Paradigm Gallery, located in bustling Fabric Row, is already known for housing some of the city’s most jaw-dropping emerging art.
This week, the gallery will launch “Deemed A Canvas,” an exhibit that highlights artists who work off-canvas, resulting in a bevy of sculptures and unexpected materials. It’s a collaborative effort between Paradigm and HaHa magazine that will make you want to whip out your phone.
Among the most eye-popping, impactful art? The installation, “A wall of Coin Cunts,” created by Pennsylvania native Suzanna Scott. Created by flipping coin purses inside out and stitching them to look like female anatomy, Scott’s art is evocative, playful, intimate, and envelope-pushing all at the same time.
I spoke with Scott about her history with PA, her work as an artist, and of course, those Coin Cunts that keep on going viral on IG. Be sure to catch the exhibit at Paradigm Gallery, opening on Friday, Jan. 26 and running through Feb. 17.
I know your life really changed when you realized you were drawn to sculpture. Can you talk about what drew you to sculpting in the first place - and what keeps you working?
My first love was stone carving. I was drawn to the physical challenge of imposing my will on a solid block of stone. As I built maquettes/sketches for ideas I wanted to try, I discovered new materials. These ideas turned into works of their own, possessed by new materials such as wax, fiber, found objects and resin. I found fulfillment in my studio practice once I quit imposing the limitation of one medium, and I experiment (play!) all the time.
Your sculpture work reminds me of Louise Bourgeois - you choose such a wide range of materials and shapes. Can you talk to me a bit about your process? How does a sculpture idea come to you - and how do you see it through to completion?
Some artists whose work and words have made an indelible impression on me are Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, and Kiki Smith. My own work shares in the timeless theme of the human body and all its limitations. My early stone sculpture referenced the whole body and/or form of the female torso but over the years has evolved to highlight body parts through a vocabulary of abstracted visual archetypes. The basic forms I elicit throughout my work are the drop (breast), the wound/slit (vulva) and phallic combinations I refer to as ‘shafts and glands’. I am enamored by the folds, curves, creases and textures of the body.
My process most often begins with an idea quickly jotted into my sketchbook for future reference. I try to have at least three works in process at all times so if I get stuck on one, I can turn to another till I’m unstuck. This is a practical way to keep moving forward with my work. When my daughter was a toddler I learned the value of working in small snippets of time. It’s amazing the body of work you can build with just 15 or 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t hurt that I thrive on repetition and have developed many of my works based on a series of small works grouped as a larger installation.
Your work deals very much with the female body and feminism - particularly your Coin Cunts, which will open up at Paradigm Gallery on January 26th. Can you talk to me a bit about why your work tends to go in that direction?
I have a thirteen year old daughter and I’m worried about her future. Every day we are bombarded with misogynistic, racist, sexist rhetoric on so many fronts. The poison seeping down from the highest office in our country is emboldening the lowest forms of humanity among us and hate speech is rampant. I do not want my daughter to have to live in this new reality. Our lying, pussy-grabbing president has ignited a smoldering fire among feminist artists and has added many, such as myself, to their numbers. I feel helpless but I keep making art in the hope that by speaking out through my work I can in some small way help influence positive change for future generations.
What started the Coin Cunts project? How did it happen?
The Coin Cunt project began in early April 2015, around the time Hillary Clinton announced she was indeed running as a presidential candidate. I wanted to create a piece that would meld the idea of women, money and power. When I was playing around with some old kiss-lock coin purses in the studio it came to me that they sort of looked like a vulva when I pinched the cloth/leather folds together. I stitched the folds into place and began scouring thrift shops for more purses!
What’s does the process of creating a Coin Cunt look like?
The hardest part of the process is finding the right purses. The first thing I do is turn the purse inside out and play around with it to see how its material behaves. Each purse is slightly different in the way it’s folded and stitched. Once I’ve decided on the design I stitch it into place.
The Coin Cunts come in a variety of colors - some more neutral and flesh-toned, some more bright and popping. Can you talk about what pulled you to those color choices?
When I first began searching for coin purses to use in this project I was surprised at the variety of colors and materials I discovered. Once I realized I could acquire a melanin rainbow I began collecting as many different tones as I could find. Each Coin Cunt is distinct just as every human with a vulva is unique.
You also have a piece called Thumbs Down which seems almost to be a response to Coin Cunts - and are those condoms? What inspired that piece?
Yes, Thumbs Down is definitely a yin-yang to the Coin Cunts. I do see how they resemble used condoms but in actuality I cut the thumbs off women’s vintage kidskin gloves. The thumbs were installed as a grouping on the wall using T-pins. Quite simply the piece is a not-so-subtle statement on the flaccid performance of our pussy-grabber-in-chief.
You were born in Pennsylvania, so it seems like you have pretty strong ties here. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship to PA and Philadelphia? Which artists are inspiring you right now?
I was born right outside of Philadelphia in Huntingdon Valley. According to my parents I took my first steps in the Asian Art galleries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We moved out of state while I was still a toddler but returned for a year and lived in Olney when I was twelve. Incidentally, my period began that year so I find it fitting to exhibit the Coin Cunts in the city where I became quite aware of my own vulva.