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Phoenix Rising: Artwork by Susan Gorsen

The Carnegie Center is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit, Phoenix Rising: Artwork by Susan Gorsen, on display October 29 through December 30, 2010. Louisville, Kentucky artist Susan Gorsen has been exhibiting vividly colored abstract drawings for nearly three decades. Working mainly in oil pastel crayons, she has been described as “a person in love with color” due to the vivid jewel tones she uses. However, in 2004 degenerative osteo-arthritis in both shoulders made it impossible for Gorsen to continue her quarter-century studio practice. After having bi-lateral shoulder replacement surgery in 2007 she was determined to resume her artwork and, as of January 2009, she is back working full-time in her studio. An apt comparison to her return to her studio after believing her art career to have ended is the metaphor of the phoenix rising again from its ashes. “I want to demonstrate how the inherent creative spirit cannot be snuffed out by medical challenges, despite years of being unable to work and additional years trying to relearn everything I was once able to do on autopilot,” says Gorsen. Step by step, she had to retrain her body to create art, progressing from drawing a simple line to ultimately recapturing her adept use of color. Phoenix Rising will highlight works of art that Gorsen created before her surgery alongside works that she has created since returning to her studio.

Susan Gorsen’s work is in numerous public, private and corporate collections throughout America. She has had 16 solo shows in the United States, as well as international group exhibitions in Germany, Ecuador, Ireland and Northern Ireland. Of a 1995 exhibit titled Couples at the Swanson Cralle Gallery in Louisville, now-retired Courier-Journal art critic Diane Heilenman wrote that Gorsen uses her oil pastel technique to “not only produce sensuous surfaces and multiple textural illusions, but also an optical experience with physical force.”

Gorsen is a longtime arts activist, who has served on the Louisville Mayor’s Committee for Public Art and Amenities, as well as the Executive Board of the Louisville Visual Art Association. She worked as an Artist in Residence with the Louisville public school system designing visual arts programs that address the special needs of children at risk, as well as programs that use art projects to teach core academic subjects. According to the school’s newsletter, after serving as Artist in Residence at St. Francis School in Goshen, KY in April 1994, Gorsen’s “enthusiasm and love for art was apparent every moment of her visit…The students directed, questioned and involved themselves daily in Susan’s work.”

Gorsen brought her youth arts program to Belfast, Northern Ireland for 3 weeks in 2000 as an Artist in Residence for the Castlereagh Borough Council working in municipal community centers with children on both sides of the political conflict there. Most of those students either had fathers or brothers who were members of paramilitary gangs in Belfast, children vulnerable to being recruited to these gangs by age 12 in an ongoing system of hate. Her artistic talent satisfies her own desire to create, but Gorsen has also used this gift to educate, inform, and help others to heal and achieve.

Her most recent solo exhibition Irish Postcards in January 2005 consisted of hand colored digitally enlarged oil pastel drawings of her own photographs taken during her numerous trips to Ireland. In her own words, Gorsen’s drawings “resemble music portrayed with colors instead of sound, a series of endlessly varying improvisations that share a visual identity of color relationships, mysterious personal imagery and a kinship of spirit.”