I work in a variety of mediums, photographic, collage as well as installation and assemblage. I have created several photographic and photo based bodies of work. But over the last 13 years I have also made sculptural pieces from antique office supplies, addressed political issues using collage and installation and generally explored mixing mediums to make new imagery. Each body of work represented on the website is accompanied by a statement I have written.

Below are excerpts from an essay written by Simon Zalkind, a curator in Denver, about some of the work I have made. Simon gave me the opportunity to exhibit examples of all of my work in a Retrospective exhibit, Coming to America, in 2006. The Retrospective was at the Singer Gallery at the Mizel Arts & Culture Center in Denver, CO.

“Susan Goldstein has been exhibiting her art for less than a decade. Her investigations always feel authentic and fresh, which is to say that they engage the world through responsiveness rather than reactivity. She possesses a gentle, utopian ferocity that expresses itself through an amazingly diverse arsenal of styles and strategies. Her works connect past and present, both within her own oeuvre (earlier works in intimate dialogue with recent ones) and in their reference to the big world of history, culture, politics. Goldstein is a restless forager – a connoisseur of fragments, emblems, numinous talismans and enchanted bric-a-brac. Her studio brims with charged objects, artifacts and souvenirs that are displayed instinctively and innocently, restoring the objects of the past to the pleasure of the present.

In 1998 Goldstein had her first exhibition at Edge, a co-op gallery in North Denver whose longevity in a world where galleries come and go is remarkable, and where she continues to exhibit. The show was called New Work – an accurate but nonetheless humorous title in light of the fact that there wasn’t really any old work. But never mind. That show demonstrated to remarkable effect Goldstein’s scavenging impulse: her conviction in art’s capacity to transmute dross into gold. In rescuing discarded objects – in this case a motley assortment of ancient ( 50, 60, 70-year-old) office supplies – and restoring them to utility and beauty, Goldstein provides evidence of her affinity for the guileless clarity of “outsider” art. At the same time she clearly participates in the rarified considerations and investigations of contemporary art. Her early reliance on the grid as a formal and structural device, for example, links her to the two principal movements of the 60’s and 70’s – Pop Art and Minimalism. But the content of her images – emotional, visceral, psychological – locates her completely apart from the cool,
modular self-sufficiency of Minimalism or the cheeky banalities of Pop.

The restoration of the derelict and the abandoned is a theme that compels Goldstein and is one thread that holds her work together, giving her a voice that can be heard on its own terms. For example, repeated visits to an abandoned factory of Catholic devotional statuary that she had discovered by chance in 1990 led to an exquisite series of photographs redolent with sepulchral beauty and numinous presence. In Goldstein’s pictures the derelict statues – familiar objects of sentimental piety that used to dot the Catholic landscape – apotheosize into haunting, poignant, heavenly presences. Goldstein enters their condition of dereliction and abandonment, and elevates them to the transcendent realm they could not otherwise achieve. Seen by no one, revered by no one, yet they attain the goal for which they were created.

Goldstein works a similar magic in her series The New American West. Many of these images are tuned into the kind of casual, ironic unrelatedness that has become a staple for contemporary photographers of the American West. But Goldstein’s possess a melancholy sparkle that distinguishes them from the now-familiar photographs of blighted, picked-over townscapes and dispiriting vernacular detritus. Goldstein’s tally of losses is balanced by her commitment to what endures and to a past that is inherently valuable. Goldstein avoids sentiment or nostalgia, but her respect for her subjects infuses these pictures with an odd sense of gratitude and connectedness. This rescues them from the kind of mordant cleverness that specializes in the vacant, visual miscellany of the West but has no fundamental affection or sympathy for it.

In the series of collages called Intersections, her indebtedness to the surrealist enterprise – to chance, serendipity, intuition – is evident enough. History is simultaneously compressed and expanded in these gorgeous, diminutive works that are like fevered dreams in which grand historical narratives and intimate memories commingle. The smaller the world can be condensed, the more safely it can contain the dynamism and danger of daydreams and reverie.

Susan Goldstein’s art can be difficult because any search for meaning leads down strange and unfamiliar avenues. Her art is about finding meaning in unlikely places and in disparate aspects of events, cultures, and lives. Her work is autobiographical but not private. Goldstein’s art is suspended between the occurrence of the event and our awareness of its significance. This awkward interval, like the wound inflicted by our awareness of death in the midst of our life, is what makes tenderness possible. And this, above all, is the space where her explorations become fertile and bear their artistic fruit.”

Simon Zalkind
Director of Exhibitions
Singer Gallery
Mizel Arts & Culture Center • 350 S. Dahlia St. • Denver, CO