From the Vault: Susan Marie Dopp’s Imaginative, Immersive World

Oct 22, 2023

by Aaron Wilder, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Roswell Museum

© Roswell Daily Record

“Terrene,” 2022 by Susan Marie Dopp, Wire Fencing, Found Objects, LED Lights, Tracing Paper, Theater Gels, Photograph by Tonee Harbert, Courtesy of the Artist


I first want to thank everyone who participated in this month’s event, Roswell Science & Art Festival on Oct. 14. This is the fourth year of the festival, which sought to inspire the next generation of creative and innovative thinkers. The event presented dozens of science and art experiences for a full day of fun and learning for all ages. An unprecedented number of individuals participated and came to enjoy the amazing number of educational and entertaining activities in addition to experiencing a spectacular view of an eclipse unique to the broader Roswell area.

Last month, my column focused on the Roswell Museum’s exhibition Remembering Martie Zelt, and this month, I would like to focus on an extraordinary, immersive experience called Lacewing created by Roswell-based contemporary artist Susan Marie Dopp that opened to the public earlier this month. Dopp has never stopped experimenting or evolving in her nearly 60-year career. Fluent in an impressive array of materials, methods and styles, self-transformation has been her lifework, and her gift lies in visualizing, creating and sharing her capacity of building an imaginative, immersive world.

Born in Fort Hood, Texas, in 1951, Dopp began drawing and painting at the age of 14. She was blessed with parents who encouraged her creative expression. Dopp predominantly grew up in Washington, DC and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1979, where she received a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in 1984 and a Master’s in Fine Arts in 1987, both from the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1988, Dopp was granted the prestigious Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art (SECA) Award. Established in 1967 by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the annual award recognizes emerging Northern California artists with a cash grant and an exhibition at the museum. Very soon after receiving the SECA Art Award, Dopp was accepted into the Roswell Artist-in-Residence (RAiR) cohort of 1988-1989. Dopp returned to RAiR for another residency in the 2007-2008 cohort.

Dopp’s fully immersive installation Lacewing can be understood as more than mere invitations or windows into the artist’s inner, spiritual world. It is instead the fantastical world itself that we, as outsiders, can experience first-hand. Back in 1989, the Roswell Museum’s curator Wesley Rusnell described Dopp’s figurative paintings of that time as “luminous and jewel-like.” Her Lacewing sculptures, aptly, also can be described in this way. Instead of being figuratively or merely optically luminous, the moving, three-dimensional objects are literally illuminated from multiple sources. The intricately formed objects, many of which are suspended from the ceiling and are constructed from “upcycled” materials, can be considered themselves jewels and, simultaneously, as agglomerations of multiple jewels.

Lacewing is comprised of multiple internally lit sculptures in motion. Most of the sculptures are formed from abandoned scraps of metal the artist scavenged, then they are wrapped in stretched and glued strips of tracing paper, and into the tracing paper surfaces are cut small windows of geometric shapes. Solid color, partially transparent theater gels are inserted into the windows. There are two sources of light. LED string lights in most of the sculptures shine through the tracing paper and gel windows. Directional LED lights of various colors in the gallery ceiling project complementary and tertiary shadows from the sculptures’ forms onto the walls and floor. A fully immersive experience is achieved as the sculptures rotate at varying speeds to a musical composition from Agustín Pozo Gálvez’s album “Little Buddha.”

The name of this series of sculptures and the installation they comprise came to the artist in a moment of rest and reverie while she was working in her studio: “My eyes rested on a dead Lacewing moth on the table in front of me. I have always been fascinated by these tiny, delicate insects with their light pale green bodies and their diaphanous, transparent wings. The structure of the wings closely resembles the sectional skeletons of my sculptures.” The transparent spaces of this creature’s wings mimic the tracing paper of Dopp’s sculptures while the veins on the moth’s wings resemble the “upcycled” metal understructures of her sculptures.

Dopp has invited us into a world she has created, protected, in a way, from our own day-to-day life stresses. Through this gesture of generosity, we are free to spend as much or little time in this environment moving, meditating, or simply returning, if only temporarily, to a state of child-like wonder. On her website Dobb stated, “I want to speak of hope and serenity while never forgetting the unendurable pain and terror. I want to make nonsense, order, complexity, and fragility. I want to make it like the song of the diaphanous wings of the Lacewing moth.”

The exhibition Susan Marie Dopp: Lacewing is on display in the Roswell Museum’s Paul Horgan Gallery through April 7, 2024. For more information about the Roswell Museum, visit

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