Susan Silas is a visual artist and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Silas is a dual American and Hungarian national who has built a diverse career as an artist during the past two decades. Silas has been exhibiting her work in the US and in Europe since 1985, and has taught at New York University and Cooper Union.
Education and early career
Silas received her BA in history from Reed College and her Masters in Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts. After completing her graduate studies in 1983, she moved from Los Angeles back to New York. Soon afterwards, she began exhibiting her work in group exhibitions including: White Columns, New York; New Langton Arts, San Francisco; Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles; Cal Arts: Skeptical Belief(s); The Renaissance Society, Chicago; Girls Night Out; Femininity as Masquerade, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; and Bridges and Boundaries The Jewish Museum, New York. In 1990, Silas had her first solo exhibition, at fiction/nonfiction in New York. This exhibition was followed in 1991 by a solo exhibition in Paris at Galerie Antoine Candau.
Work on landscape and “Holocaust Postmemory”
For the past decade Silas’s work has focused on landscape and memory. In 1997, she began working on Helmbrechts walk, 1998-2003, a project in which she retraced the steps of an historical death march of all women that took place at the close of the Second World War, walking for 22 days and 225 miles in Eastern Europe. This work found several forms: an unbound 48 plate artist book, a video installation and a slide projection. It has been discussed in the chapter on her work in the book Memory Effects: The Holocaust and the Art of Secondary Witnessing by Dora Apel and was the subject of an interview with her for a broadcast on BBC radio and more recently with ArtonAir.org. In November 2005 this work, along with a video installation were the subject of a solo exhibition at the Koffler Gallery in Toronto, accompanied by an essay on her work by the scholar Brett Ashley Kaplan. Helmbrechts walk, 1998-2003 was exhibited at Hebrew Union College Museum in New York City from September 2009 to June 2010 and then traveled in an English/German edition to Kunstverein Grafschaft Bentheim in Neuenhaus, Germany in the summer of 2010 and to Kunsthalle Exnergasse in Vienna in the fall of that year. In 2011 this work was included in the exhibition Continuity at Center for Contemporary Arts, Celje, Slovenia curated by Irena Cercnik. A fuller consideration of this work was recently published in Landscapes of Holocaust Postmemory by Brett Ashley Kaplan. Other recent works include a four screen video installation of the four Nazi death camps in German occupied Poland, Untitled (11–14 May 1998), shown in February, 2001 at the Cooley Memorial Gallery in Portland, Oregon and a sound work on CD exhibited at the Staller Center at Stony Brook. The artist’s most recent work on the Shoah is a six-channel video installation titled Treblinka Song and The Happy Wanderer.
Silas’s recent work consists of an ongoing study of decaying birds.
“To put it in terms reflective of Silas’s photographic process and subject, Silas had to find the entropy that would hold us enrapt, keep us from turning away. Here there is no contest. Of all animals, none preserve the beauty and dignity of death with a grandeur and longevity approaching that of the many species of birds.” G. Roger Denson (excerpted from “On The Resurrection of Dead Birds”)
A selection from this body of work entitled eyes wide shut, 2010 was exhibited in a solo exhibition at CB1 Gallery in Los Angeles, CA from April 9 - May 14, 2011 along with the premiere of the video performance A child of sixties television singing songs that got stuck in her head. Images from the series RAVEN were exhibited at CB1 Gallery in September, 2013.
Her two most recent bodies of work: love in the ruins; sex over 50 and the self-portrait sessions were exhibited in Bushwick, New York in March 2014. In December 2015, during Art Basel Miami the artist realized a billboard that was located on I-195 in the Design District, sponsored by The Knight Foundation and AIRIE (Artists in Residence in the Everglades). New work in the series the self-portrait sessions, including photographs, video and sculpture were exhibited at CB1 Gallery in June 2016.
