In her book Composing a Life, Mary Catherine Bateson considers an alternative to today’s conventional notion of how a life develops, suggesting that we can compose a life as we go “discovering the shape of creation along the way.” Susan Mareneck – artist, teacher, social activist, writer, publisher, and administrator – has a life that has unfolded in this way.
Susan graduated from Smith College in the late 1960’s with a dual degree in Studio Art and Political Science. Eight years later, with her first child in tow, she completed her MFA in Art and Art History at the University of Iowa. Many of the basic elements of her future were evident early on, but how they would take shape evolved over time. Susan taught Art for 20 years at the Spence School in New York City, assisted in the successful preservation of the Tribeca Historic District with a small group of neighborhood activists and co-curated an exhibition at the Clocktower Gallery of PS1 called “Mixed Use District.” All the while pursuing her art and mothering two children.
For most of her adult life, Susan has split her time between Manhattan and Leverett, Massachusetts, where she lives in an 18th century house. Bought for back taxes in 1969, this house has been restored over time and reflects her deep love of the New England aesthetic. As is often true with old houses, “things” like pottery shards, building materials, and household items continuously rise to the surface of the soil in her yard. Susan sees it as her responsibility to record the date and location of each artifact found. She has used some of these artifacts, along with historical documents gleaned through research, in her artwork.
Originally a landscape artist, Susan’s work increasingly reflects her fascination with history and her desire to “see the inside of things”. She often uses materials and media from the past to explore contemporary images. For example, she created an installation for City Hall Park in New York City in which visitors look through glass windows etched with a historic print at a contemporary view of the same scene 200 years later….
(Excerpted from “Member Close-up”, Historic Deerfield Newsletter 2007, written by Mary Ramsay, Acting Director of Development, Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts)