Susan Hensel received her BFA from University of Michigan in 1972 with a double major in painting and sculpture and a concentration in ceramics.
With a history, to date, of well over 300 exhibitions, 32 of them solo, twenty garnering awards, Hensel's desire to communicate stories through art continues to be a powerful motivator.
Hensel's artwork is known and collected nationwide, represented in collecting libraries and museums as disparate as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and The Getty Research Institute with major holdings at Minnesota Center for Book Arts , University of Washington, Baylor University and University of Colorado at Boulder. Archives pertaining to her artists books are available for study at the University of Washington Libraries in Seattle.
In recent years Hensel has been awarded multiple grants and residencies through the Jerome Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, and Ragdale Foundation, Art to Change the World and Virginia Center for Creative Arts.
Hensel's curatorial work began in 2000 in East Lansing, Michigan with the Art Apartment and deepened with ownership of the Susan Hensel Gallery. Hensel has curated over eighty exhibitions of emerging and mid-career artists from all over the United States and Canada.
I am a multidisciplinary artist, with a 50+ year career, who combines a mixed media practice with embroidery across digital and manual platforms. I make sculpture and wall art using the colors and techniques of commercial embroidery, designed on the computer and stitched out on the computer-aided embroidery machine with the aim to create an experience for the viewer that overwhelms with color, transcends the quotidian and encourages one, for even a few seconds, to step outside the narrative of the ego into a place of pure sensation.
Digital machine embroidery is not a substitute for, nor a speedier version of, nor an imitator of handwork. It is a mindset and a media choice in and of itself.
As an artist I find its beauty and structure is qualitatively unique. It deals in optical color perception but provides a lenticular opportunity due to the tri-lobal structure of the thread and its ability to bend light. To quote Jane McKeating, "Color drips off the needle every bit as richly as from a brush."
Digital embroidery lends itself to hard edge geometry as well as biomorphic form. The combination of high tech with "women's work" provides a delicious contrast of hard/soft, nostalgic/current, objective/non-objective. It also lends itself to modular repetition and re-combinations. Themes can be played out quickly in the computer and then stitched and sampled oh so slowly on the machine; combined with and without mixed media in a wide-ranging exploration of forms in space.
In this chaotic time, digital textiles seem like a way to begin to bring order to the world. Order is, however, always unstable, a glimmer of a hope, cut off by random acts of chance or intent. It is no different in digital embroidery. In the computer, all things seem orderly, put together, and logical, as though the human propensity for chaos did not exist. In production, chance operates: human error, flawed thread, broken needles, run out bobbins, high humidity, low humidity, fabric popping out of hoops and the panicked phone call from a friend. Repair savvy, canny attention and a spirit of wabi sabi is essential.