Midwestern Biennial & Susan Hensel Projects

CHOICE POINT(SAUL)   from Susan Hensel Projects will be on view at the  76TH ROCKFORD MIDWESTERN BIENNIAL , OCT 9, 2020–JAN 31, 2021, at the ROCKFORD ART MUSEUM

The Midwestern Biennial was juried by Jim Dempsey of Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery, Chicago. The 2020 Rockford Midwestern is long running.  Indeed this is the 76th presentation of the museum’s survey exhibition of new work by contemporary artists from across the Midwest. Consequently, Dempsey selected 77 photographs, paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures and more by 71 artists from 6 states. Markedly, he included the work  CHOICE POINT (SAUL), by Susan Hensel of Susan Hensel Projects.  Of course it makes me proud!

Best of Show and two Juror’s Choice awards will be announced on opening day—as well as the 2020 Dean Alan Olson Purchase Award, to the artist whose work has been selected for inclusion in the Rockford Art Museum Permanent Collection.

The story behind CHOICE POINT (SAUL)

I work in the highly technical realm of digital embroidery. But I also work as an artist who embraces serendipity.  I design pieces and parts on the computer.  I transfer the designs to the computer-aided embroidery machine and I watch them stitch out.  It is noisy, mesmerizing and surprisingly soothing.  It has a lovely, lovely rhythm.

Most of the time, I allow the pieces and parts to complete their voyage through the process. But sometimes, I see a stopping point that is so much more lovely than I what I had originally planned. And sometimes, the machine glitches, hiccups and presents me with something different than I had anticipated.

Both of the above are likely at work here.  I know I was working on a large-scale installation creating red modules to assemble together into a flaming whole.  After stitching for several hours, a glitch happened. I was unable to line up and complete that module. It was a failed stitch-out. But I had a lot of time and materials invested in that stitch-out. So I saved it.  I put it the “failed stitch-out box” for a couple of months.

Some months later I placed that failed stitch-out on my work table and I regarded it with new eyes. After looking at it for a bit, I went back to my “failed stitch-out box” for another piece I remembered.  It became the bottom part of the piece. I started playing around and I found my choice point. Instantly, that was the title of this dramatic piece: CHOICE POINT! Moments later I added (SAUL) to the title.  That Biblical story seemed emblematic of the choice points of various kinds we all face from time to time. So  this wall piece, CHOICE POINT (SAUL), overwhelms with color, inviting you, the viewer, into the egoless zone of pure sensation.


The Rockford Midwestern Biennial is organized by Carrie Johnson and juried by Jim Dempsey. This exhibition and its related educational programming are sponsored by the Dean Alan Olson Foundation and Women’s Art Board; and partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency and by the Armer Ahlstrand Charitable Foundation.
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