Susan Mohl Powers
Susan Mohl Powers (born 1944 in Saint Paul, Minnesota) is a contemporary artist who sculpts in polygon and planar metal as well as sewn fabric, blending art and science to design sculptures and fabric-on-canvas paintings. The owner of Sailshade Studios in Fall River, Massachusetts, she has designed, trademarked and fabricated an energy-efficient window shade.
Susan Mohl Powers, daughter of Judson Jasper Mohl and Florence (née Kling) Mohl, was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, of Swedish ancestry. Her family lived in Kansas and also in New England, where she completed high school.
Her interests in science and mathematics shaped her approaches to art. As a child she was fascinated by fossils; as an undergraduate, she conducted public open houses at Mount Holyoke College observatory. Powers was also a science teacher at a private school in Minnesota. Her early artistic influences included Buckminster Fuller and D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson's On Growth and Form.
Powers earned a baccalaureate in 1966 from Mount Holyoke College, having studied studio art, physics, and astronomy. She began her Master of Fine Arts in sculpture at the University of Minnesota, and completed a Master of Fine Arts in visual design in Massachusetts. She studied with Henry Rox, Jānis Kalmīte, Hui Ming Wang, Leonard DeLonga, and Harold Pattek. Early in her career, she created welded steel sculptures under Katherine Nash, who founded Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota.
Powers has written that her art is an effort to record imagery from scientific studies and observations: "I now see cellular and fossil-like forms everywhere. The expression might be a fabric sculpture. It might be an oil painting in which ribbed structures are sewn into the canvas before stretching. It might be works on paper; when I draw pastel nudes, the thighs, the breasts, and the torsos all break apart into geometric, refracted patterns of the expanding universe."
Powers' fine art abstracts and commercial fabrications have been well received. A 1979 New York Times reviewer wrote that some modern artists are "able to create successful mixtures of science and art. The mixtures by Susan Mohl Powers, now on view at the Squibb Gallery, are fascinating, relying heavily on both disciplines for their expression." Acknowledging that a few pieces "might not be eminent successes", the review described most of her pieces as "striking for their adventurousness and for their emphatic presence... What makes these pieces interesting from an esthetic point of view is their apparent contradictory nature. One look might tell us that they are an Expressionist canvas using geometric shapes as imagery. Another look might tell us that they are soft sculpture. In fact, they work well as both."
A review in the Boston Globe described her solo installation of soft sculptures at the Nemasket Gallery in Fairhaven as "a series of gauzy, boxy fabric shapes suspended from the ceiling and moving gracefully in the air currents". It also highlighted her commercial ventures with Sailshades, and commented she "capitalized on the big open space by creating a series of sewn rectangles that, when hanging, stay open without folding or flopping, even though there is no armature other than the seams". The review mentioned layers of translucent materials and stitching lines: "The effect can resemble crazy quilt patterns, or ice floes cracking apart."
A 2003 review observed, "Referencing skeletons and membranes and animals and insects, her suspended works appear to float weightlessly despite their sometimes-large size and volume", and noted that sections of a wall piece "appear to freeze differing fragments of cascading liquid waves movement".
As a subcontractor for Paul Amaral, Powers fabricated the 9 ft (2.7 m) tuft for Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's Venice biennial piece, "Lion's Tale", a gift Oldenburg and van Bruggen installed originally May–October, 1999, in Piazza San Marco outside Museo Correr, Venice, Italy (now at Musei Civici Veneziani in Venice). Powers directly collaborated with Paul Amaral in 2014 to fabricate the 9 ft (2.7 m) perforated stainless steel sculpture, "Dancing Galaxies".
Powers collaborated on three public sculpture installations with architect Kathryn Duff of the Studio to Sustain, Inc., of New Bedford, Massachusetts: at Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island; Prima Care in Fall River, Massachusetts; and The Incognito restaurant in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
In collaboration with her husband, who wrote Birdtalk: Conversations with Birds, Powers provided chapter drawings to help readers identify birds whose calls are being described.
Powers designed and began fabricating an energy-efficient "insulating decorator roman shade with a self-creating valance" out of her home in 1979, trademarking the name and design Sailshade in 1984 with her husband under the business name "Cloth Construction Partnership". By 1987, with diminishing sales, Powers took a job at a fabric mill and joined the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, which she later saluted with a large installation, "Under the Microscope of Spirit–A Tribute To The I.L.G.W.U.", at Nemasket Gallery in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.
Powers has installed Sailshades in 32 states, created applications to address acoustic challenges, and installed heat-reducing "planar net artwork" in other venues. She has also conducted do-it-yourself workshops locally in Massachusetts on making insulated shades that cut energy costs. The Sailshade trademark was re-registered in 2008 under "Sailshade Studios, Inc."
Exhibitions and installations
Powers' résumé includes solo and group exhibitions, as well as public installations.
