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By: Gail Obenreder
“Whether I’m using word, image, organic materials or design techniques, nature is my rubric and my compass, my metaphor and material.” — Susan Benarcik
To begin her career as a printmaker, Susan Benarcik chose to establish a studio art practice rather than become an educator. But ironically, she had no access to a print shop as a young professional, and so she “decided to focus on investigating new materials such as encaustic, collage and sculpture.” From the onset, Benarcik saw plants and the world of nature as metaphors of human experience and utilized them in her art. She began to appropriate images from books, encyclopedias and magazines to understand “how humans and plants possess similar tenacious or yielding qualities.”
Working and living in large cities, Benarcik also learned “how we mistreated the environment in the name of progress.” This led to an exploration of activism and stewardship, and she found her art moving away from representation and becoming increasingly experimental. She also began to incorporate natural materials – wax, earth, twigs, roots – into her works on paper, a practice which is still the bedrock of much of her art.
Benarcik has long plied her artistic trade in urban areas, including Philadelphia, Houston and 18 years in her Manhattan studio. But in 2013 she relocated her practice to her native city. Benarcik established a Wilmington studio, and though she also works as an urban gardener in Philadelphia, her artistic roots continue to flourish in Delaware. In late 2019, in collaboration with New Castle County she and fellow board members are breaking ground on Jester Artspace, a North Wilmington nonprofit creative arts center in the historic Jester Farmhouse. She is also a practitioner of Pysanky, gathering family and friends once a year to decorate eggs with the historic design technique that employs dyes and wax.
Her established career includes over 20 solo and 40 group exhibitions, and she has 20 works in collections, permanent installations or as commissions. Having “spent a lifetime in making connections,” Benarcik now seeks to create “opportunities for viewers to connect.” In an era when lessening value is placed on observation, creativity and critical thinking, she feels “responsible and challenged to make art that is relatable.” Honored to be a Fellowship recipient, she sees the Division’s awards as “the validation that dedicated, creative people need to keep moving forward.”
Artist website: http://susanbenarcik.com/Fellowship Home