Other Investigations: Susan Kimball

http://www.susanobrienkimball.com/

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Last September Susan Kimball’s work was featured on Make Space. Now the Chicago-based artist talks about her practice, process, and experience at ACRE Residency last summer.

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COLLECTING

Writing is an integral part of my practice and is the only thing I collect regularly, other than finger cuts and half-empty cans of white paint. Many times a concept will form out of a phrase that I’ve written down- whether from reference material or my own musings. I collect these phrases and write short essays to explain them to myself; to unpack them and find a metaphor that I can translate into a piece. On a good day, that’s where I can find a title, too.

MORE AFTER THE BREAK 

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APPROACHES

Usually, there will only be one initial piece, then the subsequent troubleshooting for that work forces decisions that can sway a piece into another direction or other works.

When a piece has raised enough questions for me, I discard most of it. I feel that each one serves a specific time period or mental state, and when it’s time has passed, so too must the piece. As I develop the previous idea into it’s next stage, I try to grow by forcing myself into using different forms or installation techniques.

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MATERIALS + MEDIUM

I’m in the midst of a great love affair with materials and their surfaces, and I attempt to manipulate both to create situations that seduce and confuse. Material relationships activate the work, both physically and metaphorically. Conventional art and construction materials appeal to me for their aesthetic properties and for their loaded histories, which I try to combine with other forms or substances to elicit a visceral response.

finger detail

Sensuality is important to the reception of a piece, and play with adding sensory elements (weight, heat, scent, liquid) that result in uncanny bodily references. I enjoy seeing a fingerprint or indent on my sculptures after they have been installed, like someone couldn’t resist swiping some frosting off of an untouched cake.

RESEARCH

The majority of my research revolves around other artist’s use of materials that I’m attracted to, so that I know what I’m dealing with. I’m interested in what I refer to as “dead white guy art”, or minimalist theories and practices as they relate to material, gender, and space. One can only critique something accurately if they’ve invested time into understanding it, and I have a deep love/hate relationship with minimalists.

I combine that with doses of local artists and peers, as well as heavy-hitting female conceptual artists. I’m currently infatuated with the work of Helen Mirra, Rachel Harrison, Anna Sagstrom, and Irena Knezevic. They all have such beautiful display methods.

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SPACE + GEOGRAPHY

Space is an integral part of my practice and the work, itself. My studio is temporarily located in a corner of the basement in the metal shop where I work. The downside includes uncomfortable temperatures, bad lighting, and possibly ghosts, but working there allows for full access to our production shop and shared tools.

In my work, I try to push the use of space by considering the specific environment that a piece will inhabit. It is crucial that the work acknowledges the gallery space either through direct physical intervention or through the use of clichéd gallery display tactics (i.e. pedestals) as a way to comment on the white cube and add a critical layer to conversation.

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RESIDENCIES

Have you participated in residency programs before ACRE? If so, which ones, when and where?

ACRE was my first residency experience and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction.

What has your experience at ACRE been like? What kinds of projects or adventures did you participate in? 

I made almost nothing at ACRE, but walked away feeling better about my transition from school to real art life. The chance to meet people from different programs and backgrounds in such an intimate setting spurred quick friendships and expanded my artistic circle- something that was greatly needed after being submersed in art school. I learned that starlit dance parties can lead to happiness and had an intense studio visit that was just the kick in the ass I needed at the time.

Whether or not this was your first residency experience, do you think residencies are an important resource for artists?

Residencies are incredibly important to the health of artists and art communities! It’s easy to become stuck into the same social gallery scenes and the key to survival is adaptation. Whether you make a bunch of friends and go to lectures all day or spend a week alone in the woods and make 1000 pieces of art, residencies offer a retreat from your version of normal and that has the power to change you and what you want.

Has your experience at ACRE affected the work you are making in the studio now?

Acre is a retreat from much of the typical art school fare, which helped jumpstart the next phase of my life. I was surrounded by a small group of very talented people who I might’ve never met otherwise, and it was eye-opening to be introduced to their work over coffee in a field, rather than in a gallery or classroom. That, combined with an informative studio visit with Irena Knezevic, sent me home with a clean slate and a lot of homework, which influences my work today.

2 thoughts on “Other Investigations: Susan Kimball

  1. Nice article about Susan. This studio activity is working up to a culmination: a two person show at slow.

    Assistant Saws Magician in Half.
    Susan Kimball and George Blaha

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