Our work synthesizes the poetic, social, and political terrain of urban locales into installations and actions that reflect the gravity and strangeness of contemporary cities. Our practice integrates collaboration, intensive research, and material experimentation to create writing, installations, performances, and public works that respond to social questions.
Balas & Wax acknowledges our family histories and our interest in the tangible and the poetic.
Balas: ruby-like or industrial diamond gemstones. Alternately a material to be cut and polished, and used for adornment, or used for incision.
Wax: a pliable material used to unite surfaces, make patterns or impressions, and record.
Susannah Bielak creates narratives that straddle the historical and contemporary. Researching paradoxical situations and uncanny relationships that she encounters in personal and public life, Bielak responds to social issues with material experimentation and collaborative practices. Bielak’s projects have ranged from a happening staged on a seismic shake table, to prints pulled from engraved Formica kitchen tabletops. Collaborators have included rodeo cowboys, bus drivers, a veteran barbershop quartet, choreographers and engineers. Bielak’s work has been exhibited and collected nationally and internationally, including by the International Print Center, Luis Adelantado Mexico, San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, St. Paul Mayor’s Office, and Walker Art Center. Awards include the Highpoint Jerome Fellowship, Jerome Visual Arts Fellowship, Minnesota Center for Book Arts Jerome Fellowship, Prometheus Award, and UC MEXUS Dissertation Award. Her artwork and writing have been published in Art Papers, Poetry Magazine, New American Paintings, and others. Bielak received her MFA from the University of California San Diego. She is the Associate Director of Engagement and Curator of Public Practice at the Block Museum at Northwestern.
Fred Schmalz, the author of Action in the Orchards (Nightboat Books, 2019), is an artist and poet whose recent work focuses on textual response to encounters with dance, music, and visual art. He has performed in a variety of contexts, collaborating with dancers, artists, musicians, and performers. A pamphlet, “Measures” appeared in the Present Tense series in 2016. His field guide Claes Oldenburg's Festival of Living Objects was published in conjunction with a series of gallery walks by the Walker Art Center in 2013. He is the author of the chapbooks documenta 13 Daybook and Ticket. He edits and publishes the micropress Swerve Press.