Susan Cianciolo, key figure of the New York creative scene: “I come from a generation that grew up reusing the things I found”, | icon

Some messy chairs in the cibra gallery from San Sebastián are the testimony of a meditation session with which the artist Susan Cianciolo (Rhode Island, 53 years old) inaugurated her first exhibition in Spain, This exhibition is made for a new dawn, a new earth and a new solar system, (This exhibition is made for a new dawn, a new earth and a new solar system) and which, by his express wish, will remain in memory of this collective ceremony until the end of the exhibition. Surround yourself with their most recent work and dress in several specially made garments by Cianciolo, said meditation jackets, the participants arranged themselves in a circle, a constant form in his work, and attended to his indications of spiritual guidance. “When I work, I somehow feel like I’m meditating, a sense of peace pervades me. It is almost as if I could no longer live without this symbiosis…”. Her trajectory is a sort of internal transit that has led her to manifest herself through fashion, cinema or art, and to rise as one of the most radical figures of the New York creative scene of the last 30 years.

The good jacket kit (2014-2022) is one of Susan Cianciolo’s works which can be admired at the Cibrián Gallery (Jose Maria Soroa Kalea, 12. San Sebastián) until 30 December.Antonio Macario

After graduating from Parsons School in New York in 1992, Cianciolo worked for classic American fashion companies such as Geoffrey Beene (under orders from Alberto Elbaz) or Badgley Mischka. You have also collaborated with cult names such as X-Girl, founded by KimGordon, the bassist of sonic youth, and designed window displays for the upscale department store Bergdorf Goodman. In 1995, the designer created her own label, Run Collection, which would redefine avant-garde fashion in the city. “I called it the Run Collection because I was in my early 20s and felt fearless and invincible. I wanted to escape from everything that existed, to be subversive, to go against the system”. Her work as a designer was collaborative and incorporated techniques such as reuse or customization, which at the time were directly opposed to conventional luxury. The importance she attached to the process transformed each garment into an artistic project.

It is precisely at the height of his career as a designer that Cianciolo has touched the limits of the fashion system. “I realized that I was trying to break certain rules, but I couldn’t because I was stuck in the seasons system, which was getting faster and preventing me from thinking clearly about more interesting ideas,” she says. In 2001, the artist decides to close his brand to concentrate on freer projects, such as the self-publishing of fanzines or pop-ups, which were still called guerilla shops at that time. On several occasions he tried to resume his job creating fashion, but everything had changed due to rapid consumption. “I remember doing a collection and having a few orders, but I was in the studio screen printing and graphics on all these hand made t-shirts and I always had to have a ruler next to me: if it deviated by half an inch, the buyer would not accept it. An idea of ​​the more regular and industrial finishes had stabilized. I didn’t want to leave it, but I had to accept it. I told myself that at least I had given the best of myself”. His journey brought her into the art world: in 2014 she met the influential gallerist Bridget Donahuewhich has helped define her career through exhibitions at prestigious institutions such as the MoMA, el Whitney Museum or the South London Gallery.

'Broadcasting Frequency Recordings' (1996-2022) is a mixed media work that takes the form of a couch.
‘Broadcasting Frequency Recordings’ (1996-2022) is a mixed media work that takes the form of a couch.Antonio Macario

The 32 works that make up his new exhibition in Spain were created this year, during a long period of isolation in nature. “I have a good friend, a longtime collector of my work, who has a home in upstate New York. She gave me a set of keys because she and her husband wouldn’t be there and she let me stay as long as needed. It’s a very modern space where you can hear the sound of the Hudson River… I used to go there for shorter periods, but this time I was there for almost two months. Sounds silly, but I got to a point where I really felt like I was merging with nature and going through that other dimension. It’s a feeling similar to when I meditate”. Cianciolo’s spiritual theories and artistic techniques converge in his recordings, or sensory recordings. The exhibition includes drawings, paintings and collages in which she used everything from vintage pieces from her brand to fragments of fabrics that her mother, Donna Dipetrillo, hand-cut in the 1970s. There are boxes with found objects, a film and even hammocks. “The elements that make up my work have to do with what I have around me, what my friends or my daughter Lilac Sky give me. I come from a generation that grew up reusing things I found. Everything comes together in an experience in which both art and healing practices weigh. “I trust the unknown because we never know what tomorrow holds. It’s something incredible. You know, you don’t have to know all the answers.”

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