Susan Crowell has taught ceramics at the University of Michigan’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design since 2005, and at the Residential College since 1972. Since 2011, her research and artistic practice has focused upon pollen forms and the process of pollination.
A beekeeper deeply concerned with the survival and wellbeing of pollinators, Crowell deploys her appreciation of microscopic natural forms, applying the science and aesthetics of botany and apiculture toward the creation of ceramic sculpture. She presents an exploded view of pollen within the problematics of industrialized honey production, global commerce in apicultural products, and genetically modified crops.
In the past, Crowell's work has addressed a number of themes often seeking to incorporate the moral (The Seven Deadly Sins) and the literary (Howard Roark Can Kiss My Ass) with the material (Flaming Weenies and Weenie Waggers) and the temporal (Domestic Chronology). In the early 1990s, she used images and texts on narrative ceramic vessels to examine the phenomenon of "flashing" and its role in claiming ownership of public space. Later, while in Japan, she created narrative vessels to feature the poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
In addition to her current Pollen series, Crowell addresses other themes associated with the natural world. Working with the concept of wind as it relates to volume and sound through shape and material-in her Via con il Vento series (1999), for example, she first engaged the wind beyond its physical representation by developing forms and methods for capturing it. Flutestream (2006) involved the creation of curved instruments made of vitrified ceramics, enlisting the wind as a discursive and thematic element.
As a Fulbright Scholar, Crowell studied architectural ceramics with Nino Caruso at Centro Internazionale di Ceramica in Rome. She returns to Italy often to teach and conduct research. In 2003, she collaborated with Italian ceramic artists at Istituto Statale d'Arte and Gli Amici della Ceramica. More recently, she has conducted research in northern Italy on I Compianti sul Christo Morto, 15th century lamentation groupings made of terra cotta. During her career, she has published numerous articles on the topics of contemporary ceramics and ceramic artists, architectural ceramics and ceramics in Italy.
Crowell shows her work widely and has participated in a variety of exhibitions and residencies in Canada (at Banff), Japan (at Shigaraki and Miyazaki), and Italy (Rome, Florence and Venice), as well as in the U.S., China (Jingdezhen) and Denmark. Her work is included in private and university collections and installed in several public settings.
© 2018 Susan Crowell
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