Artists on Coping: Suzan Shutan

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

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FLOW, 2016, Tar paper, handmade dyed paper, industrial glue, plexi rods, steel wire, KANEKO Org, NE, photo courtesy of KANEKO

Suzan Shutan is a sculptor and installation artist who creates room sized environments and smaller hybrid objects that explore the architecture of nature and organic growth. Paper and fiber are her main materials, forming patterns through repetition. Her work represents cellular structures, pathogens and toxins. She has been in solo and group shows in Germany, France, Poland, Ukraine, Sweden, Argentina, Australia, Canada and nationally at the Aldrich Museum, KANEKO and Bank of America. Her work is in private and public collections, featured in Smithsonian and Sculpture Magazines and NY Times. ODETTA Gallery exhibits her work. She lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut. 

AS: How are you coping?

Suzan: I am used to being and living alone. My partner is a private live-in nurse. We have an unconventional relationship and have lived apart from each other the last 12 years. However, knowing I need to shelter at home makes it very lonely. Before the pandemic, I saw friends often and my partner a few times a month. Now we now face time daily, but it’s not the same. I find myself feeling more in need, so I have created “cocktail hour” zoom meetings with friends and family as a means of relieving angst, staying connected and laughing. Laughter is a great healer in times of uncertainty. 

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Fluid Terrain, 2019,Tar paper, handmade dyed paper, industrial glue, t-pins, Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT, photo courtesy of Joy Bush

AS: Has your routine changed?

Suzan: Yes, and not for the better, but I am working on changing this. I find myself in PJ’s most of the day, only getting dressed to teach online or FaceTime/Zoom. Before the pandemic I would spend a few full days weekly in my studio. I have not been to my studio in eight weeks. Its been hard to wrap my head around the act of creating being surrounded with doom and gloom. However, my studio is my sanctuary where I throw myself into my work and loose track of time. I am disoriented when I am not there, so I finally went in and it felt great.

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Energy Grid, 2018, paint, stainless steel rods, pom-poms, Arts & Cultural Center of Florida, photo courtesy of Laura Marsh

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

Suzan: Never in my lifetime did I think I would live to experience a pandemic, although scientists have been warning us about it the last five years. After the initial shock then wave of fear, I became worried for my family who lives all over the country. It is a tragic time with so many lost lives yet; I am amazed by the generosity and kindness of people and especially the brave souls working on the front lines. I check in more often on friends and my immediate family, especially my parents who are in there 90’s and a plane ride away from me. While I am angered by the ignorance of non-believers and disheartened by the lack of presidential leadership and compassion, I try to remain hopeful for a cure. There is no doubt this will forever change us. 

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Becoming, 2014-15, pom-poms, stainless steel rods, Zacheta National Gallery of Art Warsaw, Poland, photo courtesy of Zacheta

AS: What matters most right now?

Suzan: Staying healthy, being sensitive and caring, checking in on others and being altruistic. 

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Paper installations and sculpture, 1998-2014, Color-Aid, transparent paper, wood, foam, Counterclockwise top left Islip Art Museum NY, Perrelli Building CT, Proyecto Ace Argentina, New Haven Free Public Library, CT photos courtesy of Suzan Shutan

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

Suzan: I generally am an optimist. My heart hopes that as a culture and country we become more united and tolerant but we have a long road to travel with Covid not ending anytime soon. This rupture in our lives and routines could be a positive thing. It is a chance to break from the past and build something new. This is a moment to re-evaluate, to rethink our global future and to fight for another way. I also think its reminding people how important art and culture is to a valued life. While it has digital limitations, I believe Art plays a critical role in rebuilding and healing. It provides contemplation, purpose, beauty and meaning. It connects us to one other. All the more reason to continue to make art.

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Dimensional Objects, 2016-19, acrylic, flashe, ink, wood, clayboard, plastic, foam, tar-paper, color-aid, clay, twine, photo courtesy of Joy Bush & Suzan Shutan

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: