Susan Messer creates mixed media drawings and handmade books using a combination of alternative print strategies and varied drawing and sculptural media. These works have been presented in exhibitions and lectures in Beijing, Bogota, Oaxaca, New York, Chicago, Seattle, and Milwaukee. Awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artists Space, Art Jewelry Forum, Kohler Foundation and Wisconsin Arts Board have supported her creative projects. An experienced studio instructor in drawing and book arts, Messer has taught in varied educational environments including the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Women’s Studio Workshop, Peninsula School of Art, Université Sainte-Anne – Nova Scotia, Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños and Beijing Normal University. She maintains an active studio practice in Wisconsin and has participated in artist residencies at Beijing Normal University, Cité des Arts (Paris), Ucross Foundation, and the Vermont Studio Center. Messer received her MFA in Drawing from Arizona State University and studied intaglio printmaking at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
As an artist, I create mixed media drawings and handmade sculptural books. In content, both studio practices explore personal narratives and cultural history and acknowledge the body as a persistent reference point. The majority of works on paper involve the combination of pinhole photography, van dyke brown printmaking and hand drawn imagery. In this research, I am interested in integrating photographically derived images with more conventionally rendered elements and wedding the concrete with the dreamlike and ephemeral. For many years, this studio work focused on the image of water surrounding the figure to establish a site of transformation and redemption and support a fluid narrative structure. More recently, informed by personal experiences and my educational background in ecology, I’m including botanical and landscape imagery in my drawings. These varied organic references transgress physical boundaries and are now visible within the figurative forms. Along with my interests in drawing, I have a regular studio practice dedicated to the design and construction of single edition, sculptural books and handbound journals. While making books may appear to involve different artistic concerns than drawing, I find the demanding attention to craft, and my deep affinity for language, history, material meaning, and narrative form are equally engaged in each process