Susan Mollet employs five works in her exhibition in the Forum Gallery at Brookhaven College, June 6 - August 4, 2014. All elicit an elegiac tone that extends beyond the particularity of individual, private, loss to a broader engagement of the question of what remains of love after the loss of the beloved. Beginning in the circumstances of loss and of personal memories of what was once presence, the works give form to absence, in a terrible and poignant beauty.
Entering the gallery beyond the free standing north wall, one first sees EARTHLY BURDENS. The work combines a wooden stepladder surmounted with a wire ladder, which continues the ascent beyond the level of the wooden ladder. On the steps of the wooden ladder, and around it on the floor, empty plastic pill bottles, and ceramic simulacra of pill bottles, slip cast in white unglazed slip, evoke the paraphernalia of medicine, treatment - the hygienic. The wire ladder, hand formed from aluminum, diminishes with its extension in space, forcing the perspective with strong convergence. The duality of lower and upper register evokes the dichotomy of life and death, of earth and heaven, which while distinct are connected in a continuity transcending the division. Most broadly, EARTHLY BURDENS gives form to a movement from sorrow to transcendence in passage from the temporality of the mortal to the eternal.
To the right of EARTHLY BURDENS, a row of empty plastic ostomy bags hang from the ceiling, trailing multicolored sewing threads. FREE suggests, in its subtle movement induced by the airflow from gallery HVAC system, the susurration of breathing, of inhaling and exhaling, of holding and release.
The nine-part LOVE AFTER LOVE is on the entrance wall, visible through the exterior, north-facing glass curtain wall. Faces in a molded white clay body with a thin glaze, opaque black and translucent orange, are at eye level, in a horizontal row. The form is similar from one to the next, differing in glaze application. The title, like the form of the work, suggests the diachronic, the sequential - one love after another. But the title is polysemous, also suggesting that love endures after love, after the beloved.
EMPTY combines two rusty chains suspended from the ceiling and a black and white glazed ceramic seat into a swing, hanging above a dried circle of buff colored slip on the gallery floor. The static, immobile swing-as-artwork as current percept contrasts with the implicit motion of past swing-as-object-of-memory, the stilling of life, the continuance of life as memory. Between the dynamic and the static, in its profound stillness Empty is a metaphor of loss.
BOTH SIDES NOW is a circle of ceramic house forms, made of dark brown, heavily grogged stoneware, enclosing a circle of sand and surrounded by fragments of fired clay. The house is enclosure, sanctuary and refuge, a quotidian castle. Massed in a circle, the house is amplified from singular focus of hearth to community as locus of indwelling. Yet what is enclosed is sand, and the enclosing outer wall is reduced to fragments. This metaphor of the frailty of human life, and the ultimate futility of "these fragments I shore against my ruin" shifts the specificity of reference to broaden and engage the universality of loss and grief, the inevitability of our mortality.
Yes, and yet. Yet it is this rendering in form that gives loss and grief both what it is as loss and grief, and something more, a significance that is something akin to grace, and enables through memory made a perceptible even haptic and palpable a memorial, humanity.
David Newman, Gallery Director, Brookhaven College School of the Arts
These "Rocks, Stones, and Smooth Pebbles" were made while I was in an artist-in-residence program in Vallauris, France. They were inspired by the black and white marble used in the Siena Duomo in Italy and the smooth water-worn dark rocks with white lines and circles found on the beaches in France.
This body of work takes inspiration from found objects. In this society, objects that were at one time useful and important are often carelessly discarded and sent to landfills with little regard for the consequences. Therefore, the daily ritual of recycling is very important to me and has now found its way into my work.
Letters Never Sent is comprised of personally written letters silkscreened onto procelain. The letters are written to people who are no longer in my life, saying things I wish I had said to them when I could. Most of the text is unreadable to the viewer, as the importance is not in the actual words.
Sometimes life affords you an extraordinary experience that enriches you and your perspective in ways that unfold over a period of time. Such was an opportunity I had to spend five weeks in Turkey on a Fulbright study grant. These pieces have been a chance for me to reminisce, reflect, and relive the time I spent in a country I came to love and respect for its diverse landscapes, extraordinary natural beauty, rich history and welcoming people.
To say that I have tried to recreate places or times is not exactly true. Many of the forms are intuitively made and may simply reference a site or an event, a mood or a feeling that is apparent only to me. Some of the text I have incorporated is taken from a collective journal written by the group, each person chronicling two or more days of the journey. Most pieces reference the abundant ancient stone ruins, stone walls, mysterious mounds not yet excavated, and rugged landscape. But all are a grasp at making permanent that which is an incredible memory for me. From this country of extreme contrasts I came away with textures, colors, forms, friends and images that will always stay in my mind.
The work in this series stems from a long-time fascination with collecting objects, as any collection will include variations on one theme. This idea began as I was observing a collection of old oil cans. I was struck by their quiet and understated sense of beauty and economy of line and form. I became aware of the spouts and bodies as line against volume and variety within unity. There were figural implications as well as interplay of forms and negative and positive space. Then I found myself referencing these to a time in my life that was much more quiet and simple, as they were. Thus began my exploration of this theme.
“Susan Mollet's installation Happy Birthday consists of 169 ceramic boxes arrayed around the gallery walls. The boxes are small; none are more than three inches in their longest dimension. Glazed an intense lime yellow-green with a red overglaze of geometric and text elements, the boxes continue Mollet's incorporation of textuality into ceramic objects, while differently deploying the form of the ceramic object as signifier.”
“Marking and celebrating the artist's brother's fight against cancer, the title of the installation, Happy Birthday, from the hospital's reference to the day of his stem cell transplant as his "new birthday." The work, and particularly the texts glazed onto the surfaces of the boxes, engages the field of discourses surrounding stem cell research, and is thus positioned at the liminal zone between the individual and private, the public and political. Indeed, simply in its installation within the gallery, the work has transited this liminality to enter the political, as do all artworks on being presented.”
David Newman, Gallery Director, Brookhaven College School of the Arts