SUSAN L(YNNE) BERGER

Artist Statement

I make tapestry constructions; I guess you can call them “industrial pieces” which I combine paint, markers, foam board, wood and other found objects along of course with fiber. In a way I use fiber like in paint: threading, traditional rug hooking and other hooking techniques within the piece. First, I take photographs (in this particular series), and later I make drawings and then transfer these drawings onto canvas and these drawings I do sill stand on their own. I later take the drawings I do and involve them more and they become tapestry constructions or social constructions since they take on an industrial theme.

Right now, I am working on a series called: “Superior Ink”. I lived across the street from Superior Ink Printing Company. The company was around since 1918 and was headquartered on Bethune Street from 1968 to 2005, when it sold the building and the site was demolished in 2007. This was a sad day for us. We watched our industrial neighbors arrive early in the morning, leave in the early evening and wave to us artists while living across the street. It was the most welcoming sight. Built by the famed industrial designer, A.G. Zimmerman, in the 1920’s for the Nabisco Biscuit Company, the building was later sold to Superior Ink. The building where I live is called Westbeth Artist Housing, which was converted to housing in 1969, the former home of the Bell Telephone Laboratory building, which led many technological advancements we use today. Superior Ink Printing is alive and well and fully operating in New Jersey. It is a family-run and is proud to be an American-produced company.

It was our industrial neighbor and part of the mixed-use neighborhood we call home. The printing industry was an important component in New York trade, which slowly diminished over the years—sadly. By their presence they established a multi-use of a city neighborhood. Superior Ink had two wonderful chimneys that, although weren’t used in many years, were an iconic presence along West Street. It reminded us of New York City in its industrial heyday of the past years. One can easily imagine the smoke billowing out and the loud noises coming from the starkness of the building. New York’s industrial past is lost forever!

Westbeth’s building was the first redaptive reuse of an industrial building. It was a compromise between historic preservation and demolition which ensured land conservation was upheld to reduce urban sprawl. Artist’s have always intermingled in their neighborhoods and respected such diversity and by their mere coexistence made the city vibrant. This is why I am pursuing the “Superior” series project, which will take on many stages of its existence to its demolition. Should we not reject our industrial past? Shouldn’t we feel obligated to keep the architecture that defined this industrial past and not let it become lost? And finally, should we be better urban planners?

I have looked over my other fiber pieces unrelated to the “Superior Ink Printing” series and found many of my pieces incomplete. These older works tend to resort to design elements. I am working on a very large abstract piece called “Prehistoric Maneuverings”. The piece will be 13’ or 14’ in width by 15” in its height. The piece will be all techniques of fiber and knotting. There will be many thicknesses used. I read in a National Geographic article sometime in the late 1990’s about cave drawings and that sparked my interests. I decided to incorporate this idea into a fiber piece with my own cave drawings and a reflection on modern social environment. In these type of pieces I am influenced by Native American design and there will be nine panels within the piece.