Feature Articles

January 2011

The Imperial Centre for the Arts & Sciences in Rocky Mount, NC, Features Works by Susan Lenz

The Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences in Rocky Mount, NC, will present the exhibit, Last Words, a solo show by Columbia, SC, fiber and installation artist Susan Lenz, on view in the Maria V. Howard Arts Center, from Jan. 7 through May 13, 2012. A reception will be held on Jan 29, from 2-4pm.

The exhibition will include a selection of grave rubbing art quilts, angel images on paper, and chiffon banners covered with embroidered epitaphs. Vintage household linens, recycled materials, and artificial cemetery flowers figure prominently in this body of artwork that reflects both personal and universal mortality. The exhibit is an exploration of lives’ final words. It investigates the concept of remembrance and personal legacy.

“As an installation, questions are posed,” says Lenz. “The work asks: What are your final wishes? How do you want to be remembered? What last words will mark your life?”

Over the past two and a half years, Lenz has traveled all over the United States and England for her source material. From pioneer graveyards in Oregon to cowboy cemeteries in Texas, she collected personal epitaphs from hand carved stones. From abbeys in Bath and London to churchyards in Eccles and Dudley, England, Lenz has made crayon on fabric grave rubbings.

Many of the pieces in this exhibition have been shown in other national juried art shows, including Art Quilt Lowell (Lowell, MA), the LaGrange XXVI Biennial (LaGrange, GA), Art of Fiber (Lorton, VA), National Fiber Directions (Wichita, KS), Art Quilt Experience (Cazenovia, NY), the 9th Annual National Quilt Artists (Earlville, NY), the National Heritage Quilt Show (Athens, TN), Fantastic Fibers (Paduach, KY), and the APQ Traveling Show throughout Australia.

Last Words was also recently shown at Vision Gallery in Chandler, AZ, during October and November as part of the Southwest’s “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) celebration.

Beyond hand and machine stitched art quilts, Lenz has created two additional series using cemetery angel images. “Angels in Mourning” are large, framed photo transfers on printmaking paper. Found mementoes and dangling threads transform the sculpture images into suggested narratives of lives well lived. For “Dearly Departed”, Lenz collaged her cemetery angel photos into individual pages from Victorian albums. She added epitaphs to each one using clipped vintage letters. The Book of the Dead is a 696-page altered book containing over 1200 epitaphs in calligraphy on pages washed with faint blue, gold, brown, and tan inks. The cover is from a leather bound Bible dating to 1889.

The exhibition will be held in the North Carolina gallery at the Imperial Centre. This space has soaring ceilings from which sheer chiffon banners will hang. Each one is free-motion machined stitched with collected epitaphs. The installation will transform the gallery into a quiet, reflective location meant to emulate the atmosphere found at the cemeteries that inspired the work.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Centre at 252/972-1163 or visit (http://arts.imperialcentre.org/).

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