Susie Ganch. Systems, Cycles and Ethics
The path from routine perception to the insight characteristic of innovative art tends to be followed intuitively and, in the best of circumstances, to culminate in epiphany: a sudden realization that one’s sense of the ordinary has changed and that, consequently, the possibility of revising perspectives on some aspect of experience has opened like a gate to another dimension. For the artist, such realization fuels creativity, but, just as important, it can provide clear direction and purpose to an activity that might otherwise seem as tentative as a sleepwalker’s groping. At the very least it stimulates further thought and can be a source of new enthusiasm in the studio. At its most productive, it gives rise not only to the work and the series but also to an entire conceptual framework within which to justify art as an endeavor.
For Susie Ganch, one such moment of realization came a decade ago while on her way to work in San Francisco, where she taught at Academy of Art University until joining the faculty in the Department of Craft and Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2005. Commuting on her familiar route spawned the kind of desultory thought that drifts so easily through the medium of the mundane. “I was wondering what it would be like to drive to work if I were an electron,” she remembers. “Would I just go right through things because I was so small that I couldn’t be blocked? I thought if I were an electron and I could move through the car, then where would I end and the car begin, and where would the car end and I begin? That made me start thinking about the sameness of everything. We’re really all the same stuff, and, if you take that idea further, the whole universe is just stuff, interconnected stuff. We’re all in a system on a large scale: a huge ecosystem.”
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Glen R. Brown, an art historian and critic of craft, finds that an interest in environmental issues is fairly common in contemporary craft discourse. In too few cases, however, does he see it influencing actual practice. For this reason, he admires Susie Ganch’s work, both in the studio and through the project Radical Jewelry Makeover. “She provides an excellent example of what you can accomplish when you turn from discussion of environmental concerns to committed action on those concerns,” he says. ‘The craft fields still have much to learn from that kind of lesson.”