Now Showing

Current & Upcoming Exhibitions

The focus of Susan Hensel Gallery is on compelling objects, meaningful use of materials, and engaging sculpture. It is a gallery where experimental ideas and works of the hand join to create unique sensory experiences. Opened September 10th, 2004 Susan Hensel Gallery is a gallery/ workspace presenting 5-6 shows per year in an intimate space, with hardwood floors and high tin ceilings. In 2013 the interior space reverted to a working studio for Susan Hensel where she continues to work on small and largescale artwork that engages both sculptural and cultural space. You can find her current work at www.SusanHenselProjects.com. The Susan Hensel Gallery is now both a large window gallery on Cedar Avenue, a main thoroughfare in south Minneapolis and an online venture represented on Artsy.net.

From Broken to Beautiful

K Daphnae Koop’s series From Broken to Beautiful is collection of found objects, an act of reclamation, a series of paintings, an index of items once considered worthless, now restored and honored through the hands of an artist whose work revels in the redemption of the objects she handles and the people who witness them.

The images that emerge from the surfaces are not so much abstract as pre-representational. They evoke simple forms that speak to many echoes in our world. Every work is able to reveal a spectrum of interpretations that dance together—now emphasizing this vision, now that.

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Let’s Play

Let’s Play is a series of interactive fidget toys made by mixed media/textile artist Susan Hensel. These works are joyous and effervescent in design, encouraging adults to engage in the mysterious act of play. Whereas most art is emphatically hands off, Let’s Play explores the hands on. The series integrates concepts from industrial design as well as fine art. This carries the same unique combination of processes and approaches that run through much of Hensel’s work. Her merging of traditional craft with industrial methods of production continues here to produce something so rare in the art world — a tactile experience.

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Stitches on the Path to HERE

Ingrid Restemayer’s Stitches on the Path to Here gathers contemplative pieces of fiber art in a collection of otherworldly quiet, all arranged in uncanny compositions of familiar forms. Working in printmaking, paper and hand-embroidery, the artist creates artwork that announce themselves through color and define themselves through precise composition.

Every piece features as its focal point an etching of fauna, often printed on Japanese paper that is then torn and arranged on the artwork. The illustrations of biological forms accumulate into a catalogue of natural moments on the long paper leaves.

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April 15, 2021-June 15,2021

“From Broken to Beautiful” by K. Daphnae Koop

This show is made up of Koop’s intricate painted wood pieces, constructed using recycled materials. Her work recombines these cast-off materials into carved wall hangings that also act as a canvas for painted ornamentation.

Discover “From Broken to Beautiful” – an exhibition of Susan Hensel Gallery.

Read The Exhibition Catalog

From Broken to Beautiful: The Re-Enchanted Work of K. Daphnae Koop

K Daphnae Koop’s series From Broken to Beautiful could be seen as many things. A collection of found objects. An act of reclamation. A series of paintings. An index of items once considered worthless, now restored and honored through the hands of an artist whose work revels in the redemption of the objects she handles and the people who witness them.

Each piece is a sculptural wall work created out of reclaimed materials. These materials are recombined into striking compositions that are then painted and scraped and painted again.

The images that emerge from the surfaces are not so much abstract as pre-representational. They evoke simple forms that speak to many echoes in our world. By intentionally going below visual representation into a more archetypal pattern, every work is able to reveal a spectrum of interpretations that dance together—now emphasizing this vision, now that.

“In Blue Beloved Air” is an example of this productive ambiguity. It stands on its broad base, looking like a mountain with the sky coming up over its shoulder where a sun is suspended, blackened at the center—not unlike the black sun of the alchemists. But this initial bloom of recognition gives way to still other sights. The sun could just as easily be an amoeba floating in blue water, or could the black stripes below be roads and the mountain an apartment building?

“How Like a Tempest” brings the ambiguity into our own bodies. The red and blue wood that frame the river of green and black could be the swirling clouds of a stormfront. But is this not an aerial view of a river? Or is this channel a vein, where some new substance has replaced blood, the life force of all animals who breathe and dream and grasp?

