Throughout the Classic Stories series we’ve met with creatives about inspiration, motivation, hardship, and creativity. But, we have spent little time talking about the messages these creatives make. Insert artist Susan Hamburger. For the last 15 years she has been creating works that address social and political issues that initiate conversations that can sometimes be unsettling.
Susan started out as one of the first waves of artists to turn 1980s Brooklyn into a creative capital of the world. “I lived in Williamsburg for two years when I first arrived in New York, only to return in the 1990s after grad school to get connected to the artist community. The energy of the other people helped me create better work,” she said during our meeting at her studio space in a Bushwick artists’ building. At the same time as she was developing a community of like-minded artists, she was also using the community of talk radio to help her focus her craft. “I would get momentum [to create a piece] listening to the political hyperbole while working,” she said. “Sometimes it was exhausting, but it also energized me.”
The politically charged landscape of talk radio was (and continues to be) a fertile valley of energy for Susan. It helped her create numerous pieces directly inspired by the discourse she heard over the airwaves. A good example of this is a recently completed installation designed to evoke a Robber Baron’s home, the perfect commentary on today’s income disparity. “Of course I want my work to feel approachable — I want people to engage with it on a visceral level, and maybe learn about the subtext later.” This duality in her work creates a conversation between artist, medium, and spectator that builds understanding for everyone. It’s art that comes from a community and ends up being a reflection of that community for all to see.
Art and other creative outlets have the unique perspective of being timely and timeless – they speak to the moment and preserve that moment for future generations. Susan Hamburger’s take on creativity uses our past to help us see how we need context to help make decisions for today.