Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg

 

Dignity.

My work endeavors to uphold the dignity of individuals. For those stripped of their dignity, I create.

It hasn’t always been so. I have worked in two self-occupied realms: the pharmaceutical industry and the United States Senate. For balance, I began volunteering with the terminally ill. My hospice patients and their families taught me the importance of dignity.

Then one day, I discovered the artist within me. I diligently learned materials and methods. I became a creator of objects…and they taught me beauty.

But beauty without depth is vacuous. So I learned to use my art to defend others: the homeless, gender-orientation marginalized, original Americans, drug addicts. Beauty lures viewers to my work, but as they approach, the art has its say. Sometimes it speaks loudly, stingingly; other times softly. My creations please the eye, while knifing the conscience.

My studio is named Flash Sideways to celebrate the duality of my artworks. While a flash back looks backwards, a flash sideways represents an alternate interpretation or reality.

Material matters. Instead of relying on one medium to provide the sole visual language in which I am fluent, I am a polyglot. I work hard to select the material with the greatest visual communication value for each project: buffalo skulls from my native South Dakota, text of Supreme Court decisions, sidewalk rubble.

Ideas emerge from my endless reading and research. Moments find me wandering intellectually through journals, articles, books, filling my mind with data that will synaptically meet and seed my next body of work.

And with each project, my work grows louder. In 2016, I and a fellow sculptor represented the United States at the Harbin International Ice Sculpting Competition. Carving a massive block of ice with a chain saw, teetering on icy four-foot scaffolding, day after day in sub-zero weather, inoculated my practice with boldness.

The U.S. opioid epidemic triggered me to travel 57,000 miles crisscrossing our country to interview its sufferers. These interviews are forming the basis for my five-piece installation series called The Empty (Empathy) Fix Project. My intent is to help to decrease the stigma surrounding substance addiction.

Art is my voice of protest and provocation. My voice of affiliation and affection. My voice to uphold the dignity of those around us.