Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Review=Reflect=Recycle, Art for the Taking ,January 9-February 21, 2009

The installation has begun. Thousands? At least HUNDREDS of prints are going up on the walls. The opening party is January 9, 5-9pm. It's the place to be!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Much to say

There is much to blog abot, but very little time, it seems.

As part of the continuing programming for Leap of Faith:
This Sunday, 9am, Debra Elmore Nesheim and her husband Stephen will speak at Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church about restoring the place of art in the church. Free and open to the public.

Next will be the wonderful restrospective for James Michael Lawrence. More on that in a later post.

Today, I got notice that an article came out in FiberArts on Jon Coffelt, our April artist.
The January/Feb issue of FiberArts has an article about Jon Coffelt's
Memory Clothing. He will be showing the clothing here, at Susan Hensel
Gallery April 18, 2009- May 10, 2009, in a one person show entitled
COMMUNION. He and I titled the show Communion because of the thoughtful,
almost sacremental nature of how he transforms the clothing and the
memories as he works.

I do not yet know if he is visiting with his clothing. I hope so. He
is a dear man. Years ago, before he moved to New York City, he had a
gallery in Birmingham, Alabama called AGNES, named after his
grandmother. He gave me my first one person show as a book artist. You
can learn more about him at
<> and see the FiberArts article at

Stay tuned. I'll post more closer to the show.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Artists Talk at Artspace

Sunday, December 14, 9am, Sara Haig will talk about her installation WORDS UNSPOKEN at Lake Nokomis prebyterian Church ArtSpace. The church is located at 1620 E. 46th St., Minneapolis.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Leap of Faith at ArtSpace

This will give you a sampling of the work at ArtSpace. They finished installing yesterday. The extra benches/pews will be moved out for the opening, Friday, Nov 7, 5-9pm. There is far more art than I could show here. Do attend both locations and see the full breadth of what artists are thinking about.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The windows at night

Collection by Debora Miller

Leap of Faith opens Friday

The floor is still dirty, flotsam and jetsum abound and the lights need adjusting. But, the show is hung in the Susan Hensel Gallery. And it is almost ready at ArtSpace as well, thanks to Sue Goodspeed and Dale Kennedy. Today I have a few rough pictures of the SHD space.

I do like to show you the installations in process, from chaos to completion. But I was too tired and spacey after staying up watching the election results to photograph the fulll effect! This portion of the show looks very pre-election: it is rather somber in tone. But the windows! Oh you must drive by at night! Local artist Debora Miller installed a brillant, glowing, colorful site specific installation called Collection. It lights the night! Tomorrow, I will try to photograph the ArtSpace portion of the show. Ta,ta!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Planning Ahead

As the work trickles in for Leap of Faith, opening in one week!!!!, other things are percolating foe the future. I am still working on getting the Combat Paper Project here. If you are interested in helping, do let me know. I believe that what they are doing is exceptionally important. Come to the opening Nov 7, between 5-9pm to see one of the portfolios made by them and to watch the trailer of the documentary Iraq Paper Scissors, by Sara Nesson.

I was talking to my old friend, Jon Coffelt today. He was one of my early supporters in the books arts. He had the gallery AGNES in Birmingham, Alabama for years. You can read about it in Wikipedia. It was one of the few galleries that collected and showed artists books. What a wonderful place. I flew down, put up my show and had a wonderful visit, way back when. He lives and works in New York City now. He will be having a show here in the spring called COMMUNION. Stay tuned for more info. What I really wanted to tell you is that he has agreed to be the curator for the 10th anniversary of Reader's Art! What a great idea! My early friend and supporter chosing the show. I loved the idea. As we get closer, you will hear more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An interview with Sarah Haig

An interview with Minneapolis Sarah Haig about Words Unspoken: breaking the cycle. Sarah recently moved to Minneapolis from upstate New York to pursue and Master of Fine Art degree. The installation will be on exhibit November 7-December 20, 2008 in ArtSpace at Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church, 1620 E. 46th St., Minneapolis and part of the show Leap of Faith 4: let peace reign.

