Going to Robert and Su.Sane’s house is an experience —I knew it would be, having visited their studio years ago at Lincoln Street Center. But it is still impressive, with seemingly every inch covered with ... everything! Not just paintings, but a world of vignettes, assemblage “found object” pieces, books, painted and stitched together iconography covering the walls as well as shelving and niches with all manor of objects. But there is order to this idea of seemingly “too much stuff” that is at once cozy and only overwhelming in that it’s impossible to see it all ­— you could spend weeks and not see everything. And organized! It is amazing to me that they know where most things are. Maybe that’s where “alchemy” comes in (alchemy: a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination). They have transformed their home into a multi-layered world.

They’ve even given a class where participants were tasked with going around this colorful puzzle of a home and choosing objects that speak to them, to come back to the table and assemble a collage, weaving the pieces together with yarn and a frame.

 The couple have been together and creating art for 30 years. “The name Clarity came from the two of us asking for a name to use for the both of us and then we listened,” Robert said. They work intuitively, sitting side by side, like jazz improvisation, one stepping into a spot that the other has left open, as patterns form and expand.

They (I say they because they are a team — two parts of a whole) can work together on a painting or a book or a class and it becomes an amalgam of ideas, images and stories. They have developed an “alchemical” language that is full of jumping-off points, many cyphers and symbols. “Intention is the woodstove of alchemy,” they said.

“We came to our art organically, we let it show us the way, it strengthened our willingness to listen deeper still, and it gave us a life to share. We share it with each other, always, and we share with those who are willing to listen to the inside of things,” they write in their artist statement. 

I commented on how prolific they were. “Well, it’s our life,” Su.Sane said. They have published over 50 books, including books for children through adults, from poetry to paintings, digital books available now on Blurb.com with the option of a printed version, and some have an audio version.

The work they’ve done together includes paintings, mainly mixed-media pieces, using Cray-Pas, oil pastels, acrylic and metallic paints; but also sculpture, 3-D assemblages, altered books, a radio show, as well as ongoing classes, salons and performance art.

The Hakes met while they were both living in Georgia, and listening to them both talk, I felt soothed by their soft Southern accents. In Su.Sane’s previous life she had a cottage industry growing herbs and flowers, while raising five children. Robert was an artist and had been working as a chimney sweep when they met. Shortly after their meeting, the two began making art together;  a “healing” card deck was one of their first collaborations, called “Imprintsial Healing Patterns.”

After many personal changes including Su.Sane’s marriage breakup that ended up in a custody battle, the couple chose to move to Maine from a Georgia backwater town, and it turned out to be a well-chosen move, a breath of fresh air. Their household is a communal one, with 12 people, some relatives, some friend-relatives working and living in the rambling three-story house, expanding to the porches and “outdoor studio spaces” in the warmer months. 

 “Alchemy, the Soul of Our Work” is Clarity’s 18th exhibition at the Camden Library, and it will be on view through December. Clarity’s web site is www.situlacodex.com.

Several quotes that have inspired Clarity:

“Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives.” 

— Joseph Campbell

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”         — C. G. Jung