By Julie O’Melia
“Whenever I’m unsure of something, I do one of two things. I dance or I make art. For this, I decided to make art,” explains Suzanne Gainer.
Sitting at her desk on the third floor of the Learning Resource Center, Professor Suzanne Gainer sits with pride as she explains her latest artistic project.
Gainer graduated from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, with her Bachelor’s Degree in communications. After this, she went on to receive her Master’s in photography from Rhode Island School of Design. Gainer claims that she never wanted to be a teacher. She had aspirations of being a dancer, fashion designer, and artist. Now several years into her professional career, Gainer is a college professor, certified Yoga and Zumba instructor, and has achieved her childhood dream of becoming a published artist.
Before beginning her career as a professor, Gainer earned experience in the photography field. Her first photography experience was shooting victims of domestic violence. As an artist, she has always found purpose behind the lens of a camera. She feels as if it is her duty to use her photographs to tell the stories of others. This is part of the idea behind her last project, called Visible/Indivisible.
A few months ago, Gainer was leaving a yoga class when her friend Maria approached her about a dream she had. In the dream, Gainer and Maria were taking pictures, and interviewing hundreds of different people for a project they were working on. At the time, Gainer was feeling unsettled about the current political status of the nation, and as a political activist, she was struggling to find her voice in these divided times. That is when Maria came to her, and a light bulb went off in Gainer’s head. “That’s it!” she said to herself, and the Visible/Indivisible project was born.
The first step in the project is collecting the headshots of people who are willing to participate. Gainer asks that all students and faculty who are interested in participating contact her, or stop by her next shooting session within the next few weeks. After taking the headshots, participates sit down for a short interview, and are asked a series of questions on their political views. The idea is to show the public how even though American’s have different views, we as people are not different, and want the same things for ourselves, and for the people we love.
The photographing and interviewing portion of this project will take place until early July. When it is concluded, Gainer will begin sorting through the information she has collected and will begin photo shopping people’s faces together. This project is meant to unite people, not divide them.
As the seventh of eight children, Gainer has always been outspoken, and art has played an important role in her life in terms of self-expression. Through her art, she has been able to express her opinions as a feminist, and political activist. She is a proud member of a group called Action Together Metro West and hopes this project will help her expand her role in making change for the better.
Before leaving Professor Gainer’s office, I had one more question. I asked what her plans for the project were. Is this for her personal use? Will she use this in a course that she is teaching? Or will she submit this to be published? Her answer did not surprise me. Like most of her work, the purpose behind it is to tell the stories of others. This project is for the people, and Gainer hopes that her project will gain popularity through social media. She has already created a Facebook page, and encourages everyone to visit the site and watch the project grow.