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Artwork by Susan Spangenberg

“My goal in my work, as well as my life, is to heal myself and save the animals and the planet in order to find spirituality through nature.”

Susan Spangenberg (NYC, USA) started creating at the age of three. She is an untrained 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 renown ‘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 twenty-first century sensibility.

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, samples of her psychotropic medication and hand sewn fabric throughout her work. In her Spiritual Fabric Octopus Series, Susan substitutes the octopus for the Hindu Gods as well as Christ. She works in small and large-scale format encompassing textile, mixed media, painting and body prints. Susan never knows what she will work on next. She goes wherever her mood takes her.

“In my Spiritual Environmental Fabric 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?…”

Ongoing Spiritual Environmental ‘Octopus Art Series’ is a mixed media art series of acrylic, marker, ink, with hand sewn tie dye fabric and button eyed octopus on canvas, unstretched canvas and fabric. Most of this series is done on 14″ x 14″ squared uniform canvas.

Susan Spangenberg is a member artist with the Living Museum and Fountain House gallery in NYC.

By Brian Belt

Executive Director of Mental Health Awareness and Creative Arts Gallery INC

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