Susan Clinard hosted a lecture series in the Michelle Loris Forum located in the Martire Center for the Liberal Arts on Oct. 18. Many students gathered to listen to her speak about her art work, home life and experiences.
Clinard is a sculptor from Hamden, Connecticut, where she was born and raised. She developed a love and passion for art at the age of 19 during her time as a student at the University of Michigan. Clinard was pursuing a degree in cultural anthropology with a minor in sculpting.
“I was really more focused on social work, sociology and anthropology, and in the end those interests have melded together in a very organic, beautiful way with my art,” said Clinard.
Following receiving her diploma, Clinard moved to Chicago where she worked as a social worker in the foster care system.
“Being a social worker in the foster care system was beautiful, but very taxing.” She felt that it wasn’t what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. It wasn’t until Clinard’s sister, who pursues her dream of being a dancer, convinced her to commit 100% to her sculpting. This is when her storytelling through her art really took off.
“I find it very inspirational that she followed her dream and made a name for herself in a field that is extremely demanding,” said sophomore Giovanna Mascia, who attended the lecture series. “The fact that she realized that what she majored in isn’t what she wanted to do with her life gives me reassurance as a college student.”
Clinard is also a mother of three and was told to never mention that she is a mother when people asked about her art work.
“Growing and learning how to raise a child you learn so much about yourself,” said Clinard.
She expressed that one thing she has always kept constant is that from birth, her children saw her leave the house to go to work.
“Children need to see that we don’t fit into that construct, this is what I do and I have to do it,” she said.
After teaching at the School of Art Institute of Chicago for 8 years, Clinard decided to move her studio back to her roots in New Haven, Connecticut, and settle down so she could finally start putting all her attention into her artwork and studio. “My work got larger in scale and I got a deeper sense of who I was as a human being.”
Clinard started exploring more materials and working with found objects. “Using found wood pieces helped me tell stories and share histories,” said Clinard.
“Every piece tells a story and I truly think that is what is so special about her artwork,” said Mascia.
One of Clinard’s favorite pieces is in honor of the lives lost during the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. “This piece is the torch that keeps me lit inside,” said Clinard. The piece depicts a boat full of the children that passed in the shooting.
“My son was the same age as the children that were killed. It’s hard not to feel that extra punch in the gut. All 20 little ones who lost their lives are on that boat,” said Clinard.
At a memorial in honor of a tragedy, a father of one of the children approached Clinard and thanked her for “giving the parents an image of peace to replace the horror.”
“I knew at that moment that art did indeed have a powerful place in this world, and I needed to always follow my heart and trust my intuition.” Clinard reported that this sculpture is being permanently installed next week in a church in Newtown, CT.
“I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this lecture series,” said Mascia. “Getting to listen to her experiences and stories inspired me to find my passion and use it to touch the lives of others.”