Susan Lenz: Last Words & Sumter Artists’ Guild Winners

The Annual Sumter Artists’ Guild Winners Show comes a little early this year in December – but it is the perfect holiday gift! The judge, Harriett Green formerly of the South Carolina Arts Commission and now an independent art consultant, picked a stellar line up of winners. Best in Show went to Sylvia Pickell for the second year in a row for her sublime quilted piece River, First Place winner was Barbara Rowe for her whimsical porcelain piece Joy Ride on Nimbus, Second Place when to Genevieve Rath for her exquisite watercolor, Ornamental Cabbage, Third Place was Catherine Coulter Lloyd for her impressive ceramic platter Offering With Lilies. As always, we had three strong Honorable Mention winners – Erin Baribeau’s delicate Interlude, J. Michael McGuirt’s Little Things, and Denise L. Greer’s Come Together.

Because of a large-scale construction project – the replacement of the Gallery HVAC system in preparation for Norman Rockwell, The annual Sumter Artists’ Guild Exhibition was only open for three weeks before it had to close. We had a well-attended opening on June 24th and voting for People’s Choice was enthusiastic. So enthusiastic that there was a tie for People’s Choice! Constance Brennan’s mixed media Age of Aquarius and Ashley Lareau’s watercolor Drinking Buddies. Together all of these artists promise a high-quality Winners Show.

Susan Lenz is a delightfully difficult artist to classify. She is a fiber artist but she is also an installation and assemblage artist. Her creativity and imagination are expansive. Susan grew up in Columbus Ohio and received her BA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from Ohio State University. The Sumter County Gallery of Art presented Lenz’s first institutional exhibition, Blues Chapel, in 2006 and we are elated to welcome her back with Last Words.

Last Words is an installation of art quilts, suspended chiffon banners stitched with collected epitaphs, 2-dimensional mixed media photo transfers stitched with found objects, and other artwork that transforms a space into a cemetery-like setting. Grave rubbings on silk, vintage household linens, recycled material, stitches, and cemetery angel images are meant to reflect both personal and universal mortality. The installation creates a serene environment that encourages contemplation. Embroidered epitaphs hang on chiffon panels. Artificial flower petals, all collected from cemetery dumpsters are used to line the perimeter of the exhibition because they bring a ubiquitous part of the cemetery landscape into an interior space, and because they are a token of love and remembrance.
The exploration of the final words marking others’ lives and why they were chosen, can cause one to reflect on their own existence. The work investigates the concept of remembrance, personal legacy, and our common human frailty. The atmosphere created by the translucent chiffon and the delicate works is quiet and peaceful.

Lenz stitches both by hand and machine but also indulges a passion for book arts and 3D found objects. Altering found photos is an obsession. Her work has appeared in national publications, numerous juried exhibitions, and fine craft shows including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Smithsonian Craft Shows. Lenz 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. She is represented by The Grovewood Gallery in Asheville, NC as well as the Sumter County Gallery of Art giftshop.

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