I first came across Suzanna Scott’s work while browsing through Instagram, and her piece Coin Cunts stopped me in my tracks (or should I say, scroll). I was taken aback by how through just a few stitches, she transformed an everyday object into an art piece proudly showcasing one of the most hidden, taboo body parts in it’s many unique variations. Her work is both confrontational and soft, personal and universal in its exploration of what it means to overcome shame and take back ownership of your body as a woman.
We were lucky enough to chat with the artist, who lives in northeast Louisiana with her 12-year-old daughter and husband, over email.
How did your interest in art begin?
From a young age I loved working with my hands and was always drawing and making things. As a teen I was fascinated by paper arts and had a small greeting card business. Incidentally I burned out a couple of my mom's blenders making handmade paper. When I went to college I floundered around until I took a 2D design class on a whim and changed my major to Art. I was hooked.
One of the things I love about your art is the unique way you use found materials to represent the human form, in particular Coin Cunts, where you have turned a functional object inside-out to represent a hidden, “taboo” body part, the labia. What sparked your interest in making art about the human body?
My fascination of the human body grew from its censorship. I was raised in a Protestant home where nakedness and sexuality was taboo. The body was a mystery to me and remained so until I was able to freely study its beauty during extensive life drawing sessions and a few visits to the gross anatomy lab at the University of Kentucky. Sketching a human heart while you hold it in your hand is memorable to say the least. Needless to say it has been an evolving subject for me, recently delving more into topics of human sexuality and gender politics.
I love that your project Bound Scissors describes the wrapped scissors at “impotent”. There is a direct link from this project, to Coin Cunts, where the coin purses, a functional object, are also manipulated and reduced to their aesthetic qualities. How did you come to use found materials as part of your process?
Objects interest me, particularly domestic objects. I'm attracted to their hidden past visible through worn or rusty surfaces, stains, holes or other 'flaws'. When my daughter was young, I wanted to work from home so I had a stint on Etsy selling vintage objects. I would scour flea markets and estate sales for groupings of various unique objects and sell the collections. It seems that the thrill of the hunt has not subsided but now I collect for the studio and seek objects whose forms illustrate the message or subject I wish to pursue.
Has motherhood altered or informed your artistic process at all?
Yes, it most definitely has. Since her birth, my daughter Lizzie has been a constant source of inspiration. She is a creative person who loves to draw and create miniatures out of polymer clay. When she was little, we would work side by side for hours in my studio. I think the number one thing I've learned through motherhood is that art can be created 15 minutes at a time. I used to not enter my studio unless I had hours of uninterrupted time stretching out in front of me. Now I take it where I can get it. I keep several projects going at a time and work on what I can here and there every single day. The cumulative effect is very rewarding.
Do you consider your art to be feminist?Yes I do. My work is my voice, and my most effective way of speaking out. The political landscape that we find ourselves in today makes it impossible to ignore the fact that there is still a long way to go in the fight for equality of all in our country and around the world. Feminism is not just about women--it's about making our society equal for all genders, races and creeds. We have to each do what we can to challenge societal 'norms' of racism, sexism and misogyny. These issues of equality are deeply embedded and generational in all societies.
Where do you turn for inspiration and guidance?
I must say that Instagram has been such an unexpected place to 'meet' other artists, share ideas, work in progress, give/take advice, critique and encouragement. Being able to peek inside other artists studios and process is definitely inspirational--and a unique perspective as it is an international community!
What makes you feel strong?
Long walks every day! They help my metabolism and my mind.
When do you feel most vulnerable?
I'm an introvert and social settings, especially around people I've never met, make me feel oh so vulnerable. Especially art openings….I want to run home every time--with my glass of wine of course!!
What new projects do you have on the horizon?Another series I'm currently growing are my 'Fiber Fetishes'--a collection of intimate, hand stitched objects. I'm also seeking out all the old gloves I can find for future installation I'm dubbing 'Thumbs Down'. The components of this installation look like a grouping of flaccid phalli. It's a not so subtle commentary on our current president who seems to be his own worst enemy, i.e. 'the emperor has no clothes'.
What is the most challenging thing about pursuing an artistic career?
Trying to juggle all the duties of an artist outside of actually 'making' is a constant challenge. Keeping up with correspondence, social media, documentation of work, applications to shows/grants, packing/shipping work all eats into possible studio time. I view it as a 'necessary evil'!
What advice would you give young artists?
Create a life where you can create. If it means less TV, social media, nights out with friends, so be it. Be intentional with your time. When one thing doesn't work, change it. Habits are meant to be broken but the ones that stick will serve you well. Work on something in your studio/sketchbook every day, even if its only for 15 minutes. You won't regret it.
Suzanna Scott is a Louisiana-based artist who will make you rethink your coin purse collection.
interviewed by Bridget Collins