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Green Artist Spotlight: Susan Benarcik

by Stephanie Nelson

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New York-based artist Susan Benarcik constructs wall treatments and sculptural pieces out of reclaimed materials to illustrate the fragility of nature and our connection and dependence on it.  

Benarcik repeatedly masters line, form and rhythm by foregrounding her relationship to nature and the environment. She uses paper and common objects to highlight the ideals of our society. 

 Mental Notes 
Mental Notes. Photo Courtesy of Susan Benarcik

In the 2007 piece Mental Notes, Benarcik portrays the fragility of nature and memory through large stacks of hanging paper in tree-like forms. She manipulates the paper and highlights our careless relationship to the resource, as it is cultivated, loved, marked, bent and ultimately discarded. She strings personal letters and pages of trashy romance novels as well as scientific literature on copper wires that hang from the ceiling. The assorted paper ranges in color from pure white to a deep brown, depending on the age and the source of each sheet. Fifteen plus forms hang from various heights and each holds different amounts of paper.

Losing Touch 
Losing Touch with Reality. Photo Courtesy of Susan Benarcik

In Losing Touch with Reality, another installation, Benarcik emphasizes our disconnected relationship to nature through the use of space, line and tension. Roughly 29 white hands hang in different positions. All the palms are facing down over a medium square patch of grass. Although some fingers touch a few blades, the minimal space between most of the hands and the grass creates an uneasy tension that viewers can sense. Her use of line draws the viewer’s eye down to the space between the hands and patch of grass to “…suggest that we have lost touch with reality of our situation,” Benarcik says.  

Sq yd 
Square Yard. Photo Courtesy of Susan Benarcik

Benarcik’s installation Square Yard has a similar tone and commentary to Losing Touch with Reality. Four industrial sized wooden spools are coiled with Astroturf that is slowly unraveling on the bricklike floor. Her material choice along with her strong use of rhythm and line suggest that our society believes that “going green” can be rolled out and purchased by the square yard.  

Both pieces imply that we are disconnected from nature. “Somehow, in the span of a generation, we have lost sight of our fundamental connection with the natural world and shamefully neglect our responsibility towards its survival (and ultimately our survival),” Benarcik says. She created both pieces a few years ago; however, within the past year, they have received much attention and coverage.   

Benarcik's current show, COLLECTED RESPONSE, is on display at Maiden Lane Exhibition Space in New York City, New York.