AHA! 703 | The Sculptures of Susan Meyer
How do utopian communities influence the sculptures of Susan Meyer? Producer Matt Rogowicz visits Susan at The College of St. Rose's Center for Art & Design to find out.
- I'm here at the Center for Art and Design
at the College of Saint Rose,
to speak with artist Susan Meyer,
and learn more about her incredible sculptures.
(soft upbeat music)
- [Susan] I work with wood,
and I do a lot of laser cutting of slats that go,
that kind of cover the wood structure.
I also make smaller sculptures,
and I do some walls, some flat wall work as well.
A lot of the work is inspired by utopian communities,
ones that sprang up in the mid-1800s
as a response to the Industrial Revolution,
mainly in the Northeast portion of the United States.
(gentle piano music)
"Nude-topia" was probably the earliest piece.
The model utopian communities look a little bit
like architectural models,
and they're occupied by HO scale figures
that are all nude. (laughs)
And the figures would either be together
in scenarios where there seem to be a bit of tension,
or they would be alone, and kind of in a state of ennui.
So they had kind of a curious relationship
to the utopian community.
So I'm interested in that,
that idea of great possibility and great potential,
and then the kind of human weakness
sort of mashing up against each other.
So I grew up in Utica, New York and would go
to Munson-Williams Art Institute quite a lot.
And there was that Thomas Cole series "Voyage of Life",
and I was interested in the way
it goes through these stages,
sort of a sense of a rise and fall.
And in making the pieces "Nude-topia", "Together",
there's one called "The Enterprise",
there's a little bit of this sense
of a rise and a fall of these utopian communities,
which indeed, over, and over, and over again,
these communities would spring up,
and then dismantle relatively quickly.
I wanted to start making singular sculptures,
rather than installations.
I just thought that would be kind of challenging in a way.
With pieces like "Nude-topia" and "Together",
the exterior shapes of the individual sculptures
seem to talk about the landscape and topography.
And I wanted to take that and have it be
the interior of the sculpture, and have a more
geometric kind of boundary around the pieces.
So those pieces, for instance "Shaft",
the topography within them is all taken
from areas where utopian communities
sprang up in the Northeast.
So, it's all from maps that I would
turn into Adobe Illustrator files,
and then laser cut each individual section.
(string bass music)
I was gonna be in a show dealing with scholar's rocks.
And scholar's rocks are sort of these,
from centuries in Asia, scholars, and poets, and painters,
philosophers would have these small, natural rocks
on their desks, sometimes on kind of elaborate stands.
And these rocks would be sources of inspiration.
I started to make "Plinth" because I thought
of these elaborate stands that this,
that the rocks would sometimes sit within or on.
So I made "Plinth", and making the structure
almost, like, more elaborate than the little kind of
offhand stand-ins for scholar's rocks
that sit within and on it.
And "Plinth" is called "Plinth" as, you know,
plinth being a stand for a sculpture.
So the stand for the sculpture kind of
became the sculpture in "Plinth".
I have for many years, been making these tiny little,
sort of scruffy sketches in my tiny little sketchbook.
Kind of an idea for a sculpture and they have
a real two dimensional, doodle-like quality.
So, I thought I'll just start with the sketch,
and kind of look at the sketch and work in wood.
And kind of make it directly from the sketch,
rather than making a three-dimensional model
from the sketch and kind of sizing it up.
You know, things that I would tell my students to do.
(laughs) For instance,
I thought I'm just gonna go straight from the sketch,
and it became kind of an interesting way of working.
So "Plinth" is directly from, there's a little sketch
that looks quite a bit, actually that's very offhand,
very doodle-like, but looks quite a bit
like the final piece.
Initially, I make a wood structure from
these little drawings in my sketchbook,
and tape onto each individual plane,
a black strip of construction paper,
mark it all up with the information I need,
then I take it all off and scan each piece of the pack,
and put them in Illustrator, and trace them.
Then, I cut each plane from different types
of different colors of material, different painted wood,
and collaged wood, and put that on
each of the individual planes of the piece.
So these pieces will have, you know, 200 planes on them.
Scholar's rocks, part of the reason
they're interesting to me is that
they're these objects of inspiration,
or transport to somewhere for the scholar,
or the poet, or the writer.
And I guess as artists, we're hoping that what we make
will likewise inspire or transport.
(gentle upbeat music)