Contemporary Craft in Focus: Drag

Artist Susie Ganch gives new life to discarded materials in her large-scale sculptures

April 21, 2023
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Susie Ganch, Drag, 2013-2014, collected detritus and steel, 32 × 32 × 132 in. (81.3 × 81.3 × 335.3 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the James Renwick Alliance in honor of Robyn Kennedy, 2021.81, © 2014, Susie Ganch

Using trash, found objects, and donated materials, artist Susie Ganch seeks to create artworks that align her environmental values and her art practice, which is split between independent studio work and collaborative projects. By creating with source materials that have a finite lifespan and are meant to break down, Ganch embeds a sense of time into her work. New layers of meaning emerge as works degrade and transform. With a look to the future, she designs her pieces carefully so they can be taken apart and recycled when they are no longer wanted.

It has become one of my studio values that when I leave this world, my work might be ready to leave too…what I make will not necessarily endure to be passed down to future generations.

In her sculpture, Drag, Ganch applies her virtuoso skills in metal and jewelry to make a monumental bracelet from discarded plastics. It includes many single-use plastics, like coffee lids, to show that long after we throw it away, plastic lives on indefinitely, becoming a drag on our ecosystems.

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Detail of Drag showing discarded coffee cups, disposable razors, combs, and other single-use plastics

As with many of her artworks, Drag is designed to be beautiful when viewed at a distance and to draw the viewer closer, an enticing invitation to examine the individual items. The touch of humans is visible on each piece of material, “they are dirty covered with the evidence of their now forgotten use,” further embedding the material with its own history and meaning and “signifying our commonality and complicity in this wonderful and yet terrible world.”

Watch Ganch speak on her art practice. She was one of the 10 featured artists who participated in Crafting a Better Future: The Renwick 50th Anniversary Symposium. Discover other contemporary craft artists currently on view at SAAM’s Renwick Gallery.  




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