SUSAN WOOLF. BIOGRAPHY
2009-2013: Completed a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg. The thesis was titled:
South African Taxi Hand Signs. Documenting the History and Significance of Taxi hand signs through Anthropology and Art, including the invention of a Tactile Shape-language for Blind people.
2000-2004: Completed a Master of Technology in Fine Arts (cum laude) at Wits Technicon. Titled: The Conceptual and Practical Realisation of a Corporate Art Commission,
The artwork Mobile City is a 5 story high, 3 Ton aluminium installation. It rotates and moves up and down in Absa Bank, Towers North, Johannesburg.
1967-1971: Four years Fine Art Teachers Diploma, at the Johannesburg School of Art and Ballet (Later became Wits Technicon).
Standard 9 and Matric were completed 1966 and 1967 at the Johannesburg School of Art and Ballet. Attended Hyde Park High School and began junior school at Redhill from age 5.
ART EXHIBITIONS AND EVENTS
2020: LIZAMORE Art Gallery. Covid 19 - Online Art Exhibition - Phantasmagoria.
2020: TLC Lockdown Extension Collection. Covid 19 - Online Art Exhibition.
2019: Melrose Art Gallery. Participated in Sculptx 2019. “Healing ArtBooks”.
2019: The Ampersand Exhibition. Participants had fellowships in New York. Kingsway Art Gallery, UJ [University of Johannesburg] . "Pathways” and “Patgways of taxi hand signs”.
2018: Participated in a large sculpture exhibition at The Melrose Gallery in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg.
2018: Eighth International Society for Gesture. ISGS. Cape Town. The taxi gestures, films and a dictionary were part of the exhibition, showcasing the tactile shape system for people who are blind.
2017: Participated in WORDS outdoor and indoor gallery exhibition. Nirox Farm. Cradle of Human Kind, Gauteng.
2017: Participated in Life on Paper: Prints from South Africa, Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Boston, USA.
2017: Participated in Booknesses Colloquium: South African Book Arts Exhibition. Fada Gallery at the University of Johannesburg.
2016: FNB Johannesburg Art Fair. Contemporary African Art. Participated with Artist Proof Studio in their exhibition.
2016: Solo Exhibition. Taxi Hand Signs (extended).
SAJM South African Jewish Museum. Cape Town, for two months.
SIGNIFICATION Textareo [Lenth over 7 meters].
2015: Participated in the Artists Proof Studio group exhibition at Absa Gallery, Johannesburg. Handmade paper artworks with beads and prints from the series The Other Side, were produced at Phumani Paper Mill at the University of Johannesburg and at Artists Proof Studio.
2014: Exhibited at the exhibition We Love Mandela: In Memoriam. It was held at the Welz Studio, Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton.
2013: Paintings on the Stephan Welz auction at the VNA (Victoria and Albert) waterfront.
2013: Exhibited in a group exhibition We Love Mandela at South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London.
2013: Exhibition at WAM (Wits Art Museum). South African Taxi Hand Signs: Symbolic Landscapes of Public Culture. The visual Dictionary Grid below is the culmination of nine years research documenting the taxi signs, for sighted people and illustrated the development of the shape language for people who are blind.
2011: Participated in an International Experiential Exhibition, in New Town Johannesburg entitled Dialogue in The Dark.
2011–2012: Participated in a group exhibition entitled Talk to Me at the MoMa (Museum of Modern Art) in New York with the artworks Taxi hand signs: Shape lingo for Blind people.
2010: The Taxi Hand Sign Booklet was also launched at the Standard Bank Art Gallery. It was the first official documentation of taxi hand signs in book form in South Africa.
2010: South African Post Office launch at the Standard Bank Art Gallery of Taxi Hand Signs on the 2010 South African National Commemorative Stamp. The stamps were voted sixth amongst the first 10 most important stamps for 2010 by Stampnews.com
2009: Museum Africa: Launch of the Taxi Hand Sign Book for the Blind. A tactile shape language designed for people who are blind, enabling them to read and use or know about all taxi signs.
2009: Participated in an exhibition at Kievets Kroon and Artspace, Parktown. Artworks were entitled Past Tense Future Perfect.
2008: Participant in an art exhibition Mandela @ 90 at the South African Constitutional Court for Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday. Witness: Shadow of Ubuntu was included in the exhibit. Below Tata Madiba and Graca Machel listen to Woolf’s further explanation.
