Sue Van Horsen
Thank you for inviting me to be one of your feature artists. It is a true honor. What you are doing is so needed. Too many women have given up their voices and allowed our society, our government and our spiritual leaders to bind us, deform and bend our wills, our intellect and our contributions into something all together ugly and toxic. The women of America need role models and critical thinkers who are willing to do the hard work of slowly beginning to reshape how we see ourselves and walk on this planet, proud and strong.
"Of all the nasty outcomes predicted for women's liberation … none was more alarming than the suggestion that women would eventually become just like men."
- Barbara Ehrenreich
But, we didn’t - we are better than that.
I grew up in one of the many cookie cutter bedroom communities surrounding Los Angeles. For the most part, our neighborhood was full of young white families all with small children. Our snug, three bedroom, two bath, ranch-style house was nestled conveniently close to the ship yards of Long Beach, the oil derricks of Signal Hill, dairies of Dairy Valley and that mesmerizing landmark pile of fertilizer known fondly as Bandini Mountain. As a kid, I thought that this was the perfect place to grow up. In looking back on it, I can see how it curated my way of looking at the world. I was made to believe there were no people of color in our neighborhood. They all lived in Compton. As kids we thought the Civil War was nothing more than a set of blue and gray plastic toy soldiers that my dad would curse at when he stepped on them in the middle of the night. We were told the South was where our family came from. That is why I have manners and love fried pies.
When the Watts riots happened, I was still young. As I watched the riots on TV from the comfort of my living room not more than 15 minutes away, it occurred to me that not everyone was happy. There were those around us that felt disenfranchised and did not want to live in a world decided for them. There were those that could not see the Civil War as a fun game to play. There were those that could not see the South as a bunch of white people drinking sweet tea while listening to banjo music.
My pieces “ Freedom Chair” and “Handful of Pennies” attempt to illustrate the emancipation from slavery through the use of the broken chair backs. These chairs were at one time beautiful and complete. By the time I found them, they were broken and left for trash. The Union army confiscated the confederates’ property, and they took Black Americans as collateral. When the war was over they were set free and given nothing in return. Many of these former slaves had nothing to begin with, except the things that no one else wanted. The chair backs were left as trash - broken and good for nothing. Renewed and restored, these chairs may now be seen with different eyes as things of beauty, hope and freedom.
Sue VanHorsen is a self-taught artist, living in Santa Barbara, California. Sue creates through photography, print making, collage, digital collage and assemblage. In 2000, at the age of 45 she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and has continued to be creative despite it.