I first encountered the work of Susan Silas in 1995 when I sneaked onto the property of collector Richard Ekstract in the Hamptons to view one of her photographs through the window of his magnificent circular home. Shortly afterwards she sent me a postcard of one of her photographs, a small girl hilariously blowing water out of her mouth, mocking Bruce Nauman’s famous self-portrait.
Silas is about the intersection of humor and death; she has to cry to keep from laughin’. This fall, at Hebrew Union College, photos of her amazing re-enactment of the Nazis’ forced march of 580 Jewish women through Czechoslovakia will be on view.
Susan recently published an arch yet heartfelt obituary for David Foster Wallace in the literary magazine Exquisite Corpse. It began with her talking to a girl who once fellated Wallace in a closet, arcs through Silas’ failed attempts to complete "big novels" by William Gaddis and Thomas Pynchon, meditates on all the dull soliloquies she endured from boys putting the make on her in the 1960s and then stings the dead Wallace for making his "final decision."
There is always one more thing to do, Susan thinks, for finality belongs to "God" and not to us. Lately, as if to illustrate this grim point, Silas has been emailing me a series of pictures of a dead pigeon, and even asking me to bag a dead crow for her up in the country, a prospect which makes me shudder. I would rather see her nude photo series entitled "Sex over 50" (apparently featuring her, but she is waiting until her teenage daughter grows a bit older).
Susan was at Woodstock. She was 16 and managed to find supplies throughout the festival for her and her boyfriend, resourceful even then. She supports herself as a location spotter for Woody Allen movies and television shows, and, with her voluptuous smile and black horn-rimmed glasses, she resembles the spawn of Ava Gardner and the Woodman. She’s ambivalent about "stardom," but I’ll let you in on a little secret: she is one.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).