Saturday, November 1, 2014

I Dwell in Impossibility, a collaboration with John Hensel, is hung

 My friend Marcus helped me hang the show today.  You can visit it starting November 7, at 6pm, at the Larson Gallery in  the St. Paul Student Center, 2017 Buford Ave, St. Paul.  I'll be very excited to go to the opening so I can see my co-exhibitor's work.  Installing photos is pretty fast. I left Jamie Winter Dawson just beginning the long work of hanging an installation.  I saw fungi-forms in thin layers of paper in her boxes.  It should be just beautiful!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Prepping the Larson Gallery show with a little help from my friends.

 Accuracy has never been my strong suit.  But Dale, who works at the Bell Museum  on campus and in my studio from time to time, is a master of accuracy.

Monday we inventoried, marked and installed the hangers on all 15 prints of the suite I DWELL IN IMPOSSIBILITY.  I don't know if all 15 will fit in the gallery... I'll find out in a few days.

But come see on November 7.

Art Opening: Form: Inside Out
                      Fri, Nov 7 6:00pm
                      St. Paul Student Center, 2017 Buford Ave, 
                           St. Paul, MN

Monday, September 22, 2014

Upcoming Show Opening November 7

Inside and Out handbill_Susan

Art Opening: Form: Inside Out
                      Fri, Nov 7 6:00pm
                      St. Paul Student Center, 2017 Buford Ave, St. Paul, MN
Combining her studies in biology and the fine arts, Jamie Winter Dawson brings a new perspective to the inner body.  Susan Hensel uses costume to portray new forms of the body and to reflect on the constraints of age
Opening includes food and music, all are welcomed. 
a collaboration by
Susan Hensel John Hensel

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –  Emily Dickinson

I dwell in an aging body:
      emptied of fertility by circumstance and time,
      denied power through chance of  birth and age,
      yet still impossibly fecund with possibility.

I dwell in the creative impossible, choosing to depict the transgression of gender role interacting with age; to create a poetic representation of both diminishment and power, neither male nor female, impossibly pregnant...liminal in all possible ways.  Neither one nor the other, neither yin nor yang.

This suite of photographs is a collaboration of the performer and sculptor, Susan Hensel, and the photographer, John Hensel. When collaborating, Susan sets the parameters of costume and objects to be manipulated and then allows the collaborator to direct the action.  Drawing on extensive study of African masquerade culture, she allows the objects and costumes to inhabit her will, allowing her aged, broken body to dance free in the spirit of the costume.
What is pictured here?

Susan, a sixty-four year old woman, pregnant, wearing a power suit and celluloid collar.

In truth, tired, drugged, in post-surgical condition, constrained from using her right arm but wearing her scars proudly. She channels a sensual force, dancing in a masquerade.

The imagery reveals a transgressive combination of outright sexual power with outright male power. There is a certain shamanistic aspect to this, the mysterious power of birth vs. the physical male strength and political power.

The handmade paper pregnant belly was cast from molds made progressively of a young pregnant woman as her body swelled with life.  It is also a repurposing of part of an old installation called Erin's Belly:Protected Real Estate.

A woman wearing a man's power suit defies cultural expectations.

Pregnancy is an image of creativity, but also an image of youth. Here an aged woman wearing a pregnant belly and exposing false breasts again defies expectations.

"It's hard for me, at the age of 64, to understand gender as construct.  In my days in the college classroom, gender was what you were born with, while behaviors surrounding gender were mutable. Both the language and the understanding has changed. In this new millennium, I can think of gender as a costume, a masquerade, imposed or chosen."                                                      -Susan Hensel

Also showing in the Larson Gallery is the work of Jamie Winter Dawson.  Please visit her website to get a preview of the sorts of things you might see from her.
Put this on your calendar, too!
Concordia College TRUTH TELLING: Jerome fiber artists Nov. 13 - Jan. 3, opening reception November 13, 5-8pm

Friday, September 12, 2014

Changes in the Studio and new shows ahead

They say a rolling stone gathers no moss, the more things change the more they remain the same...etc. There are probably a few more cliches, if I could just think of them.  I am on my own again in the studio, i.e. back to normal. 

