ARTIST IN THE SPOTLIGHT | Susan Katz
Welcome back to Cacique’s Artist In The Spotlight series - a journey into a thriving Bahamian art scene and a look at some of our most exciting artists, pushing boundaries on island and around the world.
In this episode, Bostonian transplant Susan Katz paints us a picture of her journey navigating the waters of the art world. Susan works with oil, pastel, pen & ink and acrylic, but is most well known for her bold collages, in which she uses layering techniques, much like that of a painter to create depth and richness. Flying the Boston coop 21 years ago, Susan has been making strides in the Bahamian art community. Our conversation with Susan speaks to the evolving art climate in The Bahamas and how she has addressed socially-challenging themes such as racism, bigotry and sexism.
Cacique. What is integral to your work as an artist ?
Susan. For me, it’s key to create work that has meaning and depth - work that inspires a reaction from people, for good or bad. I believe that art needs to evoke feelings and emotions and, on some level, resonate with people. We all feel something when we look at art. We may hate it or fall in love with it, but that is the purpose of art. Art should make us think, ask questions and create dialogue. That’s not to say that every piece of art one does needs to be thought-provoking or have a message…sometimes we create just for the sheer beauty and the joy of being able to create!
C. How has your practice changed over time ?
S. Over the years, I have gone through many changes in my work. At one stage I was working with pencils, then acrylics, then oil pastels - the list goes on. Eventually I began to incorporate paper into my work and fell in love with collage. I have been using collage for many years and have been combining this with other mediums as well. This has led me to produce assemblage pieces, three-dimensional works that combine the use of collage with other elements such as small toys, buttons and anything else that I find which looks interesting and relates to the piece that I’m working on. My work has also become more conceptual in the fact that I now prefer to work on art that has a personal meaning or art that makes a statement in some way.
C. What role do you think that art plays in bahamian society ?
S. Because I have been here for so many years as an artist, I have seen how art has become a large part of Bahamian culture. Over time, art has become more significant in the environment due to the changing attitudes of people. Art is stronger here now also because of the fact that so many more artists and different art practices are given the right exposure with places like The National Art Gallery, Doongalik and other institutions that have stepped forward and embraced the variety of creativity that we have in our country. We as a country need to keep pushing this exposure of art; it is key to our growth as a country.
C. Do local events inspire your work ? International Occurrences even ?
S. Yes, I would say things happening internationally inspire me. I see so many things going on in the world today that I feel need to be talked about and expressed. The world is a big place and we live in a very small part!
C.Do you have a favorite piece ?
S. One of my favorite pieces is an assemblage piece that I did for the NE7 called “the box of hate.” It dealt with bigotry and how we view other people, cultures and races and how the fear of people that are not “like us” can sadly influence that way in which we accept or don’t accept people. Hatred and bigotry is one of the subjects I think should be discussed more here in Nassau. Not simply just the fear and bigotry of black and white people, but of every people. Sadly, racism occurs everywhere in every way.
C.Have you ever created art that was somewhat controversial or touched on subjects that are typically “swept under the rug” ?
S. I have actually and I like to do that; it’s a good thing to rattle people! Besides “The Box of Hate,” I also did a dress based on the holocaust for the NE8. It was covered with images from concentration camps, photos of Hitler and a locket with a photo of Donald Trump. This was at the time of the election process and I felt that his methods of conjuring up fear in people against other races was somewhat similar to how Hitler governed. Many people were uncomfortable with this topic. Many were moved as well because of the imagery and what it stood for. My last show was a show that dealt with women’s issues, such a eating disorders, depression and exploitation. These are subjects which I feel need to be brought to the surface here more often. We don’t talk about this nearly enough here in The Bahamas!
C.How aND why are you involved at the current And its role as a platform for bahamian art ?
S. I was at The Current at Baha Mar as a resident artist for about 9 months and I thought it was wonderful. I’d never thought about working out of my own studio before so this was truly stepping out of my box. It was so great to be in an environment with other artists and creative people for a change; you realize as an artist that you do need that feedback and energy. I truly enjoyed going in and working in my space and I created work there that I am very proud of. The people were also great and I was able to meet so many other artists who otherwise I may never have had the chance to work with.
C.How do you see the future of bahamian art and the current’s role in shaping this ?
S. I see the future of Bahamian art as growing all the time. Besides the established artists, there are also so many up-and-coming young artists with so much talent. My hope for the role of The Current as well as for art in the Bahamas in general, is to keep exposing people to different forms of art, different subjects and different ways to create art. Making people aware of what is out there is so vital to growth and the appreciation of art in general.
At Cacique, we love to showcase our colourful Bahamian art scene and the characters that create its distinct flair. For more information on Susan Katz, The Current at Baha Mar, our other featured artists and spaces, or to find out about curating a unique look and sound for your event, feel free to contact us.
Looking forward to the next chat! SMS:)