Douglas Basford
Note on Susie Brandt's work

Anyone who has studied folk art, or even traditional cultures more generally, knows that materials get reused with what appears to your typical Western consumer to be stunning frequency. Back when limited supply was the governing principle of life, materials that outlived their original usefulness were immediately "recycled" into other purposes. A large number of contemporary artists, particularly those that have been termed "folk," "naïve," or "outsider" artists, as well as a startling number of art students and practicing artists, have rummaged through trash heaps, thrift stores, antique/junk stores, and attics to find excess materials to rework into art. Most of the time, one ends up with amorphous rusted contraptions nowhere near as luminous as Rauschenberg's combines, or as monumentally messy as Nancy Rubins's salvaged and suspended mattresses smeared with chocolate cake, as inviting as Mark Grote's metamorphosed "indigenous" artefacts, or as heartache-provoking as Gagik Aroutiunian's somber scrap steel sculptures incorporating old photographs of Armenians.
        Declaring "There are already too many images in the world," Susie Brandt, too, is not to be counted among the contemporary craft movement, nor is she one to distance herself from it. But she also learned much of what she knows from hard times for her family. Her fascination with fabric emerged from that time, when she sewed her first dress by age seven. Her current teaching at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, involves the Bauhaus model, one very closely tied to the growth of interest in craftsmanship that yielded some of her influences, from Anni Albers to Warren Seelig. Of her graduate work at the School for the Art Institute of Chicago, she said, "No one in Chicago made hierarchical distinctions between sewing and other forms of making," confirmed by faculty-led "field work" she did among artisans and seamstresses in the upper Midwest.
        She says of her fabric work, "I'm exploring the phenomena of cloth—gathering / harvesting / processing [and] organizing systems of building (derived from weaving, netting, piecing, etc.). I've always been fascinated by the physical substance of fabric, the flexible plane, as a conductor of color, as a social document. When I make things, I'm looking to perform [a] little alchemy." Whether it be a quilt made from stuffed Barbie doll clothes or a train station building covered with tilting circular mirrors, the very idea of form, its utility, its means of obtaining it or achieving it, is dominant for Brandt, as well as what one loses in those very same processes of use and achievement. Reproduction on the page, or on the computer screen is particularly poignantly flattening, a source of frustration even as I scanned and posted these materials.
        In Unsplendid 1.2, we will feature Brandt's "Stumps and Drains" series, where bright, parti-colored hook rugs occupy a liminal space, taking the place of ordinarily drab rain run-off drains and the top flat surface of tree stumps.

Education and Awards

1984 BFA, Philadelphia College of Art
1987 MFA, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
1993-97 New York Foundation for the Arts, Artists Fellowship
1999 The Leeway Foundation, Philadelphia, Window of Opportunity Award
2001 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Artist as Catalyst Grant
2007 Baltimore Arts and Humanities Grant

Selected Solo Shows

1997 Susie Brandt, Contemporary Quilts, Abel Joseph Gallery, Brussels
1998 Something from Nothing: The Conceptual Quilts of Susie Brandt, Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art, Portland
1999 Infringe, collaboration with Kristine Woods, Temple Gallery, Philadelphia
2001-02 White Noise, collaborative installation with Betsy Brandt, CEPA Gallery, Buffalo
2002 Susie Brandt, Philadelphia International Airport

Selected Group Shows

1992 Susie Brandt, Laurel Fredrickson, Gail Simpson, Abel Joseph Gallery, Chicago
1993 At Home With It, collaborative installation with Betsy Brandt, Plymouth State College, New Hampshire
1997 Attention to Detail, Rice Gallery, Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany
1998 Dangerous Cloth, American Primitive Gallery, New York
1999 The Comforts of Home, Hand Workshop Art Center, Richmond, VA
2000 Crosscurrents 2000; Handle With Care, Loose Threads in Fiber, The Art Gallery, University of Maryland, College Park
2002 Hobby Lobby, Gallery 312, Chicago
Labor, The Abington Arts Center, Abington, PA
2003 HoUSE/HoME, Xavier Courouble Contemporary Art, collaborative installatio with Betsy Brandt, Washington DC
2004 Repeat, Repeat, Gallery of Design, The University of Wisconsin, Madison


2004 Susie Brandt, Portfolio Collection (Telos)


return to 1.1