“I have been thinking a lot about the purpose of non-purpose and the function of tactility and creation.” – Susan Klein
Written by Leigh Sabisch, gallery associate, The Southern
What is it about art supplies that makes them sacred? Sometimes we buy the most expensive paints and then feel restricted by their preciousness. We treat ourselves and get the expensive heavyweight Belgian linen and are then afraid to start, fearing it’ll be ruined. The scope of art supplies and tools is wider than you may instinctively think, and though Susan Klein may still treat herself to the best, she doesn’t discriminate when it comes to what can be used.
It’s also easy to get caught up in your habits, whether they’re good or bad. There’s something liberating about working with materials as though it’s your first time touching them. With an approach like that work sometimes has a particular air of curiosity and wonder, but how does one achieve that feeling when they’ve been an artist for years?
You call your small sculptures “offerings”. While making them, do you have something specific in mind that they’ll to be offered to?
I started to think of these as offerings to the act of making, or the creative force. Sometimes being an artist feels completely ridiculous – especially when the work is material/process-based and does not have a clear socio-political purpose. I have been thinking a lot about the purpose of non-purpose and the function of tactility and creation. I think these objects are an homage to touch, imagination, and non-quantifiable value.
In approaching the creation of your three-dimensional work, do you see it more of a sculpture that you’ll have to paint or a painting that you need to make a surface for?
Your recipes for some of your sculptural pieces almost sound like they come from Betty Crocker rather than Home Depot. How do you concoct them?
I found my recipe online! Easy – joint compound, Elmer’s glue, flour, cornstarch, oil, toilet paper. Plus a sealer to keep away hungry mice.
How do you land on that perfect balance between freedom/release and control in your work?
Hmmmm…..is there a perfect balance? I think it is where analytic thinking and intuitive thinking meet. For me, it is when the gesture remains casual and relaxed but the form and color are intentional. I rely on gut instinct/intuition in the studio, yet I also plan out the architecture of the work and think through decisions in the studio. It is this balance of freedom and consideration that I seek.
Especially now more than ever, the idea of creating artwork that has such a sense of playful inquisitiveness sounds exhausting. She says that her work doesn’t have a clear socio-political purpose, and that may be what makes it feel so relevant. The current socio-political climate feels stifling but artists like Klein keep us grounded. They keep us hopeful and motivated to navigate the world in a more engaged and aware way. There’s a perfect place for all genres of work, and Susan’s is right where it belongs.