My wonderful, wonderful assistant, Melissa, decided to simplify her life a bit.  She was juggling so many balls that I knew our time together in the studio was going to coming to an end sooner, rather than later.  With her help, I re-launched my exhibition career.  REALLY!  I felt like an utter amateur when I returned to the studio to determine what I had been doing all those years the gallery was open!  She helped me discover what I had, think clearly about it, re-write many documents and organize my desktop for applying to shows.  Wow!  I could not be more grateful.  Please support her in her endeavors  with her gallery Flow Art Space.

I have been working away on the Jerome Fiber Project Grant...see The Wearing My Age Blog.  In the background I hear the embroidery machine stitching away.  As a result of the learning process for the Wearing My Age Project, I embroidered a series of hankies with selfies!  I just sent 3 of them off to Seattle, to Columbia City Gallery.  You can see one of them in the poster;-)  Seattle is one of my favorite cities in the world.  If you are out there in the next month and a half, check out the show!

The Ophelia Project comes down from Riverland Community College soon...Marcus and I drive down September 25 to pack it up and put it in storage for a few months.

Upcoming shows are a bit more local:

I Dwell in Impossibility opens as part of a two person show at Larson Gallery U of MN Nov. 7( opening) - Dec. 4Wearing My Age opens as part of the Jerome show, Truth Telling atConcordia College Jerome fiber artists Nov. 13 (opening) - Jan. 3

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The performance of The Ophelia Project at Riverland Community College

It took quite a while to upload...but here it is.  The first performance of The Ophelia Project.  The performance was September 3, 2014 with the able assistance of Ellie Dyke, a student at Riverland Community College.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Getting ready to perform The Ophelia Project

I drove down to Riverland Community College to meet and practice with student Ellie Dyke.  We will perform our part of the Ophelia Project Wednesday, September 3, at 1:30 pm.  A few people I know are carpooling from Minneapolis to come and see.  Let me know if you want to be part of that carpool.  The little YouTube video will give you a sense of the installation...sans performers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Ophelia Project, completed after 7 years!

It has been a long time coming.  I began the Ophelia Project around seven years ago.  I had hired a model to do some drawings involving suits.  Two big bodies of work grew out of this week long modeling session...and lots of other artwork as well. Much of my current work has grown out of this experience with  the model. see: Wearing My Age Project,

Today, with the able assistance of my friend Marcus Larson,  the project was installed at Riverland Community College in Austin, MN.  What is The Ophelia project?  It's been a little hard to explain.

•The Ophelia Project is fine mixed media drawings on handmade paper.
•The Ophelia Project is an installation of evocative objects that expand the story.
•The Ophelia Project is a soundscape that creates an anxious space. 
•The Ophelia Project is a poem describing a small life. 
•The Ophelia project is a performance.
The Ophelia Project, installed
Marcus and I began the day with wall stencils.  Neither of us had ever stenciled walls before.  We thought it would take us a couple of hours.  IT WAS SO EASY!  We knocked it off before lunch!
Then the rest of the show was hung and arranged.  So many pink things for miss Ophelia!
Lighting as it will be half way through the performance

Ophelia, as she expected herself to be.

One-time Performance Wednesday September 3 at 1:30 pm
1900 8th Avenue NW. Austin, MN 55912

Gallery hours are M-F from 9 am - 4 pm.
Exhibition dates August 25-September 25, 2014

Riverland Community College in Austin is just south of Interstate 90 on Highway 218, which is an exit from Interstate 90. The college is south on Highway 218, which becomes 14th St. NW. The college is close to the Interstate. Turn in the main entrance by the college sign and look for the “Frank W. Bridges Theatre” lettering on the side of the middle building facing the parking lot. The gallery is adjacent to the theatre. Look for the doors labeled “E4”.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I am only 3 inches taller than these frames

It's not so much that I am short, although I am that.  I top out at 60 inches in height, give or take a decimal or two.  But these frames top out at 57 inches.

Heavy duty framing!  And I mean HEAVY. These things weigh a ton.  But it is so good to see them framed!

