In Susan Hamburger‘s Bushwick studio, students were greeted by large decorative panels which, at first glance, resembled the walls of elegant old-fashioned parlors. A closer look, however, revealed delicate paintings of contemporary and controversial subjects intertwined within the scrolling patterns, flowers, and vines: corrupt political figures, homes ravaged by recent hurricanes, suggestive of a changing climate. The materials in Susan’s work are also deceptive at first glance: fixtures that appear permanent on the wall are actually temporary additions constructed with foam core; sculptural vessels and figurines that appear to be sturdy stone are actually papier-mache or plastic.
Susan described how her artwork is very motivated by “things [she is] reading or listening to–that tie into a contemporary context.” Her work process is very slow and meticulous–for example, carving a piece of foam core with an Xacto knife–suggesting ties to the past. As a mentor, Susan can draw upon her own skill set and years of teaching art in the public schools and after school programs, to help students develop their own craft in drawing, painting, and sculpture, as well as explore contemporary themes that interest them.
To boost one’s career as a young artist, Susan recommends “creating a social network of other people doing similar work”–many of the shows in which she has participated resulted through personal relationships. Though she recommends applying for diverse opportunities available for artists, she told the group, “for now, everyone here should focus on making good work.”