Susan Worsham was born in 1969 in Richmond, Virginia. She took her first photography class while studying Graphic Design at Virginia Commonwealth University. Named one of Oxford American’s “New Superstars of Southern Art,” her work has been widely exhibited in the United States as well as internationally. In 2015 she received both a Lensculture Emerging Talent Award, and a Lensculture Portrait Award. She has been an artist-in-residence at Light Work in Syracuse, New York, where her work was published in Contact Sheet 168: Bittersweet/Bloodwork, as well as a recipient of The Franz and Virginia Bader Fund. Exhibitions include, Light Work, Syracuse, New York, Camden Image Gallery, London, The Lishui 14th Photography Festival In China, Danville Museum, Virginia, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA , and Candela Books+ Gallery, Richmond, Virginia. Her work is held in private and public collections including The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, The Chrysler Museum, and The Do Good Fund Southern Photography Initiative. She was recently nominated for the 2016 Baum Award for an Emerging American Photographer, one of the largest national awards among the grants and fellowships available in photography.
Growing up in Virginia, my childhood field trips were to cigarette factories and civil war battlegrounds, with a brown bag lunch in tow. As a young girl I could often be found holding a dixie cup full of Kool-Aid powder, with a few drops of water, making a sweet sugary paste for finger dipping. My childhood travels were spent wandering different neighborhoods on my Schwinn, and knocking on strangers’ doors with those same sticky fingers. I can remember one such house, where I knocked on the door to ask if I could jump on the trampoline in the front yard. It was the Gibson Girls’ trampoline, the descendants of Charles Dana Gibson, the famous illustrator. He drew the ideal woman of the early 1900’s, coined the Gibson Girl. I became a constant bouncing fixture on their lawn.
Kudzu is now making it’s way over my childhood home, covering the past like a blanket, and putting it to rest, as I look for the intimacy of “home” in other places. Following a southern road with the slow pace of a funeral march, this series takes me beyond the backyards and trails of my youth. It deals with the hospitality of strangers, and hits on a feeling that I have sometimes when taking portraits. The feeling that I was supposed to meet a particular person, or turn down a certain road. The title is taken from the old saying “American By Birth, Southern By The Grace Of God”. The images are made up of the places, and characters, that I believe, I have found through a sort of divine intervention. They are strangers, that invite me into their homes, to sit awhile and hear their stories. Characters that are real, and not imagined by the literary greats of the south.
Image credit: Susan Worsham, Marine, Hotel near airport, Richmond, VA, 2009, Archival pigment print, Gift of the artist