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Garden Repairs
by Susan Goethel Campbell

March 13 – May 3, 2024
Institute for the Humanities Gallery, 202 S. Thayer
Gallery hours: M-F 9am-5pm


Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series: "Seeds of Impermanence" with Susan Goethel Campbell
Wednesday, March 13, 2024
Rackham Amphitheatre, 915 E. Washington

Opening Reception with Susan Goethel Campbell
Wednesday, March 13, 2024
Institute for the Humanities Gallery, 202 S. Thayer

Artist Susan Goethel Campbell explores the interface between natural and man-made systems. Like a 19th-century botanist in a world gone awry, she contemplates the co-existence of fields of grass and factories, puffy clouds and exhaust, trying to make sense of an environment in constant flux.

Campbell’s artist’s studio in metropolitan Detroit is in some respects like a laboratory, with seeds in glass jars and grass growing in discarded plastic bottles and containers. A series of woodblock prints allude to lost cities and skies on fire like prophecies.

In addition to printmaking, her multidisciplinary practice includes drawing, video, photography, and bookmaking. Her works are metaphors for the imprints we make, individual and cumulative, and offer the open space to wonder: Is it a scientific method, manufactured, the natural order of things, or the stuff of dreams? Where do we go from here?

For the installation Garden Repairs, Campbell meditates on the natural cycles of the garden—from planting to growth and decay to rebirth—as potentially reparative and offering perspective in a present day of precarity and loss. Ephemeral paper works created using natural dyes, woodblock printing, and hand sewing embrace impermanence. Vivid yellow pigment like bee pollen stains the wall. We are reminded of the natural beauty that surrounds us, however fleeting.

In juxtaposition, the sculpture Building Repair, an architectural structure patterned after the blueprint of the Thayer Academic Building, hangs from the ceiling. It conjures up future worlds where buildings become elaborate seed banks and growing systems. As man-made structures falter and fail, organic materials housed within them are activated, making way for new growth and sustenance.

The handmade book Survival Brick, made to accompany the project, is displayed on a shelf. The shape and texture of a building brick, the artist’s book becomes a sturdy but portable survival kit complete with seeds, dirt, and water.

Susan Goethel Campbell’s conjecture for future systems in Garden Repairs sounds fantastical. Yet, there is surprising hopefulness and life force in the artist’s ongoing visual records and inventions, and the sheer relentlessness of her curiosity and imagination.

–Amanda Krugliak, IH Arts Curator

Susan Goethel Campbell is multi-disciplinary artist and printmaker based in metropolitan Detroit. Her process-based work considers the dynamic qualities of the built environment to include periods of growth, decline, and dormancy. Central to Campbell’s practice are questions surrounding the integration and erasure of human agency over broader global systems. She often works with ephemeral materials intended to erode and change over time. Her work is realized in several formats, including prints, drawings, artist book/objects, photographs, video and installation. 

Campbell’s work has been exhibited internationally in Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Slovenia, and throughout the United States. Her work is in the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, New York Public Library, Yale University Art Gallery, Detroit Institute of Arts, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Cranbrook Art Museum, Grand Rapids Art Museum, University of Colorado Art Museum, The Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation, Toledo Museum of Art and the University of Michigan Special Collections Library. Campbell has been awarded residencies at MacDowell, Banff Centre for the Arts, Frans Masereel Centrum, Jentel Foundation, P.R.I.N.T Research Center of North Texas, Skopelos Foundation and Beisinghoff Print Residency. Campbell is the recipient of a Kresge Artist Fellowship, Creative Artist Grant, Arts Foundation of Michigan, and a grant from the Three Rivers Arts Festival in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. 

Campbell has taught studio art at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, including on the faculty of both the Cranbrook Academy of Art and the College for Creative Studies. She has been a visiting artist in numerous institutions of higher education throughout the country. Campbell is represented by David Klein Gallery, Detroit, Aspinwall Editions, Hudson, New York and Galerie Tom Blaess, Bern, Switzerland. 

This project is made possible by a grant from the Mellon Foundation as part of the Institute for the Humanities' multi-year High Stakes Art initiative.