The maquette is hand carved out of different woods for an outdoor sculpture. It is a design of a composite of eleven concrete sculptures, some several meters high, entitled Witness: Shadow of Ubuntu. In natural sunlight each ‘witness’ casts a shadow. They collectively read Ubuntu, throughout the year with the sun shining, every day, between 10 am and 11am. ‘Ubuntu’ is an Africanism for respect and friendship. A word that also carries with it expectations and the burden of responsibility.
2008: Participated in a joint exhibition at the Thompson Art Gallery, Johannesburg.
Witness: Shadow of Ubuntu was included in the exhibit.
2008: Jacob’s Ladder solo exhibition at the Art Space gallery, Johannesburg.
2006: Woman of Worth mural on exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Atlanta.
2005: Charcoal drawings were exhibited at the Mason Murer Gallery in Atlanta.
2004: Exhibited a shadow sculpture entitled Table of Contents on an exhibition called Oppitafel at the Art Space Gallery in Fair. The shadow reads Table of Contents in Shorthand.
2003: Exhibited Mapping Generations with fellows of the Ampersand Foundation Award, at the Warren Siebrits Contemporary Gallery in Johannesburg. This artwork is made up of 2600 check-book stubs and an accompanying Artbook. Alongside it is a CD with a voice recording of a message from various family members going back to 1903.
2002: Awarded “Best Presentation for a Research Project” by the TWR.
2002: Completed the Degree of Master of Technology in Fine Arts at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Titled The conceptual and practical realisation of a corporate art commission.
2000: Sculpture commission completed for the law firm Edward, Nathan & Friedland.
2000: Exhibited Is this your face? No! It is the face of your mother and father, at the Civic Art Gallery in Johannesburg together with recipients of the Ampersand Foundation Award (Residency in New York).
1998–1999: Created the Mobile City Installation for Absa Towers North Building. Woolf, Levin and Cawood designed the Mobile City for the North Atrium from 1998 to 2000, in a collaboration with engineers and fabricators. The Mobile City consists of 3 tons of aluminium. It is motorised, rotating and moving up and down five floors.
1998: Awarded a fellowship in New York through Jack Ginsburg and the Ampersand Foundation.
1998: Participated in 'Lifetimes' curated by Ruth Sack in Munich, Germany.
1998: Exhibited resin sculptures [preserving cuttings on Nelson Mandel, titled Towards Mandela] in the Bannister Art Gallery of Rhode Island College in New York.
1997: Solo Exhibition, Towards Mandela at the King Plow Art Center, Atlanta. Invited by Leadership Atlanta of Fulton County and One Hundred Black Men, Woolf was simultaneously exhibiting at Brenau University for Woman in Atlanta.
1996-1997: Solo Exhibition of the Healing Installation and Art Books in Museum Africa.
Woolf became involved in a low-cost housing project in Devland (Johannesburg). It took over a year to search for and secure a low-cost government subsidised house for an employer and her three children who had become homeless. Many attempts over the following year to take out a bond to extend the low house through ABSA Bank came to nothing. Woolf extended the bond on her own home and supervised the extension of this one roomed ‘house’ in Devland. The obsticals experienced with each stage of this endeavour, gave her insights into some of the almost insurmounable challenges that people of little means in South Africa were faced with in trying to secure a low cost government subsidised home. Consequently over the next year Woolf developed a series of artworks that she hoped would communicate the delemas facing millions of people desperate to secure a low cost government house. Her art project was titled Healing and consisted of a 6 meter wide mural with
housing art books. Healing was first exhibited in the Carlton Centre and then exhibited in Museum Africa for six months as part of the 'Birds in a Cornfield' perminant exhibition on living spaces in townships. The community were involved in drinking the 1200 Rooibos tea bags used in the artwork. Each teabag represented the hope of acquiring one house in the future. The Healing installation was being considered as a possible education instrument in 1997 by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York’s education facility.
1996. Solo Exhibition HEALING , Carlton Centre Johannesburg.
1996–1997: Exhibition “Condition/Response” At Simmons Visual Arts Center of Brenau University. Atlanta.
