On the Art of Susan Stewart

A discussion of the work of faculty member Susan Stewart by alumni Randall Couch (poetry, ’03) appears online at Jacket 2.

stewart-s09 Susan Stewart

In the summer of 2007, I had occasion to be in London for Blind Light, the Hayward Gallery’s retrospective of British sculptor Antony Gormley. The work from which the exhibition took its title — a rectangular glass-walled “room” with doorlike openings at either end and a ceiling fitted with vapor generators and uniform sources of high-intensity white light — involved visitors in an uncanny perceptual exploration. From outside, the boxed and glowing cloud revealed no sign of the exhibition-goers moving within, until here and there a silhouetted hand or elbow floated into view as it approached the glass. Once inside, the visitor experienced an almost complete loss of spatial reference. The vapor’s efficient scattering of light made sight beyond a few inches impossible. Proximity to other persons or to the perimeter could not be judged; the contours of one’s own body became invisible. Sound was attenuated by the density of the fog and the steady breath of the vapor generators. Only proprioception and the ear-brain system’s balance mechanisms remained to orient the visitor, and, absent visual and auditory cues, even these were not always reliable. Despite the brightness hanging in the air, the distant senses — sight and hearing — were as useless as they’d be in a black box. Blind Light, indeed...[Keep Reading]…