About this body of work:
My artwork comes from a mixture of my response to sensory experience in the world, historical references, and the immediate process of making. Decisions in the studio may come from looking at artifacts, walking down the street, or responding to material and color in the moment of creation. I consider the ways that people imbue objects with the power to hold memory, create physical presence, and connect the present to the past. In my most recent work, the patterns and shapes are inspired by funerary artifacts and urns. Although the imagery stems from the way we ritualize and commemorate death, it also embodies an awkward playfulness that counters solemnity and elegance.
WHY do you do what you do?
I make art because I have to. It’s really not a choice. Communicating with verbal language always felt insufficient – creating work transforms the muddle of my mind into a coherent, logical system of thought and communication.
What’s some worthy advice you’ve been given?
My graduate professor said that whatever happens, staying connected to the studio is vital. Even if you are busy, and can only go to the studio for one hour to engage with the work, that is enough. I think that is great advice. That tether to the creative work is so important!
Bill Jenson (painter) in 2007: “As an artist you need to have a high tolerance for anxiety and a high tolerance for embarrassment. A high tolerance for anxiety because you feel pulled by forces greater than you. It is as if something is going through you, and it is not about you. A high tolerance for embarrassment because some of the stuff is going to look pretty bad. It has an identity outside of yourself and must be accepted. You have to take the good and the bad, the ugly as well as the beautiful, and the pain as well as the joy to get yourself someplace. Lots of artists let their work take them to a plateau, and then they stay on that plateau, maybe with a need to rest from the anxiety. I can’t do that. For me, that would just be fear of my own anxiety. The work would seem too mechanical and without feeling. I work toward feeling, not away from it. Therefore my life is always filled with anxiety. Each work for me is not about one idea; it is about an emotional event that must be searched for and clarified.”
What keeps you awake at night?
What cracks you up?
What makes you cry?
The state of the environment, especially the warming oceans, and our collective disregard for the damage we cause.
What music are you currently listening to?
I have been listening to lots of Leonard Cohen, Of Montreal, Laurie Anderson, and Angel Olsen.
What are you currently reading?
I just started Resurrection, by Tolstoy.
What’s on your bedside table?
A plant, some rocks and crystals, a small Buddha, and my eye mask.
What is always in your refrigerator?
Sunflower seed butter. Addicted.
What breaks your heart?
How fear drives people to act with hate and violence.
What makes your heart melt?
If you weren’t making art, what would you be doing?
Choreographing dance or teaching English.
What makers/writers/poets/musicians inspire you and why?
Virginia Woolf, for the way she examines the divide between our inner and outer lives, and the formal beauty of her writing.
Currently, which artists are you obsessed with or inspired by? Why?
I just saw the Agnes Martin exhibition at the Guggenheim, and I was extremely moved by her work. She got her masters in her late 30’s and didn’t really establish her mature practice until her 40’s. She had great joy in life, but loved her solitude. I think this is communicated in her painting. There is a feel for the land, and our relation to it that is palpable in her work. The paintings are wide open, yet monkish in their discipline and quiet.
Susan Klein has exhibited her work both nationally and internationally. She has shown at the Brooklyn Artists Gym, Brooklyn NY, 3433 Gallery, Chicago, IL, PDX Contemporary Art, Portland, OR, University of Ulsan, South Korea, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, as well as other venues. Recent awards include a full fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center, an Ox-bow artist in residence fellowship, residency at Arteles, in Finland, and a College of Charleston Faculty Research Grant to attend the Takt Berlin residency, summer 2015. Klein received her MFA in 2004 from University of Oregon and a BFA in 2001 from University of New Hampshire. She is currently Assistant Professor of Art at the College of Charleston.