Q & A with Susan Moffatt, winner of last year's Sculpture in the Garden Best in Show

Communications student Michelle Brisson sat down with Susan Moffatt, winner of “Best in Show” at last year’s Sculpture in the Garden, to find out what inspires in her, how she became a sculptor, and what we can expect from her next piece.

Susan Moffatt has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan. Most of her career was spent in industrial design for IBM where she designed computers. She began sculpting 11 years ago and has won several awards for her work, including Best in Show for Succulent 2. Her next piece Succulent 3 will debut at this year’s Sculpture in the Garden.

Succulent 2

How did you bridge from IBM to doing your own sculptures?

In 2005, I was invited to go to Italy to Carrara for a sculpting workshop with a friend of mine from New York. We spent three weeks there and had this fantastic introduction to stone carving, and I just really loved it. There was something about the beauty of the stone. I found out it can be worked, and it wasn’t as I had imagined it was. As soon as I got back a friend told me about these marble symposium workshops in Colorado and that was really how I learned to carve, by going there every year. The way you work in stone is similar to the way I was working as an industrial designer at IBM because you make a little mockup of what you want and then you build to it.

What are you working on now?

have a series of five envisioned, and they are all inspired by cactus because I’ve just gotten really caught up with the idea of them.

What draws you to sculpting cactus?

There’s such a wonderful variety in the forms, and they have meaning to me in that they relate to the human figure. They’re monumental and have kind of fleshy surfaces. I was looking it up and the American Indians said they represent unconditional mother love because they’re just so enduring and they last through anything.

Was Succulent 2 inspired by a specific succulent?

Yes! I actually found a little plant at Lowe’s, and I liked the really curvy form of it. It just had bumps all over. And twists. I just thought that would go well because the first one I did was based off a plant I found in Barbados. It was sort of geometric in mind; it had a square-like base and the top was sort of a triangle. The one I’m doing for this year’s show is very different too. It’s more of a traditional prickly pear cactus. It’s a version called the cow’s tongue, and it looks kind of like a human figure.

Is there anything you want people to take away from looking at these sculptures?

I like it when the work is abstract enough that people can have different interpretations. I’m not really wanting to make an exact replica of some cactus that I find. I want to emphasize what it is about that form that appeals to me and eliminate all the other things about it. So I don’t add flowers and spines and do exactly what it looks like. People say entirely different things about it, and I like that. I think really you want your art to be open enough that people can make those interpretations.

Is the experience of seeing your sculpture here in the garden different than seeing it in a museum?

Oh, absolutely. That’s really why I like showing my work here. The natural setting just seems so suitable for what I’m doing. They are all organic forms and I love having them in the backdrop of the garden. Where [Succulent 2] was placed was in this charming little nook by the cabin. It was perfect in that it was a nice little rounded space with trees all around that cast some shadows on it. That’s the beauty of the stone. You want to have light on it so as the sun moves around it the shadows change what you’re looking at.

Do you have any advice for looking at art?

I think for something that is three dimensional you should look around it from every angle. Spend some time with it. I think so often people come up and snap a photo and then they walk away. You want to study it and think about what the artist was thinking possibly and what it means to you.

To be the first to see or to purchase Succulent 3 and other amazing sculptures, grab your ticket to the Sculpture in the Garden preview party here.

Updated on September 01, 2016 at 03:17:23 pm.