Photographer and collagist Susan Goldstein re-conforms old, imperfect materials, images and glimpses of a dying America into new works with political and pathos-heavy messages in two ongoing series: Undercurrents and Bending Time. A longtime Denver resident, Goldstein has served as a past member of the Edge Gallery co-op, a member at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center and part of the team putting on Month of Photography 2019, now under way. She launched her photography career working for Westword in its earliest days, and says that her first job with the paper as a paste-up artist helped inspire her interest in collage.
And Goldstein has a lot more to say as she answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Susan Goldstein: I am a collector of objects. My studio is like a museum, full of eclectic, often old and damaged treasures that are my palette, but butterflies are my muse. I have always been intrigued by them. The magical transformation, in plain sight, from egg to caterpillar to cocoon and final emergence as a beautiful, fragile flying creature reminds me of making art and the transformation of creating something from nothing or making something new by repurposing other objects.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
My father was an inventor, and his creative mind apparently worked in very different ways than mine. He died in 1991. I wish he could have lived long enough for me to talk to him about his process and for him to meet my friends and see me happy, successful and artistically productive.
Laurie Anderson. I became aware of her work in the early ’80s. I was mesmerized by the way she addressed politics and wove stories by incorporating sound, music, words and visual elements in her performances. I would love to hear her reflect on this moment in time.
I met Sally Mann in the mid-’80s. She was kind and open. When we met, she was making beautiful images of her children. All of her photographs are layered with meaning and say more than my words ever could, so I encourage readers to find her website.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
Colorado has an abundance of organizations that support and raise the profile of photography in our communities. Denver’s Colorado Photographic Arts Center, the Denver Art Museum (including the Anderman Lecture series), and the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins all have year-round programming. This year is also the biennial celebration of photography known as MoP or Month of Photography. MoP is spearheaded by photographer and curator Mark Sink, who has brought many individuals, galleries and organizations together to make this year’s celebration a rich feast.
Luckily, I have not had any bad experiences in the photography community.
What’s your dream project?
Currently, my antique photo-collage work, Bending Time, is my dream project. The new dream would be to have another creative idea that ends up being as unique as this work.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
Take more road trips to make photographs: I would like to travel and see more of the world and perhaps find somebody to travel with me who could deal with my need for a lot of alone time to explore and meander at my own pace. I keep saying I want to try my hand at painting, so I need to just experiment and do it!
What advice would you give a young hopeful in your field?
The most important thing is to be kind to everyone. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your art and stick with an idea until it works or speaks to you and says to move on. Pay attention to constructive criticism. There is often something to be gained from those with more or different experiences, but also stay true to your vision and allow room for it to grow and change. Try not to get discouraged by the inevitable rejections we all experience.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I’ve lived in Denver since 1978. Many of my friends still live here, and they are my anchor.
I have grown weary of the mindless growth and the destruction of the character of many of our neighborhoods. Loopholes in zoning regulations, bad architectural design and cheap building materials have contributed to my disgust at the way this city has dealt with growth issues. Denver has become incredibly expensive. Longtime residents in all age groups have been affected, but low-wage workers and communities that are already marginalized have been hit the hardest. I do not have solutions, but all of this is deeply troubling. There is no going back, but we can certainly strive to do better in the future.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I admire Judy Anderson, who founded and directed PlatteForum, a nonprofit that pairs contemporary professional artists with under-resourced youth to create positive social change. After many years of selfless giving, she has retired and is again focused on her own art practice. She is collaborating with Ginny Hoyle, a gifted poet, on a project that artistically pushes back against a variety of topics including the expressions of racism, xenophobia, misogyny and environmental piracy that have been the theme of the current presidential administration. This engaging work is perfectly executed and conceptually strong. While some of it addresses the dark side, other pieces beautifully celebrate diversity.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I hope to gain access to a facility and begin a new body of photographic work. I'm not ready to discuss details, but if it happens, it might turn out to be my next dream project. I am also focused on finding the right publisher to work with to make a book of Bending Time, my antique-photo-based collages.
Susan Goldstein will be a Month of Photography 2019 fixture in the following exhibitions and panel discussions:
Elemental Construction, group show, through April 7, McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue.
The Denver Collage Club, group show, Friday, March 1, through March 30, Alto Gallery, 4345 West 41st Avenue (opening reception: March 1, 6 to 9 p.m.).
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"Photography as a Vehicle for Empathy: Images as Living Representations of the Experience of Others," panel discussion, 6 p.m. Thursday, March 7, at Art Gallery at the Fulginiti Pavilion, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, 13080 East 19th Avenue.
Susan Goldstein, Undercurrents: Fault Lines, Friday, March 22, through April 7, Edge Gallery, 7001 West Colfax Avenue, Lakewood (opening reception: March 22, 6 to 10 p.m.).
Learn more about Susan Goldstein and her work online.