Susy Bielak is a Chicago-based artist, writer, curator, and educator whose work centers on experimentation, collaboration, and research.
Her art and writing respond to paradoxical situations and uncanny relationships that she encounters in personal and public life, past and present. She responds to social issues using ethnographic methods and allegory, material metaphor and absurdity. In projects ranging from large-scale installations to town hall meetings, her collaborators have included rodeo cowboys, bus drivers, social workers, a veteran barbershop quartet, choreographers and engineers.
Her work has been collected and exhibited widely, including at the International Print Center, Museo Tamayo, San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, and Walker Art Center. Her artwork and writing have been published in Art Papers, Poetry Magazine, and New American Paintings, among others. Bielak received her MFA from the University of California San Diego. She makes work with Fred Schmalz in the collaborative Balas & Wax. They are artists-in-residence at the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California, with a project supported by a grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation.
As a curator and educator, Bielak approaches museums and universities as laboratories, and cities as studios—specializing in interdisciplinary collaboration, performance, public practice, public art, experimental writing, and experiential learning. Most recently, she created and ran the Engagement Department at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, curating public programs and artist projects and directing pedagogy and partnerships. Her work included spearheading the Artist at Large initiative with the McCormick School of Engineering, and resulted in her position’s Endowment. Prior to the Block, she directed programs at the Walker Art Center, where her initiatives ranged from scholarly panels to pop-up performances, and from producing online content series to embedding university classes within artist projects. Bielak has taught courses in contemporary practices, cultural studies, drawing, installation, museum studies, and social practice at Northwestern University, University of California, San Diego, and the University of Minnesota—including using archives, civic spaces, and museums as classrooms.
My work focuses on the visible and invisible workings of daily life and the dynamics of history.
Growing up in Latin American and Jewish communities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at a time of its de-industrialization spurred my ongoing interest in the interplay of people and place. This experience concentrated my attention on how barriers form, ossify, and dissipate. I am interested in built and natural environments—how cities churn, how buildings and domestic objects can stand in for human relationships, and how various sites (e.g., Brutalist architecture, frozen lake beds, seismic shake tables) can speak to history, human relationships and broader social and political structures.
Collaboration is a hallmark of my individual and collective processes—my projects evolve out of correspondence and collaboration with family, friends, specialists, and members of the public.
My website was recently hacked, so I am redirecting visitors here until I return from artist residencies later this fall. Stay tuned for a new site featuring my work as an artist, educator and curator.
Contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org with inquiries.
Please visit www.balasandwax.com to see my collaborative work with Fred Schmalz.