Susan Stacks

My work’s focus lies in pacifying the boundary between objective physical truths and emotional perception. Frequently this means confronting or coping with illness, loss and the search for meaningful action.

The physical work makes use of repeated, patterned and simple marks. Contained in each piece is a meditation on the nature of labor and perception of time. Meaning is folded into the repeated gestures that make up the whole form.

Pieces read as maps, microorganisms, stitching and pattern. What they are is more akin to an exoskeleton. The images provide clues to the departed spirit of each piece. The lines and dots are data which can only be translated through sensitivity towards the nature of each form’s growth. They call for submissive observation, over time revealing each form’s history.

There are rules that determine how different forms grow and interact. Forms develop their personalities through interaction, and sometimes defy their constraints. A completed drawing is a snapshot of this interaction. Each is a static moment that is necessary to observe their rules, but inherently ignorant of scope beyond its borders and the unseen forces at play.

I’ve been finding the locations where enough enthusiasm gathers to provide some shelter. Places cradled by whatever intersecting layers of complexity feel comfortable. Cocoons of interest.

I wrap up in enjoyable problems as insulation from those I have low agency in managing. Through my drawing life, I've relied on rules to grow the forms, labeled any adjustments as mutations, and smothered intent. As if I could create a space for some good by sealing off my work from any imaged radiant harm. The rules are distance, a cover, absolution from the responsibility these overlaps may cause, and protection against falling out of balance.

At my core, I’m preoccupied with balancing safety and freedom. They are the lenses through which I evaluate every action, intrinsic to the main conflict I feel each day, negotiating how my freedom and safety impacts anyone else. It is endless sand shoveling. Early in my practice, after describing my concerns of labor and purpose, I was told an anecdote about Lyman Beecher shoveling sand in his basement from one side to the other whenever he felt a ‘nervous excitement’. Since then, I’ve paid more attention to the activities I use as boundaries between my money-making, practical, and intended life. The sand shoveling I do flattens any hierarchical value in how I spend my time. Most of the joy or pain I feel from these tasks, all our collective piles of sand, come from how people treat each other during handoff.

Lately, one of the threads suspending my own feelings has been in the realm of play, and is primarily about observing how people with discrepant aims choose to interact in a community and choose to share responsibility. Framing my day as periods to get through, I started building in syncopation with other real and fictional work cycles to be more productive. I grew up across the street from my elementary school playground and perhaps watching others play and figure things out has always meant more to me than participating. Watching people play while “sand shoveling” became routine, and homework done to the sounds of basketball gave way to live sports on tv, video essays, podcasts, audiobooks, and eventually, role playing in a video game.

The rhythm of each character, their role and the intersection with any other in play, created the same cadences I was craving from my rule-based activity. I saw my own cascading sets of rules in the creative solutions caused by the limitations of the medium for this role play. Characters with varying levels of seriousness all have potential to interact in unique ways, and rules should be ductile in kind to facilitate the best response.

Being able to clock these patterns buttressed my attention, and I felt able to add more layers of complexity to my own gestures. Occasional figures or appendage forms were introduced, not necessarily active agents, but vulnerabilities. Serving as a place for others to interact or risk participating. I wish to develop suitable places for all these scattered figures to recover and develop some community. I’m arranging my tasks, my piles of sand, to record struggles of rapport within my own body, community, and purpose.