This play in primal forms also points to the overarching inspiration for Koop’s entire career: the natural world. The titles reinforce this connection, often taking snippets of poetry referring to natural phenomena to create a jumping off point for interpretation and reflection. But never do these phrases limit the experience or hem in possibilities for expansion. Koop always leaves them half-written, broken off at critical junctures, allowing room for all the many resonances that might come by interacting with the viewer.

The work comes alive from this combination of natural themes and unique approach. And it is all held together by a process that begins with the material—once handled by humanity before being cast off, until being taken in again by the artist.

This alchemical act of Koop’s work runs through her entire career, but it is perhaps nowhere as profound as in this latest series. Her alchemy is carried out through the discovery of base materials, the long process of meticulous construction into new forms, and the adornment of paint onto the bodies of these pieces. In this way, she takes part in the most profound act at the heart of alchemy: revealing the inner purity that hides inside all things.

Koop’s studio, then, is like the athanor of the alchemists—the furnace used to purify metals and turn them into gold. But like the true alchemists of the Renaissance, the physical process of Koop’s creation is the enactment of a spiritual process. The goal is not to create literal gold, it is to act out a metaphor for the transformation of the human spirit.

And this similarity to the transmutation by occultists centuries ago is a connection that the artist pursues with a broader purpose. Koop understands her work as a contribution to our collective consciousness. By engaging with the detritus of our materialist world gone mad with endless, rapid cycles of consumption and disposal, the artist returns to us the reality of our spiritual state. While Weber long ago proclaimed that the age of rationality had thoroughly disenchanted our world, Koop seeks to re-enchant it. And by re-enchanting, she connects us back to the true state of our world.

By bringing out the inherent beauty of her material, both through the mere act of presentation as well as painting and combining them in new ways, Koop is also connecting to the skills and disciplines that she has engaged in her entire life.

These many threads of Koop’s art begin with her childhood in Minnesota. As a girl, she learned the art of quilting, crochet and gardening from her grandmother. Her grandfather taught her how to build and remodel. Underneath these two learning trees, the seeds of her future practice were sown.

Koop spent much of her youth in the natural landscapes of Minnesota, sharing her time with the land and the water that flowed through it. These early experiences created a reverence for the ways and forms of the earth, while also providing the hands-on education necessary to carry out her own celebration of it.

Koop studied literature and art at university, earning her BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. From there, she moved to New York City where she lived for two decades.

Since returning to Minnesota, Koop has focused on the sculptural wood and mixed media wall works that are featured in From Broken to Beautiful. This latest work shows the full power of an artist whose unique approach and committed mission create a singular experience for the viewer. It is an experience of objects reborn into art, objects that act as windows for the viewer into their own rebirth.

Koop’s work has appeared in New York, New England and throughout the Midwest. It is included in both private and public collections.
Jonathon M. Clark- independent critic

Some of the work of  “From Broken to Beautiful”

March 15, 2021-May 15,2021

“Let’s Play”: The New Susan Hensel Art Exhibition

“Let’s Play” is the new Susan Hensel art exhibition on susanhenselprojects.com and  artsy.net .  Susan trained, over 50 years ago, primarily as a sculptor.  This series is a return to her roots as a builder of objects, utilizing the materials and processes of bookbinding, box building, textile production and painting.  It is an ongoing project that has accumulated a variety of light-hearted, colorful playthings.  “Art is, indeed, a serious business, but that does not mean it can’t be fun!” –Susan Hensel

Discover “Let’s Play” – a Susan Hensel art exhibition.

Read The Exhibition Catalog

Let’s Play is a series of interactive fidget toys made by textile artist Susan Hensel. These works are joyous and effervescent in design, encouraging adults to engage in the mysterious act of play.

The forms are varied: fabric chalices filled with fabric coins, folded fabric constructions, different Seussical blocks to be arranged and rearranged, and gear-like blocks that can be put together in various ways. These make up the array of adult fidget-toys in Let’s Play.

