About the exhibit:
Early female Blues singers lived in a male dominated society, in a segregated country, and worked in an industry that took advantage of their lack of education and opportunity. Physical abuse, drug and alcohol dependence, and poverty plagued most. They struggled, made sacrifices, and sang of their woes. They helped change the world for today’s young, black, female vocalists. "Blues Chapel" is an installation inviting visitors to reflect on the music, lives, and the changes brought about by these pioneering vocalists, including Beverly “Guitar” Watkins who was an annual performer at the Carolina Downhome Blues Festival for many years.
The focal point of the installation is a unit of twenty-four portraits called Tapestry in Blue. Each singer is depicted with a gilded halo and most are embellished with buttons, beads, found objects, and acrylic paint. Among those pictured are Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, and Koko Taylor. Images include reverse glass painted names. Blues music adds atmosphere. The work can be enjoyed while sitting on a mahogany church pew and reading a faux-service bulletin or using the summer blues fans.
In keeping with Tapestry in Blue is Lenz’s new, haloed portrait of Beverly “Guitar” Watkins. The Arts Center suggested this inclusion to honor Watkins who passed away in 2019. Photo permission was secured from Bill Blizzard’s. The work was created on a section of an old blue-and-white needlepoint rug. Other exhibited work includes hand and machine embroidery based on Gothic and Romanesque architecture, a mixed media triptych, and other art quilts.
About the artist:
Susan Lenz describes herself as the daughter of German immigrants, a soul mate of a wife, a failed mother, a frustrated homeowner, an involuntary business woman, an avid traveler, a custom picture framer and taxpayer out of necessity, a non-practicing Catholic, a member of a few non-profit organizations, a college graduate, a blogger, and the servant to an adorable cat.
Yet, she is first and foremost, an artist.
Using needle and thread for self-expression, Susan works within the scope of an overall theme and toward a final, mixed media installation. She stitches both by hand and machine but also indulges a passion for book arts and unique, 3D found art objects. Altering found photos is an obsession. In another life, Susan is convinced she was a kidnapper whose fixation with letters snipped from assorted, antique ephemera continued into her current life and studio practice.
Susan’s work has appeared in national publications, numerous juried exhibitions, and at fine craft shows including the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show and the Smithsonian Craft Show. She has been featured on art quilting television programs and on South Carolina ETV’s Palmetto Scene. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Textile Museum in Washington, DC and the McKissick Museum in South Carolina. Susan has been awarded fully funded fellowships to art residencies including The Anderson Center, PLAYA, Hot Springs National Park, the Studios of Key West, Homestead National Monument, and Great Basin National Park. Her solo installations have been mounted all over the country including the Mesa Contemporary Museum of Art and as far away as the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England. Susan is represented by the Grovewood Gallery in Asheville.
Visit www.susanlenz.com to view Lenz’s work.