At age 48, mother of three Susan Begy had not come to terms with the title “housewife” and made a bold move to relocate to New York City and go back to school.
“I actually knew I wanted to do it for a long time,” Begy says, leading the way to the artist’s studio inside her sprawling Northwest Quadrant home. “My earlier choices didn’t really reflect what I wanted; I brought three amazing little beans into the world, and my husband’s job wasn’t very flexible.”
Taking a pause, she reflects, “I warmed the bench for a long time, which is an interesting thing to do—to have ambition and hold on to it and wait and wait and wait.”
Hot off the bench, Begy presents Veiled, her first solo exhibit, opening this Friday at Eggman & Walrus.
Still in the process of determining the show’s final line-up, Begy offers a tour of her most recent work. She stops at an oversized console table in her living room that holds “Triplets,” a carved alabaster diptych. A haunting sculpted baby face peers out of one of the stones.
“They were mirror images,” Begy recalls. “I thought, ‘These are like a baby—like twins or something.’”
True to her style of incorporating found objects into her works, elements like bullets, a gun and a doll hand are embedded into the piece alongside the visage.
“I had been thinking about power,” Begy muses. “I raised three kids before I went off to grad school; when my youngest daughter went off to college, I went to New York.”
Along with quickly accepting generational differences, Begy learned to appreciate the similarities she shared with her fellow School of Visual Arts schoolmates.
“[We were] at the same point of our careers and living in the same world and responding to the same imagery,” she says. “It was an interesting thing, to be where my own young children were. I was a young adult again in terms of my career and what I was doing, but I was their mother.”
“Triplets,” she says, fully embodies that dichotomy.
“I started thinking a lot about what that meant and what it meant to raise children,” Begy says. “I was also thinking about power because I was in New York, and lots of the people in this grad school were hoping to be famous—and then there was the whole economic crisis.”
Begy calls sculpting “drawing in 3-D” due to the fact that “you’re constantly keeping a line in place.”
Specific to her vision as the piece turned out, she recognizes the inherent frailty of the medium.
“At any given time, any one of these fissures can just break, and then it becomes a whole new piece,” she says, caressing the work. “I don’t worry about it, because I work with the stone. I just sort of feel like you just have to roll with it.”
Inside her studio, Begy clears through pieces of electrical wire and plumbing she’ll use to embellish future pieces and talks about her main source of inspiration for Veiled: systems.
“They’re all over,” she says, opening NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day webpage on her computer.
“If you just look out at the sky at night, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, there’s just all these things happening,’ and then we engage in these dramas with each other,” she says, immediately excluding herself from any Real Housewives of Santa Fe-type project. “These little things that are important to us are just so meaningless in the bigger system.”
Also in the exhibit is “Cosmic Communicator,” a mobile anchored on one side by Begy’s favorite records—a response, she says, to the Golden Record, placed inside the Voyager spacecraft in 1977.
She calls the sampling of Earth life and culture contained in the record “fascinating.”
“It was so sweet, really, in a way,” Begy explains. “They deliberately chose stuff that wasn’t confrontational, and they compiled it imagining aliens finding it in a completely different solar system.”
Her approach is different.
One side is heavy with albums that contain a song included on the golden disc. The imagemaker took some creative license with the other side.
It’s balanced out with one of her alabaster sculptures emblazoned with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut: “We are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”
5-8 pm Friday, April 5. Free.
Eggman & Walrus Art Emporium
130 W Palace Ave., 660-0048