Susan's Artist Statement:
"My goal in my work as well as my life is to heal myself and save the animals and the planet, while finding spirituality through nature and inviting the viewer on the journey."
Susan Spangenberg (NYC, USA) started painting at the age of three and hasn't lost her childlike enthusiasm for creativity. She is a self-taught outsider artist. She prefers to create alone, in self-isolation. She uses art to cope with the symptoms of her trauma and mental illness. Susan believes in the power of transcendence through the arts, honoring the process more than the presentation.
Coming from a severely dysfunctional family which led to group homes and institutionalization in her teenage years, Susan cut her outsider artist teeth at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center’s renowned ‘Living Museum’ art rehabilitation program. She was in the vanguard of the 'Girl, Interrupted' female asylum artist wave that has in twenty years become the new normal, yet Susan has maintained the raw essence of that genre imbued with a 21st century sensibility.
Susan performs as an actor under the stage name Shyla Idris.
Susan likes to incorporate text and writing into her art, including messages from her late twin brother Robert. There are also elements of spiritual symbolism from her East Indian ancestry and hand-sewn fabric throughout her work. She works in small and large-scale format encompassing textile, mixed media, painting, body prints and dolls. Susan never knows what she will work on next. She goes wherever her mood takes her.
Susan's artwork has been described as raw, intuitive, impulsive, direct, emotional, psychedelic and whimsical. Her work has been compared to Art Brut, Outsider Art, Expressionism and Visionary Art, creating playful worlds for her 'Girl In Restraints', ' Asylum Dolls', 'Spiritual Octopus', 'Mr. Doomsday', 'Magic Mushrooms' and her 'Cray Cray the Cat' art series.
Art With Text: "The text in the background of my artwork is spontaneous and stream of conscious. My writing is like a secret. Some words are meant to be shared, others are not."
Asylum Dolls: "My dolls are all versions of me. My artwork is primarily autobiographical. Asylum Dolls is an ongoing art series consisting of icons and the average gal. The icons represented are women in history I identify with because of similarities in trauma, mental illness, occupation and being confined to psychiatric hospitals. Genuine hospital gowns I wore during my inpatient stays are repurposed and incorporated in some of these works."
Spiritual Octopus: "In my Octopus Series, I substitute the octopus for the Hindu Gods as well as Christ. I started this work after a vision/hallucination of an octopus being crucified. Later on I dreamed of the Hindu God Ganesh as an octopus. The hand sewn elements is a throwback to my childhood, taking my life back from my abusive mother, who refused to let me sew or be creative. Was it a symptom of my mental illness or was it salvation from God?..."
Career highlights include Susan exhibiting in the 'First European Outsider Art Fair Osterreichische Nationalbibeliothek' Vienna, Austria in 2008 as an artist with The Living Museum, 'NYC Outsider Art Fair' in 2018 via Andrew Edlin Gallery, her first Solo Exhibition 'Escaping Childhood' with Institute of Mental Health at City Arts Nottingham, United Kingdom in 2021 and showing in the 'NYC Outsider Art Fair' with Fountain House Gallery in 2022.
Susan does not have exclusive gallery representation. However, she is a member of the following organizations:
Susan's Artwork via ArtLifting is in the Collection of:
Google, Fifth Third Bank, RSM Consulting, E*Trade, Humana, EmblemHealth, DC FLEX, Ecomm, Accenture NYC, Alder Biopharmaceuticals, EMD Serono, AKQA, Onsite Dental, Lendlease, The Hartford, Stoneleigh, Interior Architects Mastercard Murals and Warnermedia. Susan's ArtLifting work is also available for sale on West Elm and Way Fair.
When Susan is not working on her art, she enjoys spending time with her rescued cat Cray Cray and feeding the homeless cats, squirrels and pigeons in her neighborhood. She dedicates her work to her late twin brother, Robert.