Every major event in Susan Livingston’s life has found expression in the fiber and mixed media works she has created over the years. And each work comes with a history or story, that inspired the work or was inspired by the finished piece.

She calls this collection, spanning over four decades, “Retrospection • Introspection.”

It will be on view in the Lusty Gallery at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center from March 5 to May 31.

The exhibition will be accompanied by four days of artist residency, during which Livingston is offering demonstrations and conversations about the making, composition and inspiration that result in her pieces.

The residencies will take place on March 20, April 17 and 24, and May 8. These events are free and open to the public. Anyone interested in attending can make reservations with Vivian Glover at vglover@orangeburgarts.org.

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“Self Portrait” (1981) is the earliest piece in the exhibition, which Livingston calls the beginning of “Retrospection • Introspection.”

“I started this when I was pregnant with my daughter. It was a self -portrait that became a little bit more,” she said.

An arm resting, horizontal and delicately visible beneath the tunic-shaped fabric, has acquired more meaning.

“The arm is under there because I couldn’t figure out how to handle the stitching there. Now it seems to represent the arm I have a little bit of a problem with due to dead nerves. Someone else pointed out that when you’re pregnant, that is very often how you stand,” Livingston said.

Like “Self Portrait,” Livingston’s work, over the years, has not only taken on depth of meaning but a deepening, exquisite symbolism expressed through placement of found objects she’s integrated and stitched into acquired and rendered fabric.

“Life is Round” (2023), which could be described as the work that inspired the title of the exhibition, gives new meaning to the term “work of art,” through its intricate patterns of illustrations. The magnetism evoked by its stitching, embracing of found and treasured objects narrate the meaning of life as Livingston perceives it in this period of her life.

“You start thinking back about what you have done, what you want to do and how what you’ve done in the past influences where you are now. ‘Life is Round’ is based on our beginnings, our middle and how we circle back to different parts. Life is round. We begin life as a small egg, developing our many character traits within. As each of us leaves the womb, we move into our first nest. We grow and our nests become more elaborate, expanding with our needs. With age, we often return to our smaller, more intimate nest, surrounding ourselves with memories and family,” Livingston said.

“She Stands Alone” (2022) is a statement piece from Livingston, whose years included the eras that saw the rising profiles of women pursuing roles outside the home, asserting their voices and choices but still facing the persistent realities of misogyny and exploitation. It is a formidable abstract, stark, effectively forbidding, meant to evoke the many stories that will remain untold even with the “Me Too Movement.”

“We think the women’s movement has made great strides, but we still have to keep fighting and still try and stand up for ourselves.”

The “She” in “She Stands Alone” is positioned in the top right of the piece, her sword arm out, ready to defend herself.

“To me it’s a position that as a woman we’re in often and it’s sad to me that we are still in that position quite often. This is my tribute to the ‘Me Too Movement’ and I feel like it’s a very special piece.”

In Livingston’s “Artist Statement” she says, “For many years, I have been using a needle and thread to explore, to define, to illustrate — each piece becomes a part of my personal biography. I often feel my work is simply a representation of the many ongoing conversations I have with myself.”

“Retrospection • Introspection” is a very special conversation, an intimate collection that communicates stories that can be deeply heard through what we see.

The collection will be at the Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center, 649 Riverside Drive, Orangeburg, from March 5 to May 31. The “Artist Reception” is Wednesday, March 13, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The Arts Center’s hours are Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This and all other exhibitions are free and open to the public.

For additional information call 803-536-4074 or email Vivian Glover at vglover@orangeburgarts.org.

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