Suzanne Torres – Madison, Wisconsin


“Stacked” 2012, clay slip, fiber insulation, cement, metal rods, 87 x 63 x 63 in.

Briefly describe the work you do.

My work borrows elements from our constructed and natural surroundings and reinterprets them through scale and abstraction. I reference geological and architectural decomposition to create large-scale sculpture and installation utilizing unfired clay and common building materials. Channeling polar forces of structure and collapse, I create work that exists in a state of flux – conjuring notions of transformation and evolution. Often exceeding human scale, the work has a physical presence that translates as a spatial experience for the viewer.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

My family spent several summers travelling the United States by car, camping in notable and obscure National and State Parks across the country. The landscapes of Acadia, the Badlands, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Yosemite, and more, instilled in me a deep love for nature and feeling of absolute freedom that only an open sky can induce. My love for natural environments and an active childhood is inexorably linked to the themes and elements I currently engage in my work. I often make work that is much larger than myself, which is a problem-solving
challenge and physical feat to execute. I see my work as a solo performance, much like a child in solitary play. I’m constantly pushing myself to my physical limits where I find a sense of solace in the physicality of making.

The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

In my case, the antiquated idea of studio fits just so. I won’t be found in my studio when I am working on the computer (most of the time) or out purchasing supplies, but when it is time to work that is where you’ll find me. As a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison I am very lucky to have others working around me, and with that, plenty of welcome distractions. Working in the studio can become very lonesome at times and I feel grateful for some occasional diversion and good music of course.

Flipside of a Dream

“Flipside of a Dream”
2013, recycled wood, rebar, recycled clay, 89 x 133 x 96 in.

What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

The role of an artist is so much more than I imagined it to be – granted, when I was starting off I didn’t really know what it was that an artist did all day besides make art. There are many other facets to being an artist than the ‘making’ aspect. In a way, an artist is like a ‘one-person team’. You’re in charge of marketing and promoting yourself, executing work, shipping and handling, documenting work, networking, writing grants and proposals, being tech-savvy, and much more that I am forgetting to say. The life of an artist is much more entwined in that of an entrepreneur than I imagined it to be.

When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can? 

I would love to answer this and say the morning. I secretly aspire to be a morning person, but it is very much against my nature to be so. I love the night. There is a sense of urgency for me late at night. I know I only have however many hours to work on whatever it is I’m working on, and that suggestion of a deadline helps me focus and work toward a goal- that goal usually being to finish the task at hand or go to sleep. During the day I know that I have all day to accomplish a task, which makes it hard sometimes to actually do it – the later it gets a familiar sense of
desperation helps keep me concentrated.

"Solitary Skin" 2013 rebar, reclaimed porcelain slip, 51 x 96 x 256 in.

“Solitary Skin” 2013 rebar, reclaimed porcelain slip, 51 x 96 x 256 in.

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

It’s changed in the sense that I have a better understanding of what it is I’m doing. The more work I’ve made, the more the puzzle pieces find their place on the board. I waffled on my identity as a young artist and doubt was my constant companion. Now, doubt is still my companion, but I at least have a sense of where I’m headed. I’m very excited about the direction my work is taking right now. I have some big projects I’m currently working on which will be on exhibition in March in conjunction with the 2014 NCECA conference.

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

All the ‘makers’ and ‘wonderers’ in my family have undoubtedly influenced my approach to making work. If there was an adage for our household it would be that ‘idle hands are the devils playground’. My Dad was constantly working on a project – refinishing furniture or stripping our front porch (which he did every year!). My Mom was an avid gardener and cook and our house was filled with fragrant smells of plants and meals to be eaten. My grandfather, a runner, loved the outdoors and could skillfully identify birds without hesitation. My grandmother, made sure us kids werefed and loved and could whip up a ‘meat and potato dish’ like no one’s

They have had the biggest impact on my work because, through their example, I was taught to be self-trusting and not dependent on others for something I could figure out on my own. They let me be wild and curious and would teach me to make and learn with my hands and heart.

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

That is a tough question since I never seriously imagined myself doing anything else. I guess I would be a ‘wilderness-adventure-guide’ and trek the world eating exotic bugs and sleeping under a blanket of stars!

torres_headshot2About Suzanne Torres

Suzanne Torres (b.1982, New Jersey) received her BA in Art from Monmouth University in 2008 and was a Post-Baccalaureate student in sculpture at the San Francisco Art Institute. She participated in additional studies at the Studio Arts Center International in Florence, Italy and the Metáfora International Workshop in Barcelona, Spain as a yearlong resident. Most recently she participated in the Open Studio Residency at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and received a full fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center for the summer of 2014. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally. Torres is a second-year Ceramics graduate and MFA candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Suzanne working in her studio.

Suzanne working in her studio.

All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 

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