Susan Bercu

Cactus Garden

Ceramic sculptures

I use visual symbols to communicate my messages. I turn to the cactus as a symbol of resilience and adaptivity following the teachings of “Resilience in Community: Major Sectors” Intro: “Here we are talking mostly about ways we use energy. Transforming manufacturing, transportation, and buildings will entail finding ways to use less energy for these purposes, ways to use it that suit renewable energy sources, and ways to provide for human needs while using fewer material resources and producing less pollution.”

The cactus design is a perfect example of form and function. It can thrive for 200 years in the most extreme hot, dry environments, with over 2000 species scattered in deserts all over the globe. Its systems enable it to absorb and conserve water. The characteristic spines, shallow roots, stomata on the stem and waxy skin make the plant a reservoir despite harsh climate. Its sharp thorns ward off animal predators but do not dissuade humans from using this important resource for food, drink, and medicine. Gardeners enjoy the dazzling variety of exotic cacti with their low-maintenance water-saving feature and the spines that keep the critters from munching.

The strange beauty of flowering cacti led me to create my fanciful ceramic interpretations to be “planted” in the 0-5-foot-wide defensible space (against wildfires) built with assorted rocks around my home. My cacti stand on ceramic bases resembling fossilized stones embedded with glazed clay replicas of seashells. I use the facilities at Sonoma Community Center, where ceramics classes are offered, and studios, glazes, and kilns are shared.

We humans have much to learn from the cactus plant.
2023
  • Susan Bercu

Mask Making

Workshop at the Children’s Museum, Sonoma County, California, US
With a grant from Creative Sonoma

I was invited to lead a project with children and families to create masks and objects using donated recycled and found materials and complimentary activities with Recology Sonoma Marin. This community interactive event emphasizes respect for our planet’s limited resources. With the involvement of adults, these young children experience the power of their limitless imagination to create exciting objects without depending on commercial toys and kits. They are too young to understand the complex lessons in Part IV: Building Community Resilience. However, the art room at the museum was very busy demonstrating “Building community resilience means rolling up our sleeves and getting involved in the nuts and bolts of how society works.”
2023
  • Susan Bercu

Cast-Offs Streamers

Photo montage (clockwise)
1. Organization of my detritus
2. Preparation of my streamers
3. Community participation
4. Cast-Offs installed in Putnam Plaza

Cast-Offs Streamers is a series of interactive art-making events that promote inclusion with members of the community of Petaluma, CA. The intention is to engage public awareness around energy consumption and over-consumerism where our cast-offs are sent to the landfill. Everyone is invited to collect their discarded household plastic and metal for this collaborative hands-on, creative project. A goal is to empower children who inherited this crisis. They enthusiastically engage, especially hammering holes in the items to wire them on the ropes. Detritus is left undisguised so that their new artistic lives will sound an alarm for environmental action with the goal of zero waste. These fun events take place through October in Petaluma’s Helen Putnam Plaza where the trees are festooned with these “Cast-Offs” streamers.

I am grateful to be a recipient of an ArtSurround artist’s grant through Creatives Sonoma @creativesonoma; https://whatsnextforearth.com/www.creativesonoma.org/ArtSurround/ wherein I conceived and am implementing this project. “Cast-Offs” is a community endeavor that relates to the @WhatsNextForEarth art call “Community Resilience in the 21st Century”. Richard Heinberg demonstrates that the “focus is primarily on building resilience at the community level, as opposed to the global, national, or household level.”
2022
  • Susan Bercu

Fire Flowers

Assemblage mask: paintings, recycled newspaper, found rattan flowers and plastic leaves, stick pins.
10 in. wide x 13 in. high x 5 in. deep.

Fire Flowers is my wall mask created during the extreme drought in the aftermath of the “Glass” wildfire that roared down the parched creek 30 feet from our Sonoma County, CA home in 2020. Teams of firefighters saved our house and those of neighbors from this 67,000-acre wildfire. Its destruction is still apparent today in swaths of charred tree skeletons on our surrounding mountains. The following spring of 2021, a surprising variety of tiny wildflowers stubbornly poked their heads through the ash and rocks in the dry creek bed. I celebrated them in acrylic paint then decoupaged them on my brown ridged papier-mâché face, entitling the completed mask “Fire Flowers.”

