The Drawers - Susan Hamburger   Commentary written by Julie Oakes

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Bona Fide

Works of art are at the pinnacle of the collector's pyramid, both financially and as the saturated expression of the ideology on which the work is based. Susan Hamburger's dishes are a complex combination of events, a syncing of the philosophies that cling to the idea of collections. The scenes she chooses to put onto her plates are taken from her immediate environment yet based on historical patterns. The Williamsburg Series is based on real china that was made by Spode, with the same title. In Hamburger's faux set, we see the Williamsburg Bridge, buildings, streets and scenes that made up her immediate milieu as a working artist in Williamsburg, a section of New York City where there are many artists' studios. Her collection is made of paper and bares witness in the use of the accessible medium to the economically disadvantaged, for paper is a peasant's choice, often disposable, an unstable, generic type of dish. The sociological content, placed on a medium where economy of means is an implied message, elevates the humble paper plate, through the intent and context, to a collectible status.

The final Hamburger product is a paper plate brought up a notch; hand painted and in the style of the great ceramic houses such as Wedgwood or Spode, houses whose historical output was broad and depicted events, places, landscapes, themes, celebrations, memorials and documentation. That they can be bought individually or as a set further orients the idea of 'collection' to 'art'. Hamburger brings this tradition of recording on plates up to date and just like the real china of yore, the Hamburger plates as well will become cherished collectibles.

And yet, they are not real and even the cabinets they sit in are made of card. This is a rare phenomenon when a set of china, no longer utilitarian, becomes solely a work of art with all of the associative calls to the intellect and senses.

Copyright 2007,  Julie Oakes