MFA Show Description

Many artists who make objects build structures on which to display their work, and the structures become the framework in which to view and understand the work. The space adjacent to the central stairway at San Francisco Art Institute’s Fort Mason Campus is made up of ten bench-like sitting areas and two platforms, providing twelve different elevations. The stairway is made up of 21 steps or 22 elevations from which to view the bench-like sitting areas. By using the sitting area adjacent to the central stairway as the framework for an installation, Suzanne Marie Russell comments on the barrack-like architecture of the building and how it dwarfs the people inside it. People using the space often avoid the central stairway because it is so exposed to view, while the high ceilings and empty air space throughout the building contribute to the feeling that the building itself is empty. For her final show, Russell activates this space with hundreds of colorful ceramic objects and the viewers who walk and sit on the stairs and platforms in order to interact with the objects.

During her last year at SFAI, Russell created a diverse collection of ceramic creatures using many different clays, slips, mason stains, terra sigillata, glazes, washes, and ceramic techniques. All of the creatures are either anthropomorphic or resemble an object from a ritual practice, and range from 1 inch to 3 feet in size. Some of the creatures have their own architecture or pedestal, while others are placed on the floor or elsewhere in the space. Through her installation, Russell explores the idea that objects can be seen and understood in many different ways depending on their spatial relationship to the body of the viewer. As a viewer moves around the installation and experiences it from different angles and elevations, the ceramic objects change their appearance and their relationship to other objects, as they are revealed and concealed from sight.