Sue: Tell me about Words Unspoken: breaking the cycle.

Sarah: It is a large scale installation that makes visible and present the anonymous words of survivors of abuse.

Sue: What sorts of materials is it made out of?

Sarah: It is sheets of muslin, Plexiglas, photos, drawings and words. The muslin is huge, hung from the ceiling. It was stained, burned, ripped to create the right energy for the words.

Sue: Where did the words come from?

Sarah: The words were anonymously donated by survivors of abuse. I made this while living in a small town in upstate New York, where everybody knew everbody. I put the word out that I was looking for people’s stories.

Sue: Did you advertise? Send emails to groups?

Sarah: No, I just told a few people who told a few people who told a few more. Then I began receiving letters and emails. In the end I received 12 responses.

Sue: Did you edit them?

Sarah: No, I used them exactly as they were written.

Sue: Even the poetry? That was donated?

Sarah: Yes, a surprising number of the responses were in the form of poetry. I wondered if it was somehow easier for some of the people to deal with their experience that way.

Sue: Did you know the respondents?

Sarah: No. It’s a small town, so I could guess…but really, it was an anonymous response. I wanted it to remain that way because, really, the abuser and the abused…they could be anyone.

Sue: What kinds of responses have you gotten to Words Unspoken?

Sarah: The public responses seem to fall into three categories: sympathy with the victims; personally relating to the experience; appalled. Some people just didn’t get it, or were so uncomfortable that all they could do was make a bad joke and leave. But more people came up to me wanting to add their experiences to the show.

Sue: Have you done that? Add their experiences to the show?

Sarah: No, but there is on going work with the show and I do invite anybody to contribute their own stories. I am still in contact with a few people who ultimately identified themselves to me. I started a conversation with one person in particular who is very successful. We are having an ongoing conversation about how overcoming the fear and pain of the abuse has helped and empowered her. I hope to use something from this conversation to supplement the show.

Sue: What do you want people to “bring away” from the show?

Sarah: Mostly I want people to become more sensitized, more aware of the prevalence of abuse. I want people who have not experienced abuse to understand that anyone, and surely someone they already know, has experienced this. And for those who have survived abuse, I want them to understand that they are not alone.

Sue: What are you working on now?

Sarah: Oh I am in the frustrating stage of creativity: gathering information. I have sent letters to 70 shelters asking if I may distribute index cards, soliciting whatever residents or clients of the shelters want to tell me. I don’t yet know what form the art will take…but it will take some form and give some voice to another under-recognized population.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Exciting News!

We will be showing the trailer for Iraq Paper Scissors, a documentary by Sara Nessman during Leap of Faith: let peace reign, opening November 7, 5-9pm.

Paper, Scissors, Iraq follows the transformation from uniform to pulp, from battlefield to workshop, and from warrior to artist.

Filmmaker Sara Nesson documents Iraq War veterans and their transformative involvement with the Combat Paper Project.

We will be showing Combat Paper Portfolio IV as part of the show, as well. Things are shaping up! Stay tuned for more news!

In the neighborhood

(Dan Bisgaard, Kanti Jocelyn-Bisgaard, Peter Wilson, Sul and David)
Do you know these people? They are making a difference.
South Minneapolis continues to develop as an exciting place for art. Artists James Michael Lawrence ( who will have a show at the gallery in January) and Peter Wilson sent me these photos of murals just down the street from me at Laurra Auto Service, the corner of 18th and Cedar. I had the opportunity to meet the artists, Sul and David, the other day. What a delightful meeting! These two men are devoted to using the arts to improve the neighborhood. KUDOS!
The murals are painted by Sul, the words evidently provided by David.

Monday, October 6, 2008

All Thing Electoral continues with a Grass Roots celebration

The show goes on! Listen to KFAI Radio's Art Matters Archive of October 2 for a discussion of All Things Electoral. I am forever grateful for the support that KFAI lends to this gallery, from Art Matters hosted by Marya Morstad to Catalyst hosted by Lydia Howell. Both shows have covered the gallery since the day we opened four years ago. Thanks!!!

We here in Minneapolis can get real hot under the collar about politics. We really like the candidates we like. We really believe in helping one another. The ideal combination of grass roots and gentle governance seems to be what we seek. In that spirit, the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization supports and assists homeowners and renters in many ways. One of the ways has been their support of Elise Kyllo's work with residents. For the past two years Elise, with neighborhood support, warm bodies, paint brushes and free paint from Valspar, has been muraling oft graffitied walls. That's Elise in the green sweater, more or less free of paint. Saturday night, gallery supporters and mural participants came from far and wide to celebrate her contribution to the livability of this neighborhood, to look at the slide show of her murals, to look at All Things Electoral, drink locally brewed beer and to eat the 10 pizzas donated by the Chatterbox Pub .

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Leap of Faith chosen + Podcasts?

The artists for Leap of Faith: Let Peace Reign have been chosen. Although the show does not open until November 7, you can begin to get an idea of who's who by checking out their websites.

Jacob Ackerson
Alex Appella
Vigee Blue
Liliam Dominguez
Debra Elmore-Nesheim
Andrey Feldshteyn
Marcia Haffmans
Sarah Haig
James Michael Lawrence
Marvel Maring
Drew Matott
Melinda McCannell-Unger
Sarah K.McCoy
Debora Miller
Jeff Rathermel
Jeff Skemp
Karen Wilcox
Bonnie Wolf

You will also notice, in the side bar, that the great podcast experiment has begun. There are 2 audio segments. One is the first actual podcast, an interview with James Leonard about his WAR BONDS performance. The other audio is the audio from my show, JUST LOOKING. The script for JUST LOOKING was developed from a nationwide survey of retail looking behavior. The performers are Susan Hensel, Tom Cassidy, Mark Carlson, Sandy Beach and Alison Morse. Enjoy, and rest assured that the audio quality will improve as our equipment improves.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

All Things Electoral opened Friday, September 12, with a performance by Brooklyn artist James Leonard. Local artists in attendance were Jeff Lohaus, Mike Elko, Kate Van Cleve. Kate did a bang up job telling local Air America audiences about the show.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It always begins with a mess

All Things Electoral, like all shows, has begun as a mess! Tools and boxes everywhere.But, by the end of today, the labels will be hung and the floor swept. Tomorrow I pick up James Leonard at the airport for the Friday opening and performance of WARBONDS.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The interview with James Leonard

James Leonard will be performing WARBONDS, one time only,on Friday, September 12 at 7:30 pm.Free admission

Tell us about "Fighting Forces" and how it led to the "Warbonds" performance?

Fighting Forces is a large scale installation piece that requires 100,000 mouse-eared 4" toy soldiers. In the completed work, these soldiers will be arranged in a variety 12' x 12' formations, laid out side by side allowing audience members to compare and contrast the narratives implicit in each different pattern. For example, there are very different implications in a dense 12' x 12' patch of toy soldiers all facing the same direction versus another arrangement where one half the field faces the other. Beyond these obvious arrangements, there remains a significant number of other possible formations that convey more complex and sometimes ridiculous narratives. I see these explorations into narrative defined by flow as something akin to what Josef Albers accomplished with his square paintings and color theory: revealing patterns of immediate, implicit information rooted in the aesthetics of the work.

How did this project lead to the Warbonds Project as a whole and the Warbonds Performance in particular?

Let me tell you: 100,000 slightly-larger-than-normal mouse-eared toy soldiers are not cheap to produce. Due to the potential political edge this larger work has, I believe this work should be manufactured within the United States. Based on numerous consultations with a variety of plastics manufacturers stateside, I'm looking at a budget of several tens-of-thousands of dollars. Though I've self-funded the production of other works in the past, this project has proven too costly to go it alone. Then it hit me. Why not engage in a little roleplay and sell a fine art print that apes the war bonds of yore. There are a lot of interesting, though admittedly gimmicky, security features used in modern promissory notes and documents and I've always been attracted to these things. Before I knew it, I was off and running designing the Warbond Certificate.

