Sculptor Suzanne Johnson with sculpture she created to honor the area's early auto workers engaged in various aspects of the manufacturing process.
September 06, 2017TRI-CITY AREA — Acclaimed local sculptress Suzanne Johnson was recently commissioned to create two monument-style bronze sculptures memorializing Flint's workforce over the past century.
On Thursday, Aug. 31, the completed sculptures were installed in front of the City of Flint City Municipal Center on Saginaw Street.
The owner of Suzanne Johnson Sculpture Jewelry Design in Grand Blanc, some of the artist's earlier works can be found adorning buildings and grounds that include the Flint Institute of Music, Kettering College, and the Chapel of Angels at Sunset Hills Cemetery.
At the request of an anonymous donor, Johnson's recent works depict 1930s-era auto workers engaged in various aspects of the manufacturing process.
"The sculptures focus on the auto industry when it was young and growing," says Johnson, who notes she was fortunate to have two live models pose for her.
"Most often, I am creating the nuances of life within the sculpture without the benefit of having a model in front of me," she says. "It was a great pleasure to work directly with models again as I did during my first years sculpting."
"The one sculpture is of a worker lifting a door in preparation for assembly," she says, "and the other depicts the moment a worker sets down a completed wheel hub and then picks up a sign acknowledging and thanking workers both past and present."
Johnson says she has been inspired by the words inscribed on the sign. They are as follows:
"These sculptures are placed not only to honor the first auto workers but all the men and women, past and present, who continue to make Flint vital and respected.
"Teachers and nurses. Clerks and truckers. Sausage makers and yard keepers. All and everyone whose tasks help others. Day after day, without accolades, they appear in their workplaces faithful, knowledgeable and productive. Thank you."
As part of the artistic process, Johnson says she wanted to create "a feeling of movement," while depicting the workers' strength, dignity and pride in "a job well done."
"These workers were truly the unsung heroes and the backbone of the auto industry," she opines. "It's important they be honored and acknowledged for their role in the production and growth of the industry."
Johnson says the project involved numerous meetings and took a year-and-a-half to complete the sculptures, which were initially placed in storage pending approval for their installation.
Johnson says she is happy with the results of her labor and proud that the art will be displayed in a prominent location in the City of Flint.
"I am so pleased with the location," she says. "The Flint City Hall is a prominent building on the entrance corridor to the city which welcomes all to the community."
Johnson says the mature trees and park-like landscaping present on the grounds are a perfect compliment for the style of the sculptures."
While the two bronze sculptures have now been installed, Johnson believes an official dedication ceremony will take place in the near future.
Now that the Flint project has reached its fruition, Johnson is turning her attention to other commissioned projects.
"I'm completing yet another exciting commission of a 'veteran sculpture' to be placed at a military location," says Johnson. "It is intended to speak to all veterans of all services and all time periods."
That project should be finished in a few weeks, she says, though the location of its placement remains unknown to her.
Gen. Squier in bronze
In keeping with the military theme, Johnson has also been selected to sculpt a life-size bronze of the late Major General George Owen Squier for placement at Dryden's Memorial Park.
Johnson points out that the General Squier project is still in its fundraising stage.
She asks that anyone interested in donating to the Gen. Squier project visit the link at: https://generalsquier.org/donate
In addition to her commissions, her ongoing projects and operations of the Grand Blanc art studio, Johnson is the co-owner (with husband Jeff Johnson) of Gem & Diamond Specialists located on Third Street in downtown Imlay City.
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.