The Classic Romantic: Suzie dePoo

The Legacy of Agnes Helen Zuzek, 1920-2011
Reception: April 12, 6-8 PM
Sponsored by Stones and Cardenas, Attorneys at Law

Read a Letter from the Curator, Martha Barnes

THE CLASSIC ROMANTIC: The Legacy of Agnes Helen Zuzek, 1920-2011

Suzie dePoo spent her lifetime – a decade shy of a century – developing her mastery of materials as an artist and sixty years doing so in Key West.

The Studios of Key West will present the major exhibition “The Classic Romantic: The Legacy of Agnes Helen Zuzek” in the Main Hall of the Historic Armory and the TSKW Sculpture Garden, on view from April 12-May 6, 2012. Curated by Martha Barnes and assisted by the family and artist, Jane Grannis, the exhibition will honor Suzie dePoo’s legacy and showcase over 100 artworks, personal items and artifacts from her estate and private collections. A film of her life will also be screened. A public reception is scheduled on April 12 from 6-8 pm.

She was born Agnes Helen Zuzek, on December 5, 1920, into a Yugoslavian farm family in Western New York. Her moniker “Suzie” came from those she served with her in World War II who had trouble pronouncing her surname. She married John dePoo,  son of Dr. Julio dePoo who founded the first dePoo Hospital on Southard Street. John was a childhood friend of Suzie’s college roommate, Jeanne Porter, at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, who was the great-grand daughter to one of Key West’s most famous citizens, Dr. J.Y. Porter;  and thus the local legend “Suzie dePoo” was named.

She was famous for the romantic imagery – angels and unicorns, mermaids and musical instruments, floral and figural arrangements- which she illustrated in both classical watercolors and ceramic tile works.  However, it was the exploration of materials in her sculptural artworks – salvaged colored chards of glass, chicken wire and discarded objects- which definitively demonstrated the range of her talent and imagination.

In the early 1950s, the family settled in her husband’s hometown, and she went to work for the next three decades at the Key West Hand Print Fabric Factory as a designer. She signed her work Zuzek and was responsible for creating hundreds of the Lilly Pulitzer trademarks and for establishing the iconographic style.  Suzie opened art galleries in town and helped to showcase many other artists works as well.  She had three daughters: Kathryn, Amy (who died in England in 2010) and Martha, who is also a well known Key West artist.

As time passed, Suzie’s home and studio on Dey Street became a compound of ramshackle buildings, brimming with bottles, weathered magazines, indoor furniture placed outdoors, and a herd of cats. Her eccentricity was a reflection of her generous spirit and her appreciation for all living things. She was an artist given to the local Conch philosophy: “I guess Key West is like life,” she said, “and all the things that happen to you without you even knowing.” In 2001, she was honored with a retrospective exhibition of her work at the Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House.

“This legacy exhibition is a collection of her work that celebrates her unique gifts and in so doing celebrates her belief that all living entities have unique gifts to explore, develop and offer,” said her daughter Kathryn.

Title: Suzie Zuzek dePoo
Documentary Short Subject. USA August, 2011. Running time: Under 10:00 minutes.
Written, Produced, and Directed by Sarah Trulaske and Becky Smith
Edited by Jeff Coleman, Countdown Video Production, Bad Dog Picture Studio
Special Thanks to Martha dePoo and the dePoo family, Leigh Martin Hooten, Alan Kennish.

Sarah Trulaske is a documentary film director and producer for over 20 years.
Her works include documentary short subjects for The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation; Foundation for Fighting Blindness; Choreographer and Dancer Katherine Dunham; Center of Creative Arts.

The Studios of Key West