Susana Reisman (b. 1977) was born in Caracas, Venezuela and lives and works in Toronto. She received a BA in Economics from Wellesley College, Boston (1999) and an MFA in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology (2005). After teaching photography for a number of years, Reisman now dedicates her time to making art and running Circuit Gallery.
Recent solo and group exhibitions include Productive Displacement, a series of billboards curated by Bonnie Rubenstein for the 2015 CONTACT Photography Festival; Standardizing Nature: Trees, Wood, Lumber (2014) at Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Toronto; Unsettled Primaries (2014), curated by Mariangeles Soto-Diaz for the Torrance Art Museum, California; Immoderation (2014), curated by Megan Press for the Living Arts Centre, Mississauga; Micah Lexier: More Than Two (2013), curated by Micah Lexier for The Power Plant, Toronto; Flash Forward Festival 2013, outdoor exhibition at Fairmont Battery Wharf, Boston; Objects in Mirrors May Appear Closer (2013), UNO St. Claude Gallery, New Orleans; and Like-Minded (2012), curated by Micah Lexier for the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
I am a photo-based artist deeply interested in questions of representation. Most of my work seeks to address the ways in which we experience and interpret what we see: how we encounter, read, construct, classify, categorize and evaluate our visual world, and how in turn, we are shaped by it. Despite a tendency towards formalist and minimalist expression my work comes from a very personal place.
As a young person growing up in Latin America I always followed the norm. That is to say, I conformed—abided by the rules and did my best to meet family, social, and cultural expectations. When I moved away to attend college in the US, I found the freedom and space to expand my horizons, to become more open-minded and in turn to discover and embrace my sexuality as I fell in love with another woman. This required me to reevaluate the frameworks by which I understood others and myself. The proverbial rug had been pulled and I had to start from scratch—questioning everything I had learnt growing-up and had taken for granted as a given, as truth. Inevitably life experience informs who we are and what we do. This is true with regards to my artistic explorations, and certainly my current research interest in the idea of standards and standardization, and the correlative idea of tolerance.
As Lawrence Busch explains in his book, Standards: A Recipe for Reality: “Standards are dangerous because they are so easily naturalized, because in following them we amplify certain aspects of the world while reducing others….” However, standards are also necessary, constructive, and productive, as long as they are fair, equitable and effective. Standards are essential to civilization—they “shape not only the physical world around us but also our social lives and even ourselves.” In a recent project entitled Standardizing Nature: Tress, Wood, Lumber, I used trees and wood as a means to draw attention to the role of standardization in our lives. Wood as a material, even when standardized, retains its inherent uniqueness and individuality. And yet, when you see a log pile, or a stack of 2x4s, the individual characteristics seem lost to the whole. In other words the utilitarian and commodified characteristics of the standard trump the particular. Through a substantial series of photographs—both documenting the lumber and construction industry, as well as studio portraits of the material interventions I made on the products themselves (drawing, painting, marking lumber)—Standardizing Nature explored this tension between the individual and the group, the tree and the forest, and the idea of standards, conformity and deviation.
Links / Updates
“Standardizing Nature: Trees, Wood, Lumber,” Portfolio by Susana Reisman
Natural Resources, Prefix Photo, Issue 31, 2015
“Standardizing Nature: Trees, Wood, Lumber,” Exhibition Review by Matthew Brower
Attention, C Magazine, Spring Issue 125, 2015
Emergence: Contemporary Photography in Canada, Gallery 44
Publication in partnership with Ryerson University [ISBN 978-0-9738294-6-4]
Beirut: Dar Onboz, 2009 [ISBN: 978-9953-465-18-0]
“A Sorry State” by Mitch Miyagawa, Artwork by Susana Reisman
The Walrus. Toronto: December 2009, Vol. 6, No. 10
“On the Scale of History” (Featured Portfolio)
Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, Rochester, NY: Visual Studies Workshop
“Photographic Medium” (Artist Profile)
Vision Magazine. Beijing, China: Youth Vision Magazine, November 2007: 224-227
“Susana Reisman: Measuring Tape,” Flash Forward 2007: Emerging Photographers from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States
Toronto: Magenta Publishing for the Arts, Ontario, Canada, 2007: 66-67. [ISBN: 9780973973921].
“Plastikos,” Alphabet City: Trash. Ed. John Knechtel
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007: 272-279. [ISBN-10: 0-262-11301-5].