- 1979 — "Polygons and Planar Nets," Squibb Gallery, Princeton, New Jersey
- 1988 — "Under the Microscope of Spirit–A Tribute To The I.L.G.W.U.", Nemasket Gallery, Fairhaven, Massachusetts; with immediate follow-up exhibition at Heritage State Park, Fall River, Massachusetts
- 1994 — Digital Corporation, Worcester, Massachusetts
- 1994 — Piano Mill Gallery, Needham, Massachusetts
- 1995 — Sterling Millworks Gallery, Sterling, Massachusetts
- 2002 — "Solo Exhibition 2002", Galleria Eclettica, Milano, Italia
- 2004 — New Bedford Art Museum, Lower Vault and Upper Vault Gallery
Selected group exhibitions
- 1971 — Kramer Gallery, St. Paul, Minnesota
- 1975 — Image Gallery, Lenox, Massachusetts
- 1994 — Donovan Gallery, Tiverton, Rhode Island
- 1998 — Virginia Lynch Gallery, Tiverton, Rhode Island
- 2003 — "Sun Spots 2003" and "Juno's Corset 2003", Grimshaw Gudewicz Art Gallery, Fall River, Massachusetts
- 2005 — Annotazioni d’Arte, Milano, Italia
- 1991−1997— Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
- 1984 — Banners for Boston Ballet’s world premiere performance of Choo San Goh’s Romeo and Juliet, Wang Center, Boston, Massachusetts
- 1994−2008 — Fall River Government Center, Fall River, Massachusetts
- 2003 — "Seahorses 2003", Prima Care Lobby, Fall River, Massachusetts
- 2004−2008 — Incognito restaurant, New Bedford, Massachusetts
- 2004−present — "Fifteen Walls of Bas Reliefs", Butler Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island
- 2006−2009 — The Back Eddy restaurant, Westport, Massachusetts
- 2009 — Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, D.C.
- 2010−2012 — Fall River Planning Board, Fall River, Massachusetts
Selected sculptures by Susan Mohl Powers
- Shirey, David L. (March 11, 1979). "On Blending Science and Art" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
- "Saving Sunshine". Boston Globe Magazine. October 9, 1983.
- "Susan Mohl Powers - Programma". Sailshade Studios, Inc. 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
- "Biography - Susan Mohl Powers". SMP Installations. Sailshade Studios, Inc. 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
- Powers, Alan (2002). "BirdTalk - Conversations with Birds". North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-58394-065-5. Archived from the original on February 14, 2015. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
- "Leading Women in the Arts". Weissman Center for Leadership > Public Events. Trustees of Mount Holyoke College. 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2014.
- Temin, Christine (August 31, 1988). "Lives in the Arts - Stitching a Crazy Quilt of Art and Science". The Boston Globe.
- "Susan Mohl Powers résumé" (PDF). Sailshade Studios, Inc. 2015. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
- Boyce, David B. (November 27, 2003). "Current BCC offering is an exceptional exhibit". South Coast Today. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
- "Lion's Tail 99 Oldenburg van Bruggen - 1st". Expresso Beans. 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2014.
- "s2s Studio to Sustain - Collaborating partners". New Bedford Internet. Studio2Sustain. 2014. Retrieved December 24, 2014.
- "Incognito". Sailshade Studios. 2014. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
- "Health Care Installations". Sailshade Studios. 2015. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- Powers, Alan (2015). "Birdtalk: Conversations with Birds". Google Books. Foreword by Richard C. Wheeler, illustrated by Susan Mohl Powers. p. xi. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
- "U.S. Trademark 73411973". United States Patent and Trademark Office. September 18, 1984. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- "Under The Microscope of Spirit 1988". Sailshade Studios. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
- "Fabric artist pays tribute to fabric workers". Herald News. Fall River, Massachusetts. November 1988.
- Kerr, Paula (October 28, 2005). "Made in the Shade - Designer reveals the secret of the energy-saving Sailshade". Herald News. Fall River, Massachusetts.
- "Art on Sailshades Heat Loss Solutions". Sailshade Studios. 1994. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
- "Fabric Glass Acoustic Solutions". Sailshade Studios. 2015. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
- "Overheating solutions". Sailshade Studios. 2007. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
- "U.S. Trademark 77222319". United States Patent and Trademark Office. August 12, 2008. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- National Arts Guide: 1979, Volume 1. Michigan: University of Michigan. 1979. p. 220. Retrieved February 25, 2015.
- "Fine Art Abstract Paintings Canvas Giclee Prints". Susan Mohl Powers. 2002. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
- "Vault series focus: Susan Mohl Powers". Sailshade Studios. 2004. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
- "Three Degrees of Separation". Grimshaw Gudewicz Foundation. 2005. Archived from the original on February 2, 2015. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- "Grimshaw Gudewicz Art Gallery". Sailshade Studios. 2015. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- "Artist Honored". Herald News. Fall River. March 1994.
- Mello, Michael (March 1994). "Fall River recognizes Dacron fabric images created by Westport woman". Standard Times. New Bedford, Massachusetts.
- "Seahorses 2003". Sailshade Studios. 2003. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
- "The Back Eddy". Sailshade Studios. 2014. Retrieved December 27, 2014.
- Welker, Grant (April 4, 2010). "Westport Planning Board office displays local art". The Herald News. Retrieved January 21, 2015.