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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Susan L Berger

Poughkeepsie, NY
USA

I grew up in New Haven and went to art school there. In the 1960s, I was primarily a painter and then branched into doing environmental sculpture by reconstructing an excavation site. The work was shown in a gallery in New York in 1969. I learned rug hooking when I attended graduate school. From a collective I joined, I was amazed at what women were doing in this medium. I started making elaborate rug-hooking and latch-hooking fiber art. In the last few years, I returned to working on pieces I completed years before and am now working on a series called “Superior Ink,” which are more social constructions or mixed-media pieces.

Feminist Artist Statement

I make tapestry construction pieces. I use an assortment of textures: paint, oil stick, markers, wood and found objects. I do weave stitching, traditional rug-hooking techniques and vary the technique from each piece. I mostly try to use a social theme to the work. However, many of my pieces are decorative and influenced by Native American women and artists. I use different types of hooked rug-techniques, and weave stitching. I try a feeling of outside art, although all of my works are labor intensive. Women, mostly poorer women, tend to express themselves in this craft by using fiber/yarn. I guess in many respects rug hooking is a traditional craft and rooted into women’s role at home and work. They were self-taught. Women were excellent storytellers. They had strong voices and continually expressed themselves. I feel that my art pieces reflect an important part of feminism and by using basic/traditional hooking, and using scraps of materials and yarns is what they did and integrate these items into one-of-a-kind works. I want to carry on this tradition, have it remain an important craft, and be appreciated as such.

<p>Outer Limits in Two Panel</p>

Outer Limits in Two Panel

I used rug-hooking techniques, latch-hooking and cross-weaving. The piece was done in several parts and then put together into two panels. I wanted the eye to move continually, and I was influenced by Native American art.

Outer Limits in Two Panel

I used rug-hooking techniques, latch-hooking and cross-weaving. The piece was done in several parts and then put together into two panels. I wanted the eye to move continually, and I was influenced by Native American art.

55-70 Betnune Street in Sampler Format Using Google

Here is a sampler format like the ones done by women in the early 1800s. The top picture of the Westbeth which was the Bell Lab and Superior Ink Printing Co Building, taking on a factory look. It is stitched or outlined and then painted. The next picture is stitched looking top down from the building, an aerial view. There is typed lettering telling what the buildings are. The next group is photographed images taken from Google in both color and in black and white.

Superior Loading Dock in Three Panels

I had taken many photographs of “Superior Ink Printing Company” before it came to its demise in 2007. The company was part of the Far West Village industrial landscape since the early 1900’s. It was an important factor of printing industry in New York. Prior to becoming Superior Ink it was designed by the famous industrial designer A.G. Zimmerman who did the Nabisco buildings and since it was out of the landmark it met its unfortunate faith. I was intrigued with the loading dock and decided to capture the activity of it and made the three panels as different parts of the finality of the building. On October 2012 I met my own faith in that Super Storm Sandy submerged my entire studio and had to reconstruct these three panels and added another crate and expanded on the depth of these pieces. It took me entire year to do.

Superior Ink Loading Dock Two Views: Plus Road

The piece was nearly destroyed from Super Storm Sandy. I had to reconstruct the piece and then decided to make it much larger from the original work. It took on its own development and spirit. I wanted to give a bird’s eye view of the street where “Superior Ink Printing” and the loading dock became the main functioning part of its business activity. I created a mixture of markers and fiber and in the middle part of the work I split up into three pieces and your eye wanders across the work and photographs are in blue and sepia tones of the older quality of the building that did exist and worked in a horizontal view deliberating not sideways to take away from the entire work. I two additions alongside the piece is really the same but cut into two and brought to the right and left side of the work. You begin to see the slow demise of the structure trying to cling on to industrial life sparingly. The colors are greying more with occasional sky peeking through and then you see some red to make you feel some life in its struggle to survive.? What is to become of the street once this structure is gone? We will quickly forget of what it once was!

30,000 Strong to the Inferno of 1911

I did a swatch for a quilt but it never worked out. It was based on the 100th year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The cloth part of the a piece of material and the outline of ladders twisted and mangled from the falling mostly women trying to escape the fire on what was the fire escape. The weight of the falling women gave way to their death. This was a terrifying event that shocked the world. This disaster happened on March 25, 1911.146 mostly women lost their lives and they were all under 25. However, in 1909 some 30,000 marched along Fifth Avenue. They were women who wanted to the public to know of the working conditions and that they wanted to be unionized. The piece gives a layout of the 9th floor. They were working in airless and locked doors surrounded them so they wouldn’t leave. Around the original piece you have voices from the survivors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. These were immigrants from Eastern Europe and Italy. They had hope and dreams that were never to be realized but can forget them and how brave these women were and workers later benefited from this tragedy. Immigrants gave us the many laws we have today and women played a important role in the labor movement.

Cave Gatherers: Four Panels.

Once I read an article in the National Geographic magazine about cave drawings. These drawings were found out of the West Coast of America. I was struck by the primitive communications on these photographs. I guess I feel that many times that our modern devices takes away from personal communications or learning about ourselves. When Super Storm Sandy played havoc on my studio I found four panels water soaked and it was in a primitive state that needed so much work to be done. The two last panels represents the heads of family and it was to be female figures watching over their units. The middle two panels are telling a story of the daily life and how much everyone in its unit contributes to their survival. The panel expresses how much the men play part of the warrior and women are for the daily survival in regards to food preparation and daily chores. The two end panels are layered on layered with yarns. The middle pieces are done in hooking and weave stitching techniques to weaving.

A still Life with a Watering Vase on Table: Drawing Construction

I did a large piece in the middle of the work as a rug-hooked tapestry. I found that it didn’t work as a piece and decided to do a drawing construction to make it more complete. In other words, I decided to revisit the work. I find that decorative work done by women gives special meaning to the work. In this case, there was a beautiful vase on the hand-made table although rough but when placed in a home became a special work. I decided to make the decorative part work on wallpaper raised. I wanted to create a Victorian image. So, the background I decided to make miniature vases and repeated on both sides of the work. I used craft paper. I used stitchery and weaving and wanted to make the work a tribute to women of what it would be a piece handed down from one generation to the next. It was something would have seen in the l880’s.

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303 Main Street #3W
Poughkeepsie, NY
USA

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