Artist Statement

Susan Bercu











The ladders, sticks, and wall assemblages are created mainly from the detritus that I find in my natural environment. I commonly use driftwood to visually and literally weave my constructions together. The bleached branches and fist-shaped knots are so intrinsically beautiful, it seems disrespectful to add marks or color, but I have to do it anyway. Although each of the works is individual, they share a common language of birds, fish, ocean, land, and sky.

This evolving body of artwork divides into four major categories: “Stick Stories” are decorated poles that can stand alone or, as in one commission, are four posts for a bed. The “Ladders” constructions are the logical evolution from ladder images in my paintings. Each of the “Panel Series” are built on wood backgrounds rescued from the original veneer walls of my house when we remodeled. These assemblages express the stories I want to tell. “Windows” are informed by the openness of my backyard studio that fits organically into the surrounding landscape.

I seem to need to hold a tangible object, feel its weight in my hand, then move forward, buoyed by the rhythm of the making. The discarded objects that I collect bring their histories to serve as material or to inform me: wooden toys, feathers, corks, chopsticks, buttons, beads, hardware, car parts, wire, aluminum cans. A tiny bird nest from a miniature pine forest. The shed skin of a Kingsnake. Grain-size luminescent shells from a Kauai beach.

The beach provides a significant source of materials and ideas. My tie to beaches began when I was a child living just footsteps from the ocean in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. The yet unspoiled shoreline was my playground until we moved close to Lake Michigan in Chicago where I remained until early adulthood. I now live in Marin County, California where the nearby Pacific Ocean tosses up the driftwood that I gather for my artwork.

My work has been shown, nationally and regionally, in both solo and group exhibitions. I have a formal education in art with BFA, MA, and MFA degrees. I continually seek a plethora of influences. Art museums are home to me. Tribal and native arts impress me with their clarity of purpose. I am drawn to locations that transport me to a primordial memory: the Grand Canyon, the Altamira Caves, the Mayan pyramids.

Before I started making assemblages in the 1990s, I did ceramic sculpture and detailed narrative watercolor paintings. I continue to select the medium that best expresses my ideas. I can’t imagine making art without the bright, saturated color that I see in the natural world. I make art to find out what it will look like and to give credence to my incessant interior chatter.