These are part of the His Suit, Hirsute, Power Suit project for which I continue to seek funding.  In addition to these singular pieces, there are triptychs that were developed to be the surface of three dimensional objects that will loom at the center of an installation.  So, I am now beginning to frame the parts that are framable while I await grant results and seek yet more funding sources.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

exhibitions and websites

Most of the activity in the studio has been on the Wearing My Age Project.  I have surveyed 168 people about their attitudes toward their work clothing.  I have learned to digitize embroidery and am now draping a dress form to make clothing to carry the messages.  Follow the project on

Meanwhile, I have been working diligently on the new website...again.  I have added a calendar and you can expect to see a pretty thorough re-design soon.  The work above Closeted #5 is going to be showing in the  8th annual University of Michigan Alumni Exhibition entitled Unintended Consequences, Jul 14 – Aug 2, 2014 at the Slusser Gallery, Ann Arbor, MI (map)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fed Ex Freight came today: Framing again!

The collar drawing from the Reinvented Past series are finally getting their frames.  I ordered the frames and matts assembled, making it much easier to deal with.  But they were so big, they had to come via Fed Ex Freight.  They will show later this year and next at the Hopkins Art Center and at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts.  Here are the ones I finished today:
A Reinvented Past 6, 38" x 40"

A Reinvented Past 3, 23" x 44.5"

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

News that is fit to print, and some that is not

Got a few more shows lined up thanks to the hard work of Melissa Metzler  of Flow Artspace.She and I have been working together, one day a week, since the first of the year. The goals: to get my portfolio organized; to apply to shows; to apply for grants.  The body of work: I DWELL IN IMPOSSIBILITY was picked up by Larson Art Gallery, on the St. Paul Campus of the U for late this year.  Banfill-Locke Center for art picked up REINVENTED PAST for next year.  And, there have been others.  YAY Melissa!  THANK YOU!
It may not look like much, but sudden progress has been made in the Embroidery program. I had been having trouble getting it to export.  I needed to find a way to compress the files.  Finally found how to reduce the number of stitches so exports could happen.

Can't stitch the test out yet...the embroidery machine is IN THE HOSPITAL for its annual maintenance.  BOO HOO!  It will be gone at least another week.  I miss it!  I , of course, want to stitch these text tests out right NOW.

Despite having a really rotten cold, I got a lot of framing done this week.  Cleaned up the studio so when the truck comes tomorrow with the BIG frames, I have room to work on them.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Helping "problem children" toe the line

So, I look really, really tired in this photo.  You would be too, if you were pregnant at the age of 64!

The good news is that this body of work, I DWELL IN IMPOSSIBILITY, will be showing at the University of Minnesota Larsen Gallery in November.  Cool.

And, otherwise, I spent the day with Dale Kennedy, working out the the presentation of the "problem children" in the series of Reinvented Memory.  There were a couple of pieces in the collar series of this body of work that were too large to be matted and grumpy about being square.  For instance, this piece
was too large to be matted like the others in the group.  Matt board comes 40 x 60.  This piece is over 40", unframed.  Now, perhaps  there are special order matt boards larger than 40x 60...but at what cost?

There was another collar mixed media drawing, not yet photographed, that was cut radically NOT SQUARE, by...yes, ME.  This is why I need helpers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Taking the stitch into the digital realm

The primary task of these early days of working on the project for the Jerome Grant is learning to use the TruEmbroidery software.  This image is not likely to be part of the project.  I chose it because I thought it would be an easy image for learning some skills. I started working on this image in early March! 
Success, at last!

It has taken weeks to get to this point.  Admittedly there was a church conference and a trip to New York thrown in...Nonetheless, this software is proving to be a bit opaque and the embroidery machine is typically random in its operation.

This image is a digitization of a drawing I did last year, titled SILENCED, a pastel/mixed media piece, hand stitched with waxed linen.
I scanned it into Photoshop and posterized it down to 4 colors.  When I imported it into TruEmbroidery, it suddenly had something like 27 colors!  I edited the heck out of it.  Transferred it to another part of the program to do some adjustment....even more colors!