What began with the Warbond Certificate soon snowballed into a larger effort. It became clear that these certificates, though attractive and dense with information, were not going to promote themselves. For the piece to really "work" conceptually, I needed to follow through and sell the whole damn series. And I needed a means to unequivocally connect in the minds of my audience the patterns and notions present in the yet-to-be-produced Fighting Forces installation with the actual gesture of purchasing one of these Warbond Certificates. So in a conceptual gesture of self-promotional madness I found myself in authoring the most auspicious act of bootstrapping since Preston Tucker and the Warbonds Performance was born.

What kind of response beyond general support are you looking to provoke from your audience?

Connection. Throughout the performance, while affecting the persona of some ambiguously-great yet-unnamed military commander, I lay several challenges to the audience. But my penultimate challenge: each audience member should find a moment of clarity. I want people to gain an aesthetic moment of understanding of the much larger whole of our economy and our society that extends beyond the confines of the performance and the venue that night. I ask them to see the connections in their mind, feel them, map them and hold onto the image. This is not easy to do. And it is not that unlike that moment of cosmic smallness one can feel when stargazing. You know, when you can actually feel the curvature of the Earth and see it in your minds eye and you see yourself standing small on the side of a giant blue, green and white marble? I hope that I can bring at least a few members of the audience to that plateau for a moment.

I realize this is a grand challenge. And a rather silly request to make whilst wearing a paramilitary uniform and a pair of mouse ears. What I've invented may prove to be more Vomit Comet than rocket ship. But it is precisely the optimism of this challenge that elevates the Warbonds Performance for me beyond mere entertainment or sales pitch.

Does the performance of "Warbonds" change with location and repetition? Is there site-specific improvisation?

This is a scripted performance, not unlike traditional one-man plays. Or perhaps more fittingly, the script door-to-door salesmen once followed. Anyways, as with any theatre, there is always room for improvisation. I'm still very much at the beginning of this campaign. I await eagerly to see how my performance of the piece evolves over the next few years. I think of some of the modern masters of spoken word and monologue, such as George Carlin and Spalding Gray, and I think how much their work changed over the course of their lives. Often, they were doing the same material decades later, but still discovering new depths! If I could be so lucky.

How have the preceding months of presidential election politics and media coverage affected your performance or the audience's understanding of your performance?

It's difficult to say. The script for the Warbonds Performance has a great deal of depth to begin with. Elements advance and recede in response to current events. I continue to discover new layers of meaning and implication each time I run it. For example, there is a bit that made it into the script about predicting the weather. It begins, "Even something as immense as the weather can be predicted with..." and then I go on to name the three key variables essential to any weather model, the three variables that generate the Lorenz Attractor. This dramatic beat ends with a warning to never turn your back on science, even if it seems esoteric or returns information that scares you. This whole portion of the script was written prior to hurricane Katrina. Needless to say, that disaster lent grave new meaning to this portion of the script.

I can only begin to guess how the coming elections will affect peoples' reads of the performance. I'd hate to coach a response. I'd rather just let it happen. Good theatre and performance often yanks us into the present and makes us pay notice. It's what makes these media special. I'm eager to see how my audience in Minneapolis will respond here at this moment in history to the Warbonds Performance.

Many people will say that they are hesitant to investigate or to discuss politics in public, let alone political art. How do you address this? How, if at all, has this affected your process?

Politics can lead to polemics. For many, feelings are too easily trampled in such debates. I understand this aversion and even share it on some days. They don't call "small talk" small for nothing!

The Warbonds Performance does not require immediate discussion amongst audience members. Much more importantly, the work should stick to the back of the brain, becoming a frame of reference. Much of the work I create functions as open metaphors: very specific cognitive models of situations and dynamics with a few key nouns left blank. In many ways, I see good conceptual art as playground equipment for grownups. I invite my audience to come tumble with the work. Humor and play are key to defusing the often overly combative character and resulting gridlock of contemporary political discourse. I want to extend the horizons beyond the next four months and broaden any dialogue that does take place into a wider historical context, one wide enough to accomodate emotions of awe and respect.

