Suzanne Benton began creating innovative Portrait Boxes in 1996 after leading a series of mask and story workshops with women and youth in Bosnia. Her first, titled Bosnian Boy, evolved from pencil sketches she did of the refugee children riddled with the effects of war and dislocation. Having listened to the haunting stories of the Bosnian people with whom she was working, and from the cumulative effects of all she's witnessed in 29 countries as a working artist, Bosnian Boy and subsequent Portrait Boxes are Suzanne's way of honoring the diversity and uniqueness of human life.
Portrait Boxes portray 21st century faces of diverse people who pose and commission these works. Her process begins with preliminary charcoal and pastel drawing. She then draws and paints the image on the square or rectangle of an open and sometimes closed paper box that she's formed from gessoed archival paper. The ears, hair and neck wrap onto the sides of the box, and its interior contains an inner portrait. The finished works relate to ancient frescoes, Asian cave paintings, and the Egyptian sarcophagi of the Roman period. Some are life size, others larger. They can hang on a wall or sit on a pedestal where the interior can also be viewed.