Alexandria I / Susanne Slavick

Susanne Slavick, Alexandria Series, 2011



gouache on archival digital prints on Hahnemuhle paper

Artist Statement
Thoth was one of the more important deities of the Egyptian pantheon as he was considered to be the heart—which, according to the ancient Egyptians, is the seat of intelligence or the mind—and tongue of the sun god Ra, as well as the means by which Ra’s will was translated into speech. One of his roles was maintaining the universe and he later became associated arbitrating godly disputes, magic arts, the system of writing, the development of science, and the judgment of the dead. His head is often represented as a baboon or an ibis, creatures sacred to him. The ibis came to be honored as a symbol of Thoth and was often mummified and venerated. In historical and mythological accounts, the bird is also credited with devouring invasions of winged serpents, so it was regarded as a protector. Today, its numbers are expanding to often push out other species. In addition to natural food, it supplements its diet by scavenging at landfills and dumps. In the Spring in Alexandria series, the ibis pecks and struts amidst the rubble of a civic building destroyed during the Arab Spring. The identity of those responsible has become part of a shifting political narrative, whether rumored or factual. Originally blamed on protesters, the sacking is purported to have been conducted by civic employees themselves — to destroy records of their own corruption. One can see the ibis as oblivious to the upheaval, going about its business to survive. One can also see it as a symbol of the logic and intelligence necessary to build a new nation, a “protector” against backsliding and a substitute tyranny, or a more encompassing sign of vitality and hope. The photographs were taken in Alexandria in late February 2011.
About the Artist
Susanne Slavick is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University. She graduated from Yale University, studied at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and earned her MFA from the Tyler School of Art. Exhibiting in museums and galleries across the country and internationally, she has been recognized through fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She has been an artist-in-residence at The MacDowell Colony, Mt. Desert Island through the Four Seals Foundation, The Skoki Castle through the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, and the Blue Mountain Center. In 2008, she premiered “R&R(&R)” at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. This series of works on paper converts our military expression for “rest and recuperation” to images of “revelation, regret, and restoration.” These works have traveled to the Warhol Museum, Rutgers University, Bradley University and to solo shows at the Chicago Cultural Center and the McDonough Museum of Art. She is the recent author of Out of Rubble, an anthology of international artists who respond to the aftermath of war. 
In 2015, she curated UNLOADED, a traveling exhibit that explores historical and social issues surrounding the availability, use, and impact of guns in our culture.
September 9, 2011 - February 12, 2012
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