an exhibit by the two artists called A Heavenly Evening Angels and Art Gala will be on display at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts Terry Theatre in downtown Jacksonville. That exhibit will also benefit Angelwood.

"Our Angelwood board was thrilled when Susanne and Diane LaFond offered their incredible art for our fund-raiser," Wahby said. "We were even more impressed when they insisted on meeting our angels, who inspired both of them to create special works of art for Angelwood. …

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