Interview: Susan Carnahan
Luca Curci talks with Susan Carnahan during MIXING IDENTITIES, the third appointment of CANVAS International Art Fair, at THE LINE Contemporary Art Space, and during the 2nd edition of BARCELONA CONTEMPORARY 2021 at Valid World Hall Gallery.
Susan Carnahan is an NYC-based photographer, video artist and emerging ceramicist. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she completed her undergraduate degree from the University of North Texas in 1992. She then moved to upstate New York, earning her MFA in photography from Syracuse University. She has exhibited in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Australia, Finland, England, Italy, Argentina, Dubai, South Korea, Thailand. Susan currently lives in upper Manhattan with her husband (who is often her collaborator and always her muse), and three sons.
“In my work, I explore the nature of relationships and the perpetual shifting dynamics between people as they navigate the dance of connection. I am fascinated by how these unconscious, psychological forces between people are never static in nature, but rather are constantly subject to change as they evolve. Much of my work originates from probing my past in order to assess my present identity. I was an only child, and the solitude caused me to construct fantastical narratives in my mind. Now, as an adult artist, I am reinventing the daring chronicles that could never be acted out in childhood. In many of my works, I depict characters that are longing for substantial connections, but various barriers prevent them from engaging with one another. They remain befuddled, vulnerable, tripping over themselves in their perpetual search for companionship, like many of us…”.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Susan Carnahan – Art is not just an activity or an end product, it is a way of seeing and being, thinking and breathing. It is an active ecosystem of giving and receiving ideas, images, thoughts and passions; I make art that others behold and behold art that others make (all disciplines included!).
LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
SC – Being an artist is a lifelong journey, encompassing the chapters and seasons of the artist and their experiences. So many people and things have influenced my life, experiences and art over decades – but the universal endeavours of love, desire and the dance of connection (or barriers that prevent these connections), seem to be the thread that binds my body of work into a single whole.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
SC – I tend to think of myself as a social anthropologist, endlessly fascinated by the complicated dynamics of humans: their passions, desires, fears and follies. These observations manifest in my video art as tableaux, where I create characters (both realistic and/or slightly fantastical) that act out these follies of the human condition.
LC – Do you use video art to express something in particular? Is it your medium of expression?
SC – For many years, I was exclusively working in the medium of photography, creating dark, humorous tableaux with humans and dolls to explore different aspects of the human condition. Eventually, I reached a point where I wanted my tableaux to come to life, so I began using video to capture my stories. I would then take this ‘moving tableau’ and loop it over and over continuously, changing the speed of the image to go extremely fast or slow, reducing and exaggerating the narratives until they are broken down into fundamental expressions and relationships.
LC – How do you feel when you see your work completed?
SC – I love seeing my videos projected on walls of galleries or on small flat screens in matted frames where they come to life. However, I strongly believe that NO artwork is truly complete until it is experienced by the viewer (the beholder) – as their perception of the artwork completes the creative process.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
SC – For as long as I have worked with ITSLIQUID, I have always been intrigued with the way their curated shows experiment with time, space, body, mind, identity, etc. The current exhibition, Mixing Identities, explores the complex systems that make up our identities and how we are ever-evolving in both the exterior and interior elements of ourselves. We are always changing, evolving, yet other aspects of who we are, remain fundamentally the same throughout our lifelong transformation.
LC – Can you explain something about the video work you have in our exhibition?
SC – My newest video called “Broken Blues” is a single channel, experimental video about a seemingly mild-mannered man’s misplaced desires and refurbished dreams as he is exposed breaking down… breaking it all down. This piece is especially reflective of the time we are all currently living in, a time when the entire planet is topsy-turvy and going through an extreme metamorphosis due to the pandemic; systems are broken, economies collapsed, humanity vulnerable.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
SC – Although I live in the NYC area and am not usually able to attend these exhibitions in person, I am always impressed with the level of organization of ITSLIQUID, both in their dealings with the artists and their navigation of the press.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
SC – I have been exhibiting with ITSLIQUID for the past 6 years, which has given me exposure opportunities in Italy (Venice, Rome), England, Argentina, Spain, Thailand and NYC. I am so grateful to ITSLIQUID and look forward to showing with them again in the future!!!
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
SC – I would recommend any artist’s friend or group to exhibit with ITSLIQUID, as they provide such unique opportunities for artists to exhibit in. I love the fact that through ITSLIQUID I have exhibited my work in limousines, ferries, and beautiful galleries around the world. Additionally, every person I have interacted with has been extremely pleasant and professional.