Member Spotlight: Susan Moran
Lauren Sinner April 10, 2020
April brings us two new member spotlights, and the first up is Susan Moran. Susan has an MFA in Textiles from the University of Michigan. Her work incorporates shibori, silkscreen, and stitching to create work inspired by the natural world and common human experiences. She has been a faculty member of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit since 1986, and also teaches at Wayne State University. She exhibits, lectures and conducts workshops widely in Michigan and the US.
My goal as an artist is to study and master the traditional techniques of dyeing and printing on fabric, and to adapt them to my own purposes. I find inspiration for my work in daily walks through the wooded places of southeast Michigan, as well as explorations while traveling far afield. Throughout the year, in every kind of weather, these walks have become a kind of meditation, allowing me the time to observe subtle, daily changes and appreciate the seasonal cycles of growth, decay, and weather. I am interested in the details, textures, and close-up intricacies of natural forms. I try to filter my images through the textile processes and inherent qualities of the cloth I am using, so that the work has a reason for existing as a textile, and so that the subject matter is emphasized and complemented by the materials and processes I use.
Although much of my imagery comes from observing plants, both wild and cultivated, I am also interested in the juxtaposition of natural and man-made objects that I notice on my walks, and I have begun to mix these together to create hybrid images, and to comment on the interaction of humans and nature. I use silkscreen, stitch-resist dyeing, collage, and embroidery to embed the images in the fabric. It’s important to me that the work builds slowly, involving meditative processes that connect me to the cloth and the source of the design. I hope always to create work that is a haven, that celebrates nature’s marvels and brings attention to its fragility.
Incantation and Talisman are part of a series done in homage to the Central Asian embroidered textiles called suzanis. Suzanis have an orderly layout featuring stylized sun or flower medallions surrounded by vining motifs. I decided to work with the suzani as an inspiration, using medallion-shaped images I collected on my walks near and far. Some of my medallions are from photos of manhole covers, but also nuts and other plants I’ve found. After selecting the images I wanted to use, I silkscreened onto the dark fabric using a bleaching chemical, and afterwards combined collage and embroidery to complete the composition.
I have a collection of linens that that once belonged to my great-aunt Martha, who was a favorite relative of my mother’s when she was a child. Aunt Martha was a flamboyant, extravagant character who led an adventurous life and became a sort of legendary figure in my mind. I wanted to incorporate some of her linens into my work but struggled to find a way to both honor and transform them. I thought about the way that such handmade textiles connect me to my ancestors. I thought of how my grandmother also did handwork, darning and patching, crafting blankets and other decorative items even though she did not consider herself talented or artistic. I thought of the centering process of stitching, more and more a part of my work.
On a trip to Istanbul I became fascinated with the geometric patterning of floors and walls, particularly in the mosques. In reading about this tradition of Arabic design I was struck by an observation that Islamic decorative art does not seek to showcase individual self-expression, but to use the practice of patterning as a means to spiritual experience. This was a powerful concept to me, for although I am not religious walking is my meditation, and during this time I observe the details of my environment and think about the people, past and present, who give meaning to my life.
Somehow these disparate lines of thought came together for me and resulted in this piece.