Yesterday I got the software to cooperate.  I got the embroidery machine to accept the design.  I spent three hours stitching it out while the machine's on-board computer kept stopping and telling me I had run out of thread ( a lie! ), whole swathes of skipped stitches needed fixing, rats nests formed on the back, the red thread refused to stitch, you name it, and then the whole design suddenly got a full 1/4" out of registration after 2/3 of it was stitched!  The good news is that I really learned how to reset the starting place for the needle when portions of the design needed re-stitching.  A very good skill to have.

So, today, I reconsidered the embroidery machine.  I changed the needle, re-threaded everything, loosened the upper tension.  I hooped a new piece of muslin over 2 sheets of tear away stabilizer.  I skipped the background padding layer of stitching and all of the white fill. And got the image I had wanted all along.   In no way can I say I have gotten the  hang of this software, but I am learning a few things.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Continuum a show about gender

Two photographs from the series  I DWELL IN IMPOSSIBILITY were chosen for the show Continuum. Continuum opens at the College of St. Benedict,  in St. Joseph, MN, opens April 14 with a reception April 26 beginning at noon.  The exhibition was curated by Sammy Muldoon.
I DWELL IN IMPOSSIBLITY #2, a collaboration between Susan and John Hensel

I DWELL IN IMPOSSIBLITY #12, a collaboration between Susan and John Hensel

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Little Deerfooted Girl

I decided, after print tests, that this little book would be best printed at Blurb, rather than on my Epson. I've never used BLURB before, so I am interested to see how things turn out.

 The Little Deerfooted Girl  is a small story about a vain little girl.  I have never been able to decide if it is a children's book or an artists book. It is quite unlike any book I have done to date.

 I was inspired to do the tiny, little, narrative watercolors while staying in my favorite cabin on the Northshore of Lake Superior last summer. I was recovering from injuries and surgery, able to do a tiny bit more each day that I was there. It was sort of my line in the sand, I guess.  Somehow, despite the limitations, I was going to WORK, dammit!

The Little Deerfooted Girl available at Blurb

Monday, March 24, 2014

A question, stuff and nonsense, and one last photo of the Habitat Project

One of  the joys of today was finally putting all the ladders away  after months of living with them and ON them.  But, before I put them away, I made sure to get down the things that need to be framed.  While climbing in the "rafters"  I found this painting all rolled up.  I did it probably 5 or 6 years ago.  Totally forgot about it.  So, now I see it.  I like it.  But it is really, really know, the ridges formed from being rolled too tightly and probably squashed just a bit.   It is acrylic on canvas, cut and reassembled, presumably using PVA glue.

The Question:


This next one falls under the category of STUFF:

The pink and green piece is the first of three that are inaugurating the return to useable studio space.  Saturday evening, after installing  the Habitat project and before splitting a celebratory bottle of wine with my assistant, I resumed work on three old, stalled pieces.  Marcus was shocked that I was already at work.  Actually, it was a way of claiming my space back  and forestalling the normal let-down from finishing a major project!
I have my Mother's Thighs!
Taken by Dale Kennedy from atop a 10 foot ladder.  Susan Beuchler and Susan Hensel down below

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Installation of Habitat-DONE

The big core of the roll

Unrolled, awaiting hanging cables

The injured warrior unrolling cable

First Panel almost installed

Cleaning up the top rails, viewed from the cubicles


The view toward the cubicles

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Habitat Project has left the studio

 The very last day before the Habitat Project goes to its "forever home."

Raising the Roof on Home
By Susan Hensel and clients of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity

Hope. Optimism. Generosity.
The clients of Habitat who worked on this project filled the room with their excitement about building houses and creating safe, secure homes for their families.  They were filled with pride in their work , great optimism and hope. They generously contributed their time and talents to this artwork, creating a “crazy quilt” of home.

Fabric decorated with fabric paints, dyes and machine embroidery

Second panel coming down
The Last Grommet
Laying it straight

The 2 panels are loosely rolled up together
Dale observing the roll

Marcus and Gideon observing the roll
I'm the short human

Out the door they go

And into the car, ready to travel to its forever home tomorrow.