How has the performance aspect of this project informed your other work?

For about ten years now, from treasures to tschochkies, I've been creating hypermanufactured objects: things that might find camouflage in the human world as facts of nature, things you might find for sale in a store or at a flea market. But I've increasingly missed the spontaneity present in my early development of painting and drawing. Recently, I've begun hybridizing spontaneity with the hypermanufactured by creating arenas and frameworks for improvisation, call and response, and gesture. This balance between craft and improvisation has been at the fore in theatre for centuries. So the Warbonds Performance presented a very logical, sound bridge for my work to move in this direction.

What do you enjoy most about performing this piece? What has surprised you most about performing this piece? How has "Fighting Forces" changed in response to the on going performances of "Warbonds?"

As I stated above, I love the moments when I feel myself truly occupying that character on stage--when I'm really in the moment with the audience--alive with gesture and taking us all some place. My studio practice has always been an odd mix of old-school ethos and contemporary pathos. Though the connections are obvious now, I was quite surprised by how much the traditions of theatre and spoken word have helped reinvigorate my work. But I am still very much at the beginning of my life with this performance. And I'm eager to see how the piece itself continues to evolve as well as its effects my larger studio practice.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Garage Capers

In other business, a driver slammed into my garage today, knocking it off the foundation. Fortunately I do not store gallery art there! It sure did consume the day however.

But, I want you to know that not only can you make appointments to see JUST LOOKING, the roster for ALL THINGS ELECTORAL has been chosen. A wonderful group of local and national artists are coming together for this show.

The artists chosen are: Janet Culbertson, Patricia Dahlman, Mike Elko, Kari Guter Seymour, Karen Hanmer, Sarah Hauser, Michael Kabbash, James Michael Lawrence, James Leonard, Jeff Lohaus, Carol Morris, Elena Siff, Mary Tasillo, Kate Van Cleve, and Peter Wilson.

Of special note is the performance of James Leonard. With the generous support of Minnesota Center for Bookarts, Susan Hensel Gallery and
Dam Stuhltrager Gallery, NYC, James will be flying in to present a performance of WARBONDS. You must BE HERE to see this! I have shown James' political work before. The performance will be during the opening of ALL THINGS ELECTORAL, Friday, September 12. The opening runs 5-9pm. The performance will occur around 7:30 pm.

Just Looking in action

I have not received all the photos yet, but you can begin to see the installation in action here. Friday was a delightfully cool night for an opening. A gentle crowd arrived and stayed and played with the interactive video. Mary, in the middle, learned that she could line her own eyes up with various pairs of glasses. Watch the website. I hope to have more visuals and have the audio compressed and on line sometime next week. Pictured with the EYES is the videographer, John Hensel, my son, who came in and worked all week developing programs to film, duplicate and project attendees. The EYES project is one he showed at Oberlin College several years ago. Seemed perfect for the topic at hand.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Just Looking

People who have been in the studio are mesmerized. They spend time looking and looking and looking. When they return for the opening on August 8th, I think they will be surprised by the transformation. My son, John Hensel, arrives tomorrow and we will work together on a computer program that will transform the experience.

I don't want to show you too much and spoil the experience! So, the photo is intentionally enigmatic.

Anemone is complete

Jane Gordon worked through 100 degree heat Tuesday and Wednesday to complete the installation of ANEMONE. Sea creatures crossed with chrysanthemums are growing among the money wort, hostas, ferns and azaleas. Come by anytime to see them. See if I'm in, but the gallery need not be open. You can see them over the fence wonderfully.

Do come back August 27th for the closing potluck. Jane will be in attendance and you can meet her then.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Garden progresses

Jane Gordon is at work in the garden today, laying out the hundreds of elements that will become ANEMONE.

Also coming soon, artists books associated with the installation JUST LOOKING. the first printing has occurred and assembly is in process. The titles are WITNESS (on the left) and I AM MY OWN WITNESS ( on the right). Theyare small, hand-sized books, original text and image by Susan Hensel, $25 each, or both for $45.

Remember, August 8th is the opening of this show.