Silas has written featured articles for the online magazine ArtNet. She has been published in Podium, the online literary magazine of the 92nd Street Y in New York City, on channel 13’s website REEL 13, in the literary magazine Exquisite Corpse, in cultureID, in the Modern Love column in the Sunday New York Times, and most recently on the blog of the Theo Westernberger Estate. She is a regular contributor to Hyperallergic and the co-editor of the artblog MOMMY. Her books include eyes wide shut published by Horned Screamer Press and TO SELVES: Joy Episalla and Susan Silas published by 2 WORKS PRESS. Recent interviews with the artist can be found in ADULT magazine, Digital Dying, Museum of Non Visible Art at Yale University Radio and "Ms. Represent: Behind the Face, a Fierce Woman" at Rabble magazine.
- Vartanian, Hrag, Required Reading, Hyperallergic, December 6, 2015
- D’Agostino, Paul, Sexed & Gendered & Not: Four NYC Artists, The L Magazine, February 11, 2015
- Sendyka, Roma, A Journey, the Pain of Others, and Historical Experience: Susan Silas (English version) RIHA Journal Special Issue: Contemporary Art and Memory, December 31, 2014
- Micchelli, Thomas, The Pursuit of Art, 2014 December 27, 2014
- Lockemann, Bettina, The Power of Place: Photographing the Holocaust Today, Helsinki Photomedia, 2014
- Tschida, Anne, Art in the Everglades, Biscayne Times, July 7, 2014
- Somogyi, Zsófia, Susan Silas: Helmbrechts walk (In Hungarian) YouTube, 2014
- Thiessen-Schneider, Gudrun, 20 Jahre, Kunstverein Grafschaft Bentheim, 2014
- Petry, Michael ed., Nature Morte: Contemporary Artists Reinvigorate the Still Life Tradition, Thames and Hudson, 2013
- Edmiston, J.Harry ed. Susan Silas, Heist. Photography-Collective, April, 2014.
- Schwendener, Martha, A Critic’s Picks in Brooklyn, an Embattled Utopia, the New York Times, April 3, 2014.
- Micchelli, Thomas, Everlasting Love: Susan Silas’s Intimate Photographs, Hyperallergic, March 15, 2014.
- Blazekovic, Norelkys ed., Airie, IRREVERSIBLE ART BASEL MIAMI WEEK, 2013.
- Wagley, Catherine, Susan Silas: In The Studio, ArtVoices, Summer Issue, 2013.
- Borș, Sabin ed. Susan Silas: the self-portrait sessions, Anti-Utopias, Summer, 2013.
- Steinhauer, Jillian, The Women of Miami Project, Hyperallergic, December 8, 2012.
- Zsofia, Somogyi, A halál elótt és után, Fotómúvészet, December 2011
- Susan Silas’ Heroic Living, Hungry Hyaena, 16 May 2010.
- I Love Susan Silas, Charlie Finch, ArtNet Magazine, August, 2009.
- "We are all witnesses": Susan Silas's Helmbrechts walk Erin Hanas, Montage, 2009.
- Exposing violence, amnesia, and the fascist forest through Susan Silas and Collier Schorr's Holocaust Art, Brett Ashley Kaplan, Images, vol 2, number 1, 2008. Brill publishing.
- Camera Austria
- artists's homepage
- Tisza River Project
- Helmbrechts walk, 1998-2003
- Artnet Magazine; dennis adams at the queens museum by Susan Silas
- a love letter to oleg kulik, by Susan Silas, Artnet Magazine, May 1, 1997
- Newsgrist – Susan Silas: Found Birds
- YouTube; Untitled, (11-14 May 1998), 2001
- pigeon study, 2007–2008
- Exquisite Corpse; pigeon study, 2007-2008
- Podium; Found Bird by Susan Silas
- Exquisite Corpse; For David Foster Wallace with Love and Squalus by Susan Silas
- THIRTEEN: NEW YORK PUBLIC MEDIA; REEL 13 – I Paid for Woodstock by Susan Silas, 28 August 2009
- cultureID, Helmbrechts walk – meditations by Susan Silas
- Hebrew Union College; Susan Silas: Hembrechts walk, 1998-2003
- ArtOnAir.org – Art International Radio – Susan Silas
- Artico – Bless My Homeland Forever. Wien – Kunsthalle Exnergasse WUK
- Landscapes of Holocaust Postmemory by Brett Ashley Kaplan
- The New York Times – Modern Love; Sex on the Run? No, We Parked by Susan Silas, 10 October 2010