Susan Feldman, a Multi-Disciplinary Artist with a Rich Toolbox
Written by Genie Davis
Memories, fantasies, wood, found objects, and dreams: this is the rich toolbox utilized by artist Susan Feldman. She creates layered, reconfigured surfaces that are in part shaped by the wood she gathers which forms the basis of her creations. She’s said that the materials she uses inspire her process.
“It’s a great honor and privilege to be able to do what I do and make what I make. I’m trying to be as genuine as I can, and true to the vision that emerges as I create,” she relates.
Her often mysterious, highly architectural work is shaped by many things, she explains, listing these as “my meditation practice, my surroundings, construction and destruction sites, colors and shapes I see outside of my studio, and also concepts I get – often in my not-waking state. Not that I go into a trance or anything, but I keep myself open to whatever possibility comes forward to me,” she laughs.
Her creative process is free-form and almost always involves listening to music. She relates that music assists with “the whole vibe of the piece” and that often the work itself tells her what kind of music she should listen to.
“I never pre-plan what I’m going to make. I get an idea/concept and then just start somewhere…sometimes it’s sitting on the floor just grabbing pieces of wood and starting to put them together and connect. I love the feeling of a good connection,” she enthuses. “Sometimes I wander through my studio and grab a piece of wood or some older work that inspires me to create something new from it.”
For Feldman, her art is an adventure, one that she will ultimately share with the viewer. “[It’s] like I’m on a huge treasure hunt, looking for the right pieces and letting them fit together. It keeps evolving as I go. I keep my self very open to whatever wants to come out intuitively.” She adds “When it’s right, it’s right, and then there’s that ‘yes’ moment, love the ‘yes’ moment.”
Her current projects go back and forth between wall work and sculpture. She says she loves both forms of her art.
“Seems like when I run out of wall space, I go 3D, and when I run out of space, it’s back to the wall. Installations lie somewhere in between. I have made a whole series of mixed media wall work of architectural fantasy type wood and plexiglass pieces with bright colors. Then I realized I wanted to kind of build them, not them exactly, but 3D versions of buildings, making them small so I could maneuver them well. That led to me deciding that I wanted to build my own city with buildings that I wanted to surround myself with, only places that felt genuine to me,” she says. “That has become my latest obsession. So far, I have about 20, and don’t know how many more I will make.” She simply plans to keep going until she feels the work is complete, and she’s shaped her own community.
“I’ve been adding to my list every time I think of a new one I want to make.” So far, she’s created an entire world: “The Fun House,” “The Office,” “The Music Emporium,” “The Neighbor’s House,” “The Pool,” “The Firehouse,” “The Wellness Pavilion,” “The Metro Stop,” “The Breakfast Joint,” “The Old Guys House,” “The Community Center,” “The Meditation Center,” “The Dispensary,” “The School,” and “The House on The Hill.”
“I’m in progress on ‘The Motel.’ You can see them on my Instagram. With all this housing crisis and displacement, I feel I’m creating an environment/ community that all can be a part of…if only they were life size,” she muses.
While her work has changed over the years, she has always been a multi-disciplinary artist working with a wide array of materials and skilled at a working with a wide range of materials.
“I’ve been doing this for so long, my work is bound to change thru the years.
Started out oil painting, then drawing, painting, then mixed media, sculpture, installation, found wood, weaving — you name it, I’ve worked with it. I think for the past 10 years of so, I’ve been focusing on the combination of using all my tools in my toolbox.”
In doing so, she has created intricate, puzzle-like pieces, whether wall art, free-standing sculptures, or her current “village.”
“I can retrace my work and definitely see connections. One form of work leads me to the next,” she notes. “It’s also about having fun with what I’m making. That’s very important.”
Recently, she created an installation at the 12th annual TarFest, a free, vibrant music, art, and craft festival held at Hancock Park near the La Brea Tar Pits.
Feldman reused structures she’d created for a solo show 5-years ago to shape an entirely new piece. “I arranged them in a whole new way, and changed them a bit to create a playful architectural environment.”
Feldman frequently likes to change things up, “I love to…give new life to something I once created in a certain way.” She also did just that in her last gallery show, Telling, Making, Doing at Quotidian in DTLA, with a restructuring of a piece from her large-scale installation “Virginia’s House.”
She also revels in collaboration; in the recent Forest Bathing at Loft at Liz’s in mid-city, she worked with artist Dave Lovejoy, and describes the experience as “Pure joy. He was so great to work with, and I think we created something special that really pushed us both in our skill-set department.”
While she has new exhibition plans brewing, nothing is yet set in stone – or wood, as the case may be. “I really want to show my own city somewhere,” she attests, saying she’s going to look for the right location to fit her work once she feels the work is complete.
In the meantime, art lovers and Feldman fans can find her current project on Instagram @susanfeldmanart, and on her website at susanfeldmanart.com