Susanna Crum conducts research-led projects that investigate maps and printed ephemera as social artifacts at the intersection of past, present, and future. With cyanotype, lithography, video, and sculpture, she merges digital and analog technologies and emphasizes print media’s roles in maintaining relationships – and erasures – between people and place. Her multilayered images combine community-based research with archival materials like letters, maps, newspapers, and oral histories, and propose an interpretation of place in which past and present are concurrent and vital.
Susanna received her MFA and MA in Printmaking with minors in Sculpture and Intermedia from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and her BFA from the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Her work has been featured in international and national exhibitions at venues such as Museu do Douro in Portugal, Nicole Longnecker Gallery in Houston, 1078 Gallery in Chico, Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center in Cincinnati, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in Louisville, and the Liu Haisu Art Museum in Shanghai, China. Recent artist residencies include Frontera: Together Apart, Proyecto'ace, Buenos Aires, Argentina (remote residency); Kunstnarhuset Messen, Ålvik, Norway; Mildred's Lane, Beach Lake, PA; Edinburgh Printmakers, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA.
Susanna returned to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky to start the city’s first shared printmaking workspace, Calliope Arts Printmaking Studio & Gallery, with fellow artist and partner Rodolfo Salgado Jr. Since 2015, she has taught printmaking as an Assistant Professor at Indiana University Southeast, New Albany, IN, and as Associate Director of Calliope Arts. She served as President of Mid America Print Council from 2018-2020.
Susanna Crum uses print media, video, and sculpture as tools to investigate and interpret data from archival and community-based research. Historical and contemporary maps appear to be scientific or distanced from the societies they represent, but are a product of their place, time, and maker. They shape perceptions of the social lives of places, in ways that may go unnoticed but have a significant impact on economies, communities, and the environment. In her view, print media are inseparable from social history, and processes like lithography and woodcut have a long history within mass media publishing. They forged social contracts for image consumption that persist in digital media today.
Susanna's work often combines digital and analog processes and techniques. Since 2017, her ongoing Alternative Maps project has explored the globe as an ephemeral printed object, a device for the distortion of landscape, and a tool to perpetuate sociopolitical relationships. Often out-of-date as soon as they are produced, a globe asks viewers to visualize the world not as an image on a screen or a flat abstraction, but at a fixed scale in relationship to their bodies. Alternative Maps merges traditional globemaking techniques, centuries-old printmaking processes, and digital tools like CNC devices and software. Working with traditional printmaking techniques allows Susanna to connect to the social significance of the globe as a printed object in both concept and form. Using print processes allows her to merge visual languages from past and present, and facilitate conversations about the ways that yesterday’s words and images promote today’s social norms and historical erasures.
Research is central to Susanna's projects, and the development, presentation, and overall impact of her work is typically activated through collaborations with archivists, community leaders, and stakeholders. Because she typically makes work about specific places, she facilitates community and civic engagement throughout each project. Her collaborations with Tiffany Carbonneau engaged large, public audiences outside of the traditional gallery context. Collaborative workspaces play a significant role in her practice, such as Calliope Arts, which she cofounded with Rodolfo Salgado Jr in 2015 and Mildred's Lane, a 96-acre research space in Pennsylvania cofounded by J Morgan Puett and Mark Dion.
Susanna spends a significant amount of time working with other artists to facilitate community and support through the practice of printmaking. This takes many forms, including collaborative publishing projects at Calliope Arts and her university's publishing program Rolling Knob Press; artist residencies at studios in the US and abroad; panels and presentations with other artists; workshops and lectures at universities; and work as President of the Mid America Print Council from 2018-2020. These are pillars of her work as an artist and educator. She works to promote roles and accessibility of print media and opportunities for students and practitioners who too often are met with socioeconomic circumstances that present challenges and barriers to a focused and sustained artistic practice.
“ ‘The process of drawing’ says Crum, ‘allows for detailed study of maps over time.’ The landscape we know, or think we know, has been drawn and redrawn over time, not least of all by us, the viewer. Each of us carries in our minds a series of maps: how to get our child to school the quickest, where a particular shoe repair shop is, a quiet place to take an evening walk. But such maps are generalizations; all maps, in truth, are generalizations, a vague sketch. One need only look at a Rand McNally to see where deserts lie, or farmland, or even burgeoning housing developments in the suburbs as enormous white spaces. As far as the map is concerned, there is simply nothing there to make a legend of.
But what Crum surely intends us to think is that the space in the maps is filled by our imaginations, the source of all legends. To map our city is a way to pinpoint a place where something significant happened. Such maps occur in the past: Here was my first kiss, here where my father was buried, here where I first saw a bald eagle. These are the survey markers of our lives.
A map, though, is also about the future: Here is where I need to be for my vacation next summer, the meeting tomorrow, the job interview next week. Or, as is often the case with us, here is the prettiest route, a drive through overhanging trees, with an occasional view of the sky.
‘A city is many worlds in the same place’ writes Rebecca Solnit, and this is precisely because there are so many of us making maps. The world itself, coupled with our imagination, is the only map we will know. Were we to combine every map of the mind, as Crum suggests with the ever-changing video or the cyanotype resembling geology as much as cartography, we might, as William Blake suggests, see the world as it truly is: infinite.”
Extract from The Map is Never the Country: Susanna Crum’s ‘Watershed Globe Project’ by Sean Patrick Hill | 2020