New York City
“The power of art and the connection with others it affords me is priceless.”
Susan Spangenberg started painting at the age of three and hasn’t lost her childlike enthusiasm for creativity. She prefers to create alone, in self-isolation. She uses art to cope with the symptoms of her trauma and mental illness. Susan believes in the power of transcendence through the arts, honoring the process more than the presentation. Coming from a severely dysfunctional family which led to group homes and institutionalization in her teenage years, Susan cut her outsider artist teeth at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center’s renowned ‘Living Museum’ art rehabilitation program. She was in the vanguard of the ‘Girl, Interrupted’ female asylum artist wave that has in twenty years become the new normal, yet Susan has maintained the raw essence of that genre imbued with a twenty-first century sensibility.
Says Susan, "I create playful worlds – all of them raw, intuitive, impulsive, direct, emotional, psychedelic, and whimsical. I like to incorporate text and stream of consciousness writing in my art, including messages from my late twin brother. There are also elements of spiritual symbolism from my Trinidadian Indian ancestry and handsewn fabric throughout my work. I work in small and large format encompassing textile, mixed media, painting, body prints, and hand-made dolls."
As a self-taught artist, which is often linked to the term “outsider artist”, Susan comments, “I’ve heard many different definitions over the years for the term ‘outsider art’. Let’s break the word outsider down to the simplest form and I’ll keep this definition without changing it or suggesting anything better or different (I’m not one for labels). Ultimately all artists feel like “outsiders”, in that I believe none of us feel like we fit into society. And non-artists also feel like they do not fit into the world. Isn’t this why we all love and identify with art? This tug of war within ourselves individually, that we do not feel we belong, yet we all try to assimilate because we must live in some form of society is what makes us all outsiders and outsider artists. I do art for myself. As a self-taught outsider artist, I never imagined having my work on gallery walls. ArtLifting has supported me and changed my life for the better in so many ways, believing that someone without an art education and formal training like myself could be challenged and rise to the occasion out of my comfort zone to do corporate artwork. I exhibited in the first European Outsider Arts Fair as a member artist with The Living Museum. Later on I exhibited in the NYC Outsider Arts Fair with Andrew Edlin Gallery and Fountain House Gallery."
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