Q & A with Susan Beiner

Interview by Nadia Al-Khalifah


Hello! I’m sure you’ve heard that our exhibition Organic Dissolution, which features the ceramic work of artist Susan Beiner,is coming to an end this Friday, April 26, 2013. That means you only have 3 days left to see it! 

This marvelous ceramic art is the work of Arizona based artist Susan Beiner. She received her MFA from The University of Michigan, and BFA from Rutgers University in New Jersey. Currently, she teaches at Arizona State University. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally and has received several awards and residencies. Susan’s ceramic work has been exhibited at The Mint Museum of Craft and Design; NC, Holter Museum of Art; MT, Princesseh of Keramiek Museum;Netherlands,Wustum Museum of Fine Art; WI , San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts; CA, as well as numerous galleries and universities around the country.

We were very appreciative to get a few moments of Susan’s time to answer a few questions about her artistic process and work so look below to get a glimpse into the mind of this very talented ceramic artist.

Q: Why did you choose to work with ceramics?

A: I can't really answer this...I got hooked as most people do in undergraduate school. Its flexibility and 3-D qualities...and there is an endless amount of learning involved...so I can never get bored!

Q: How did you get into teaching ceramics and has it helped your creative process? 

A: I started teaching part time after Graduate school and after 6 years I applied or a full time position...I'm not sure it helps my creative process, but it does keep me informed and moving in a contemporary direction...

Q: What does the title of your most recent exhibition Organic Dissolution mean?

A: Dissolution is a word that can apply to many things; usually government, businesses, relationships and partnerships. It refers to what is left once something is broken up, dispersed or undone. My work explores the resulting state, or dissolution, of all that was once natural, but is now genetically modified or altered, manufactured or processed,manipulated or cloned.

Q: How long was the process of creating this installation?

A: It took about 1 1/2 years to finish everything.

Q: Does living in Arizona, the desert state, have any effect on your work?

A: Yes, I think so.  My work has always been influenced by the environment and I have always been interested in plants and gardening.  I think the desert offers more open spaces, and I think this allows me to create work that fills space. Seeing how a cactus spouts a flower is like an immediate spark, bright, powerful and beautiful but only lasting a short time.  I think being surrounded by the desert allows me to do the same with color, or in this case absence of color.

Q: Why did you decide to exhibit drawings of your ceramic pieces? Do they have any special meaning in conjunction to the installation?

A: When I create an installation, I only have an idea about what I want it to look like since I can't put everything together prior to the install gallery space.  I draw in conjunction with making,and I draw the work as it evolves.  i think its becomes a way for me to figure out more of the details.  The making of the work is a very active process, where drawing is a meditative process.  I also like the idea of surrounding the work with the drawings, as I think the further pull in the viewer into the piece.  I think at some point I will be working on drawing wallpaper to fully cover the walls.

Q: The progression of sterilization is presented with the absence of color in your exhibition, but what do the small pops of lavender color represent?

A: The small areas of color are just that...a spark like the desert bloom to bring your eye through and around the entire form.

Q: You’ve mentioned in the past that if you could, you’d have filled the whole space with your inorganic pieces for viewers to step on. Will you push the boundaries of future exhibitions and fill the environment with this?

A: I'm not sure...I think every idea for an installation changes and evolves as I assemble it and see it finished.  I learn from each one...I am already onto the next idea.....but maybe...

Q: Human development on the natural world will continue to artificially grow in the future. Where do you see your works progressing with this advancement?

A: I think that they are getting minimal in a way...through color and intensity of the space.  I read articles about genetic engineering and what’s happening to our foods in terms of growing them,and that usually gives me ideas to create work.

Q: Are you currently working on a new piece or ideas?

A: Yes, but they are smaller more experimental pieces.  This usually helps me get to a larger piece and more significant idea.  I've been doing some large coiled vessel forms which I am going to build sort of laboratory test tubes inside of them and have flowers...well,what I will call flowers but won't look like them, out of the tubes.