Susan Silas: natural histories
Susan Silas is a New York-based artist who uses photography, video, performance, and sculpture to examine the aging female body and various states of being. Her exhibition combines works from several series over the past twenty-five years, drawing connections between animal and human, stillness and motion, individuality and hybridity.
In EYES WIDE SHUT, 2010, from her ongoing series found birds, Silas photographs a dead Cooper’s hawk, which she found outdoors and documented as it decayed in her studio. She has written: “I was not aware when I began photographing these dead birds that my images were related to the work I had done on the Holocaust. Somehow these small embodied creatures had unwittingly become a substitute for those images I had seen as a child, images that I cannot remember ever not knowing about, of bodies stacked up like cordwood or being bulldozed into giant pits at liberated concentration camps.” In proximity to these meditations on mortality is a low-resolution video shot during Covid isolation with a thermal camera, in which Silas’s choreography is recorded due to the heat emanating from her body.
A large color photograph from her ongoing series love in the ruins; sex over 50 shows the artist and her husband, confidently naked in a horizontal embrace; while HYBRID, a 2021 sculpture in white bronze, shows the couple’s heads sutured together down the center between their eyes. Silas states: “It is a personal and speculative imagining of our avatar in a world in which our brains have been uploaded into the same data container. This is the shell in which we are reborn as a data set for eternity.” Their smoothly merged faces might also have something to offer in light of research on spouses who become more similar in appearance over time.
In addition to these works, we will present one of a recent series of sculptures titled natural history, which has Silas’s body conjoined with the remains of an opossum. They are the result of photogrammetry, where object/image information is translated into a software file that can be used for CNC milling by a high-precision robot or cast into bronze or glass from a 3D print.
In association with the exhibition, Silas will discuss her work as one of this year’s speakers in the Robert C. May Photography Lecture Series on September 4th at 4pm.
IMAGE: Susan Silas, EYES WIDE SHUT from the series found birds, 2010, archival inkjet print on Hahnemühle photo rag. Courtesy of the artist.