Susan King: Redressing the Sixties
Susan King grew up in Lexington with deep Kentucky roots. She was shaped by a family of Southern storytellers, a mother who equally loved the freedom granted by a car and prowling antique malls, and grandmothers who sewed and tatted lace—one of whom enrolled her at birth in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The WCTU was the only thing that didn’t stick.
In Redressing the Sixties, she uses art, ephemera, and personal narratives to relate the story of her journey as an artist—from her beginnings in 1965 as a UK student to a 30-year stint in Los Angeles, and back again. Along the way, she became a founding member of the legendary non-profit community art center known as The Women’s Building in Los Angeles, headed the Women’s Graphic Workshop, became internationally known for her artist books, and developed a serious interest in photography. In this exhibition, she shows books such as Women in Cars and Redressing the Sixties, as well as mail art and photo-biographies, among other work. She also creates a Museum of Muses dedicated to the women who inspired her, ranging from the diarist and printer Anaïs Nin to the painter Georgia O’Keeffe and photographer Imogen Cunningham.
When King enrolled at UK in the mid-1960s, there were only two female professors in the art department. She wanted to major in sculpture, but was told women were too weak to do welding. So she chose ceramics—where she had to sling 100-pound bags of clay and lift 40-pound kiln shelves. Her adventures in being an artist while female continued in graduate school at New Mexico State University, where she and a friend created feminist art history classes and invited artist Judy Chicago to lecture. In return, Chicago invited them to Los Angeles, so King sold her pottery at an art fair to buy gas for the drive.
Her deep knowledge of art and art history remains central to her own practice. She returned to Kentucky in 2003, and her current work incorporates a variety of media and forms, including photography, textiles and sewing, mail art, printing, and bookmaking.
King has exhibited widely at venues including the Center for Book Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum and the San Francisco Center for the Book in California; and Princeton University in New Jersey. Among the institutions collecting her work are the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris; Getty Research Institute library and Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles; Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York; and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
image: The announcement for Susan King's 1971 undergraduate student show at UK.
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