1996-7: Woolf was the Project Director of South African Art to Atlanta, Common & Uncommon Ground. Opened in the City Gallery East (Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs) during the Cultural Olympiad, 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. The Curator was Steven Sack and Co-Director artist Lesley Ann Price. It included the Paper Prayers for Aids project from the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Forty-three South African artworks were exhibited for three months. The Exhibition was used by the main sponsor Daimler-Benz, as their Olympic Project.
1995: Exhibited in group exhibition Buttons, Civic Art Gallery, Johannesburg.
1994: Exhibition, Metropolitan Life Gallery, Cape Town.
1993: Solo Exhibition Hostel Crisis, Carter Presidential Center, Atlanta. Woolf’s artworks on Hostels and Crises in South Africa were exhibited at the Carter Presidential Center. Former USA President Jimmy Carter and Bill Campbell (then Mayor of Atlanta) invited Woolf to bring an exhibition of South African Art to Atlanta during the Cultural Olympiad as part of the 1996 Olympic Games.
1992: Exhibited at Newtown Gallery, Springs Arts Festival, Johannesburg.
1992: Solo Exhibition at the Karen MaKerron Art Gallery, Johannesburg.
Personal background: The artists' story.
It was at the suggestion of my Grade One, Redhill School teacher Mrs Niss, that my mother arranged for me to attend art classes with well known artist Madam Blazenka Baikow in her Art Academy. These were times of complete contentment and something I loved and continued with untill I was 13 years old. The very first drawing I did at the age of 5, had been a chair drawn in charcoal, with which I also won a prize at an Art Academy exhibition. I appeared in a photograph in The Star Newspaper with my teacher. Later though, Baikow immigrated to Italy. I left Redhill and went to Hyde Park High School for two years, during which time I took part time art classes with well known artist Sydney Goldblatt. In 1967 I was accepted at the Johannesbutg Art and Ballet School in Klein Street, where I completed my matrc with distinction. I stayed on at the re-named Johannesburg School of Art to complete my four years Fine Arts Teaching Deploma by 1971. One of my student artworks was selected to be shown at the first Serigraph Exhibition in South Africa, this had been a highlight for me as I met the curator and prolific artist Professor Walter Batiss, who I greatly admired. Art school was heaven for me. I was 17 when I met my boyfriend Ronald Woolf and we were married one year before I completed Art School. We lived in a flat in Yoeville behind the Water Tower. It was a brief bus trip to Art School and also close to my first art teaching post at Bonato Park High School, where I taught after completing artschool.
Our two daughters were toddlers when we moved from Yeoville. We had found a plot on a river, to build a house next to a farm in Sandton. Our third child, a boy, was born after that. Sandton City had just been built. Today the farm next door is know as Innisfree Park as is a beautiful puplic space.
Teaching and comissioned artworks were my mainstay in the years that followed. I taught art to adults, privately and at the Wits Technicon - this included portraiture, figure drawing, abstraction and communication of ideas through the use of found objects. I worked intermittently in the design and fine art field for companies amongst others, Russels, V & R, Bacos Brothers, Bennie Goldbergs (a painting [mural] of 15 meters long x 2 meters high), Edward Nathan and Friedland, Carl Schmitt, the Art Bank and Intersoft (Logos, book and video cover design). I was employed by Thompsons Publications for five years where my artwork included the company’s year book covers, graphic design and advertising artwork in general. Some of which has been included in this wesite under 'Past Projects'.
Also on this site are some of the commissioned portraits and or large murals that I did over the years.
As this Biography shows I continued with varied, often long term, art projects and socio/political artwork throughout my life. Most of these art projects have been fully documented and are available on individual Powerpoint presentations or film. Exhibitions both in South Africa and abroad, have included numerous private art galleries and museums, as can be seen below.
King Plow Centre, Carter Presential Center, City Gallery East, Atlanta Jewish Museum
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA):
Exhibition "Talk To Me".
Klutsnic Art Museum.
Wellsey Art Gallery.
South Africa House.
Sanlam, Centre for the Arts, South African Jewish Museum.
SOWETO & PRETORIA
Karen MaKerron Art Gallery, Art Space, Civic Art Gallery, New Constitutional Court, Lizamore Art Gallery, Arts on Main, Museum Africa, Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, Artists Proof Studio, Sandton Art Gallery, Johannesburg Art Festival, Wits Art Museum.