“Molecular Disambiguation” is the most ambitious. It is a series of circular disks with embroidered patterns and velcro backing, allowing the user to place them on a black sheet in any order. The patterns overall relate, but there is no single way to organize them. One is allowed to arrange and rearrange, and it is in the interaction itself that the object finds its voice.

The colors and soft shapes of every piece are encouraging, the sturdy materials forgiving. These works don’t attempt to refer to interactive fidget toys, they simply are toys — a way for adults to interface with play.

Whereas most art is emphatically hands off, Let’s Play explores the hands on. The series integrates concepts from industrial design as well as fine art. This carries the same unique combination of processes and approaches that run through much of Hensel’s work. Her merging of traditional craft with industrial methods of production continues here to produce something so rare in the art world — a tactile experience.

The fidget toy is the ultimate tactile experience. It makes no pretension to simulate an activity. There is no flavoring to appear as something it isn’t. This makes them unique as objects meant to be enjoyed simply through the process of touching and interacting with them.

Hensel leans into this complete lack of representation, opting to create what at first glance appears to be abstract sculpture, the kind typically roped off from viewers to be seen and not touched. While abstract painting can comment on more fundamental features of color, line and shape than representation, so too can abstract toys touch on more fundamental features of play — like free decision making, voluntary participation and self-directed action.

That is why these pieces only become their full selves when someone handles them, moves them around. Once animated, they are revealed to be curious puzzles with no end goal. These are not games, there are no outcomes. While the pieces themselves are finely crafted, they always live in limbo, waiting for the next pair of hands to move them into their next configuration.

In that way, they not only encourage adults to break through the expectations and limits of adulthood to seek out play, but they do so inside a fine art setting that is so often lacking in free experimentation and interaction by the viewer. Spaces that present art are so often overcome by a hush, an unspoken set of rules that those in attendance must show their respect by speaking in reverent whispers. We are expected to stand and nod thoughtfully and move on, never reaching out, never giggling.

Let’s Play brings joy back into the art space. Even the name of the series drops the formality and encourages an experience where viewers are level with the artwork.

This reflects Hensel’s career-long exploration of embedding concepts in the process of creation. By creating objects that are so radically open to the audience, ideas of user experience and fun are brought into fine art. At the same time, these objects bring fine art to the realm of toys. Can toys speak to the human condition, the moment we find ourselves in? Let’s Play emphatically says: Yes.

There could not be a better time for these pieces.They rise out of the zeitgeist, arriving to affirm and relieve what we are all feeling: fidgeting energy combined with a desire to simply enjoy things again. The levity in the series and the collapse of socially imposed barriers allows the viewer, now participant, to breathe easy, to relax and enjoy.

The self-soothing effects of aimless play connect to the psychological weight and confined existence under current pandemic conditions and growing concerns around environmental and economic catastrophe.

In a time where our headspace is dominated by news delivered instantaneously, we constantly slip into a narrative built around information tribes and anxiety-filled headlines. We use our hands to scroll through media, and yet these works remind us that our hands can be set to something else. Through their movement, they can deliver our focus out of the clutter, the unsettling echoes of illness and outrage.

This is the triumph of Let’s Play: to give us an opening to a different headspace. These works welcome us with open arms into fun that is made through the body. It is meditative, redemptive. It is not a distraction from the events in the world, it is a necessary respite. When we remember that not everything has to be so serious, we can understand when something is. And what’s more, we can appreciate returning to our lives a little happier than before.

Hensel’s previous work appears in hundreds of exhibitions, including dozens of solo shows, across a fifty-year span. The Susan Hensel Gallery has served as home for many early and mid-career artists. Hensel is the recent recipient of grants and residencies from the Jerome Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, and Ragdale Foundation.

-Jonathon M. Clark, independent critic

Some of the work From “Let’s Play”

Susan Hensel Gallery @ Artsy.net

Susan Hensel Art Gallery

The focus of Susan Hensel Gallery is on compelling objects, meaningful use of materials, and engaging sculpture. It