La Jolla artist to be featured at San Diego’s biggest art festival


A local La Jollan will be in the spotlight as one of the featured artists at San Diego’s biggest arts festival.

La Jolla artist Michael Sussna will be one of 12 featured artists at this year’s Artwalk, which takes place from 12 to 6 p.m. on April 28 and 29 in Little Italy. The event is in its 23rd year and it will showcase the work of more than 400 artists.

Sussna’s work is unique because he is a fractal artist. Fractal art is a digital art that is based on mathematics and it is completed on graphs through a series of calculations. Some of the pieces he produces have psychedelic imagery, while other works utilize subtle shapes and neutral colors.

Sussna has been creating fractal art since 1985. He was working as computer programmer when he was drawn to the medium because he read an article about it in Scientific American magazine. He said he was attracted to it because he had no background or formal training in art and because fractal art does not require the manual dexterity that is essential to other art forms.

“It is a great form of art because it is a type of process that gives people who haven’t done art before the chance to be an artist,” Sussna said.

Sussna is an accomplished academic who has studied many disciplines. He has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Sonoma State University, a master’s degree in computer science from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and a doctorate in computer science and cognitive science from UCSD.

He said that his studies influence his work, but not in one particular way.

“I try to find new and interesting things to pursue, things that are intellectually stimulating and stimulating to the senses,” Sussna said. “I enjoy exploring things and making new discoveries, be it with math, words, art ... I always enjoy a challenge and solving problems and finding new things that are interesting.”

Although fractal art is based in math and it is completed on a computer, Sussna said the medium does require a lot of creativity.

“I strive to come up with things that are interesting and beautiful,” Sussna said.

However, Sussna added that his form of art is not as personal as other mediums.

“A lot of people in the art world think that art needs to be emotional - I’m not a big believer in that,” Sussna said. “Nevertheless, I think my art does embody some of my personality. I try to do something that is mind-blowing and cool and that stretches the imagination. Something that takes the viewer somewhere, so that the work is intellectually challenging.”

The process of creating fractal art differs from other traditional art forms in many ways, Sussna said.

“The mathematics is what is giving you the shapes; you are manipulating numbers and formulas, sometimes on a very fine scale,” he said.

The images Sussna produces are abstract and incredibly detailed. He uses a lot of colors, shapes and spirals in each piece. Sussna said that in fractal art, the bigger the piece, the better, because fractal art has infinite details.

Fractal art images are printed on fine paper or on canvases.

Although Sussna has been working with fractal art since 1985, he wasn’t able to become a full-time artist until 2003. He said the popularity of the medium is growing and it has been easier for him to sell his work recently.

“It is definitely growing,” Sussna said. “It has a strong future. It has only been around about 20 years and there are a number of people around the world who are taking it seriously and have a lot of talent. I don’t think it is a fad, I think it is going to be around to stay.”

In addition to being a fractal artist, Sussna sometimes writes poetry.

“I’ve only written poetry when I wanted to capture something interesting or special,” Sussna said.

But only Sussna’s fractal art will be showcased in this year’s Artwalk. The event on the streets of Little Italy is the biggest art festival in San Diego County. It will have food, live entertainment and activities for children.

Artwalk features a variety of art forms, including sculpture, glasswork, photography, music, drama and entertainment from San Diego and Tijuana-based artists.

Sussna, who has been a La Jolla resident for about 20 years and has had work showcased in a local galleries, said being a featured artists in this year’s Artwalk is a special accomplishment.

“To be one of the 12 featured (artists) out of more than 350 artists is something unique,” he said.