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Susan Lisbin, “Presence” at Columbia Greene Community College
November 5th, 2023

Susan Lisbin Outdoor Sculpture at Columbia Greene Community College

Susan Lisbin is an artist working in painting and sculpture. She is local to the Hudson Valley area, with a studio in her home and at the notable arts complex Foreland in Catskill, NY. At Columbia Greene Community College, Lisbin exhibits the outdoor sculpture Presence, which she created specially for the institution. The work stands in front of the Arts Building, giving “presence” to the importance of the arts program. Students can encounter the work on a grassy park when going between classes—a constant reminder of the power of creativity. Installed in 2023, the sculpture took four years to complete. Lisbin hopes it will remain on view at the college for many years to come. The dedication of the sculpture at the Columbia Greene Community College is on Thursday, November 30th from 12:30-1:30PM in front of the Arts Building, and Lisbin will be present for the event.

Presence is a vertically oriented ceramic sculpture, standing taller than most people. Thus, when confronting the piece, it has a totemic nature. Viewers sense its importance—but also feel its human nature. The work has what appears to be two thick legs, grounding the form in the earth. Moving upward, there is a maze of bulbous applications. Lisbin sees them as both playful and sensuous. They can be interpreted as cellular, microbial forms. They repeat on the upper two-thirds of the piece, engendering a humanoid figure. The colors mix blues, greens and grays so that the surface is not one-dimensional, but instead a myriad of colors swirling within. Additionally, the hues change with the shifting light outside, revealing Lisbin’s rich approach to glazing her ceramics.

In terms of cultural references, the totem is clear. A totem is defined as a natural object or animal that is believed to have spiritual significance and that is adopted as an emblem—an important acknowledgement of the indigenous land that Presence resides upon. The work also conjures early sculptures such as the Venus of Willendorf, a paleolithic carved stone sculpture often interpreted as a female fertility goddess. Additionally, Presence has contemporary connections to female sculptors like Yayoi Kusama and her “Accumulation” series—an infinity of lumpy protrusions that have a similar rhizomatic feel to Lisbin’s work.

To reference the direct words of the artist about her inspiration and process, Lisbin states: “I based my idea on two sculptures I had previously completed. Using the clay extruder to make thick, consistent coils, I made the sculpture in three sections. The process was organic with the coils leading the way to the form. I wanted the base to have some rhythm that would lead to the curves on top. The work was very physical—working with a few hundred pounds of clay and, at times, while standing on a table to reach the structure. There were many things to consider in the creation: the drying process, making the form in sections and assessing the structural balance. Each section had to be fired separately with a few strong people lifting the piece into the kiln. I used terrasigillata for the color. In the end, a semi-transparent stain was applied.” Terrasigillata is an ultra-refined clay slip that can give a soft sheen when applied to bone-dry wares. This ceramic technique was used by ancient Greeks and Romans.

Lisbin began attending open studio classes at Columbia Greene Community College in 2016. Her professor Fred Koschetzki was integral in helping her complete Presence. She extends her thanks for his support and his invitation to create this large scale outdoor piece; and thanks to the always helpful John Kenny. Previously, she had never completed a sculpture of this scale. Lisbin would also like to thank John Moree, Andrew Soltano and their students from The Construction Technology Department at the college. They created the cement base and installed the sculpture with much care.

Press Release Text by Liz Lorenz, SEFA Assistant Director

Susan Lisbin, “Presence” at Columbia Greene Community College