Susan Hensel BIOGRAPHY
Susan Hensel was raised in the Finger Lakes of New York in the 1950’s. She traveled the world as a young teen, living in Taiwan in 1962, stopping in Hong Kong, Bangkok, New Delhi, Cairo, Athens, Rome, Frankfort, Stuttgart, Baden Baden, Paris, and London before entering high school.
Susan studied one summer at Cornell University and another summer in Perugia, Italy before going on to the University of Michigan where she earned a BFA with a double major in Painting and Sculpture. She went on to a 25-year career in functional and sculptural ceramics.
In the mid 1980’s Susan began a serious study of handmade paper, traveling around the United States to study. Very soon, paper blew through the studio, sweeping clay totally out the door, never to return. As is often the case, books soon followed. Susan found that books allowed her to apply every skill she had ever learned over the years: writing, literary research, drawing, painting, sculpture, sewing, cutting, papermaking, computer work, collage, printmaking, music, lights and motion.
Since the year 2000, Susan’s work has been expanding. The stories have at times become too large to remain contained within a pair of book covers. Soon the text and experience became freestanding sculpture, sound work and room-filled installation, with dabbles in performance...but still firmly rooted in the art of storytelling.
In 2004 Susan Hensel moved to Minneapolis and established Susan Hensel Gallery, an alternative space/gallery/studio where stories and performances happen. Artists from all over the United States exhibited and experimented in her space.
After 8 + years of operation, Susan returned to fulltime studio practice.
Susan’s exhibition history covers more than forty years. In the last dozen years she has exhibited in more than one hundred fifty shows in galleries and museums from coast to coast. Her work is held in many permanent collections in the United States, including the Museum of Modern Art Library in New York, The Atlanta College of Art, Wellesley College, and Michigan State University.
I make art that asks questions and tells multilayered stories about ageing in America. It is a feminist story that seeks to subvert the habits of exclusion.
My primary subject is the Caucasian woman in Western culture. She is a surrogate for targets of discrimination, standing in for all . Because she is privileged her plight may seem slight, but she can serve as metaphor and a barometer. This area of focus comes out of my personal background growing up in the 1950s, where my career options were limited and gender identified.
While addressing the subject of woman, I am not content to simply gather my cohort. My work moves beyond the naming of the obvious and seeks to show a way out of the pattern of oppression.
In a reflective, poetic, materials-based art practice I explore identity, age, gender, power and memory. I use many media to explore and reveal overlooked sources of wisdom. Fueled at times by righteous anger, the goal is to create an experience of potential beauty and to create, in the viewer, the eyes of empathy.
I ask these questions:
Who are you?
How does age or gender confine or define you?
How is your power affected by cultural realities?
How do you communicate who you are?
Who is your public self?
Who is your private self?
Who is your most secret self?
How does memory inform your present?
How are memories formed or fabricated?
What is your truth?
What is your reality?
Art is true. Art is real