Beaufort News

A mother's legacy

Family members of Suzanne Longo say her sculptures reflect what she loved most -- her family, life and the human spirit.

The longtime Beaufort artist passed away Oct. 11. Longo, 69, had lung cancer.

"She was a tough woman," Suzanne's widower, Eric Longo, said. He said she went through eight months of chemotherapy, which was hard on her body. "But she did it like a trooper."

As Suzanne's close-knit family looks back on her life and her accomplishments, they say her artwork represents strength and capability. It shows her love of children, animals and nature.

If you've ever visited the Longo Gallery in downtown Beaufort or wandered through the family's elaborate garden, you've probably noticed the majority of the sculptures are of women, couples and families. There are sculptures of women dressed in various styles of clothing -- and some in no clothing at all. Some look like businesswomen; some look like homemakers.

A statue of a naked woman sitting in a chair with a book and a cat symbolizes the security and comfort of the home, Eric said. He also is an artist.

He said his wife was a humanist and a romanticist, although she never labeled herself as such. She primarily worked in ceramic sculptures and oil pastels but also worked with concrete at times. Eric said his wife of 35 years didn't talk about her art too often. She just liked creating it.

"If she wanted something, she made it, and she made it art," the Longos' second son, Moon, said, explaining that his mother made quilts, curtains and much more.

In addition to art, Suzanne loved gardening, exercising and cooking. These themes even showed up in her sculptures. One piece shows a family sitting down to a feast, complete with the intricate details of the meal.

FRIENDLY, FREE-SPIRITED

Moon described his mother as a free spirit. She was outgoing and outspoken, generous and caring.

Eric said after his family moved to Beaufort almost 20 years ago, he and Suzanne organized an art walk with the local galleries. They hosted it for a couple of years and then the Arts Council of Beaufort County took it over.

Suzanne donated her work to schools, charities and Beth Israel Synagogue. Her work can be seen at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park and at Beaufort Academy. Eric said tourists like to take pictures of their children with Suzanne's sculptures when they visit Beaufort.

The Longos' first son, Star, said his mother's influence on the community was evident by the number of people who attended her memorial service. He said the social hall at Beth Israel Synagogue was at full capacity, and he heard that some people were turned away.

But Star said Suzanne's greatest influence on the community was probably through the relationships she built with individuals. She was a friend to many, always welcoming people into her home.

She encouraged people to express themselves through art and invited them to her gallery to try sculpting. Eric said she would even give children clay to work with while their parents looked around the gallery.

Moon said his mother taught him and many others in the area that if you want something bad enough and work hard, you can do whatever you want for a living. And her life was an example of that. Eric said Suzanne had always wanted to be an artist, and that's what she spent her life doing.

"That was what she wanted to do until she couldn't do it anymore," Moon said. "She wanted to make art that was based on love and not on some sort of edgy New York-style conceptual kind of work, and she made it about the things she cared about the most."

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Suzanne Longo , Oct. 11, 2011

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