Susan Joy Rippberger
The first image is a video still from the performance series, Night Angel, in which I wear a shawl woven from electrical cords and small light bulbs while dancing to popular Mexican songs from the 1930s. I fashioned my shawl after the rebozo, a distinctly Mexican covering full of gendered ethnic histories. The shawl, crocheted from 45 extension cords and 20 yards of ribbon, is heavy and charged with electricity, and is the only light source for the performance. The dance movements express tension, light, and grace, projecting lacelike shadows onto the walls surrounding me. The dance was first presented to private audiences in homes and galleries, and later to the public at Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park, and San Francisco's Outer Richmond District.
I have returned to art after a thirty-year career in education and anthropological research on culture in the U.S. and Mexico. In the past, I brought art into my academic work by teaching ethnography through an arts-based qualitative research design, and securing grants to bring art programs to elementary schools in border towns in both Mexico and the U.S. Through photography, performance, and woven sculptures, I am working to link past and present. Besides research, teaching, and participating in everyday Mexican life, my work is influenced by gendered symbols from popular culture, by textile craft, and by an outlook gained by living in a borderland between national, regional, and cultural divides. I employ these influences to create homages to the webs of relationships in my life, some intimate and others more distant. My mother-in-law, Lupita, a seamstress and businesswoman from San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas who migrated to Mexico City, and my grandfather, Percy, an electrician from Snodland, England who moved to Anaheim, California have both influenced me.
The following images are from on-going projects involving 1950s and 60s americana, textiles, and gender. Through these installations, I explore themes of intimacy, secrecy, light, and syncretism. Close-up examination extension cords, for example, invites viewers to become part of an intimate scene, and experience a new perspective on the subject. Much of my work is done with a light source that emerges from darkness, offering a sense of magic or surprise. The syncretism present in my projects builds on blends of cultures, generations, eras, and genders.
Susan Joy Rippberger, 2009