Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg
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…and how
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 artworks please the eye, while knifing the conscience. Flash Sideways, the name of my studio, celebrates this duality. While a flashback revisits the past, a flash sideways represents an alternate interpretation or reality.
Instead of relying on one medium to provide the sole visual language in which I am fluent, I am a polyglot: material matters. 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.
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 inspired me to travel 57,000 miles crisscrossing our country to interview its sufferers. These interviews form the basis for my seven-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.