The Post Carbon Institute’s chapter, “Think Resilience” is a roadmap for us humans to flourish in harmony with nature. In California, fires are dramatically increasing because of climate change. Our county has a comprehensive environmental plan including fire-wise measures with much education and work to be done. “Fire Flowers” is a testament to Nature’s resilience but demands the concerted allegiance of responsible community.
2022
  • Susan Bercu

Wendy and Michael

Wall assemblage uses largely recycled materials, adhered with string, wire, glue, nails. 26 in. wide x 25 in. high x 10 in. deep

My latest Window in my Stick Stories series, created mostly from driftwood, implores us to observe and revere nature. The eye glued into the driftwood profile (located on the bottom branch) is a broken Obsidian arrowhead etched with tiny chisel marks. It was found in the creek just 30 feet from my home where wildfires and floods between 2017 and 2021 unearthed these remnants from the Coast Miwok who settled here in Sonoma County 1500 years ago.

For our civilization to survive, the Post Carbon Institute’s chapter on Culture Change and Neuroscience teaches, “Most traditional human societies expended a great deal of effort to provide moral guidance, often through myths and stories, to foster pro-social behavior.”

This eye is a talisman, reminding us that we must live in harmony with each other and with nature.

Details: Pierced metal face influenced by Milagros (miracle charms found in Latin cultures); head of giraffe represents endangered wildlife; head of tribesman represents indigenous cultures.
2022
  • Susan Bercu

Just Knick Knacks

Assemblage inside a Coca Cola wood crate uses the heads of recycled dolls and my paintings (reduced) to fit each cubbyhole
12 W x 18 H inches

The concept of race is the insidious cultural story that must shift if we humans are to survive. “Just Knick Knacks” calls out egregious institutionalized prejudice.

The categorization of people by color or country of origin is a calculated invention of the oppressor to dehumanize and trivialize the “other” people as “Just Knick Knacks”. Our country was built on the backs of African slaves with the justification of labeling them an inferior race by those who enslaved them.

The Coca-Cola crate represents the unlimited power of giant corporations. Sugar, an addictive, non-nutritious substance is a symbol of greed dispensed across the planet. Each cubbyhole imprisons a victim of racism. The seven migrant children memorialized in my paintings and reduced to fit inside the case, died while in ICE custody between 2018 and 2019 under the Trump administration Zero Tolerance policy that Illegally and cruelly separated families

Racism, permeating the entire globe is the obvious result of “expedient” racial labels and leads to our demise with refugees, wars, poverty. We lose our family, home, livelihood, health, community. Our humanity.
2021
  • Susan Bercu

I am the reef

watercolor, ink, acrylic/collage on paper
18in x 24 in

Born in the same brine where all life would surge, my bones will scatter, too soon, on your bleached coral bed. The same sun melts my heart and yours in the furious flame lit by the match of the insatiable human species. Post Carbon Institute’s “Thinking in Systems” emphasizes the reality of the interconnectedness of everything. My art is a warning of the dangers of the increasing decline of coral reefs, which are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. “The world’s largest coral reef system- the Great Barrier Reef, … has lost half of its coral in the past two years because of extreme heat stress from global warming.” @earthorg
2022
  • Susan Bercu

Too Late (Even for Superheroes)

Recycled materials: Canvas map (wood back), toys, phone wire, bullet cases, fake flora, tulle.
Paper mâché heads, objects are tied, nailed to background.
30 in. H x 48 in. W x 4 in. D.)

“Too Late (Even for Superheroes)" Halloween, a true story: assemblage wall triptych describes the devastation of our planet. Superheroes represent magical thinking that ignores the evidence of global warming and imperils our ability to alter over-consumption and reliance on fossil fuels. My surreal images illustrate the real toll of science denial. Fire and ash are depicted in paint on maps, doll limbs, flora. Paper mâché heads, toy animals are riddled with nails and bullets. We are in this perfect storm of partisan division, corporate greed, and a world pandemic where our outmoded, perilous policies are established by the powerful rich. The Post Carbon Institute posits that we need a new superstructure to guide us where we serve nature rather than mastering it.
2021
  • Susan Bercu

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