Submission
Susan Donath

Unvarnished


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Susan Donath, “Wegwarte – Čekanka”, 2021
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Susan Donath, “Wegwarte – Čekanka”, 2021
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Susan Donath, “Wegwarte – Čekanka”, 2021
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Susan Donath, “Army of Me”, 2012
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Susan Donath, “Army of Me”, 2012
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Susan Donath, installation view of the exhibition “Unvarnished”, 2021
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Susan Donath, installation view of the exhibition “Unvarnished”, 2021
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Susan Donath, installation view of the exhibition “Unvarnished”, 2021
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Susan Donath, “Schneewittchen”, 2012
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Susan Donath, “Totenkronen”, 2013–2021
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Susan Donath, “Totenkrone für A.”, 2013–2018
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Susan Donath, “Totenkrone für A.”, 2013–2018
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Susan Donath, “Totenkrone für A.”, 2013–2018
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Susan Donath, “Totenkrone für S.”, 2020/2021
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Susan Donath, “Überfluss der pinkfarbenen Einäuger”, 2004–2010
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Susan Donath, “La Paloma Ade”, 2019
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Susan Donath, “La Paloma Ade”, 2019
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Susan Donath, “La Paloma Ade”, 2019

In her practice, Susan Donath (b. 1979) adapts and examines cultural manifestations of loss and remembrance. Working primarily in sculpture, she quotes historical and contemporary sepulchral phenomena and reflects on the patriarchal ideas and notions that often underlie such customs and objects of burial, mourning, and commemoration. The exhibition “Unvarnished” (Unverblümt) in the chapel at Nordfriedhof in Dresden, Germany, features existing and new works by Donath. Tracing her research and artistry of the last ten years, the exhibition places emphasis on her series of beaded “Death Crowns” (Totenkronen) which reference a German burial custom that was widely practiced until late in the 19th century: If a person died unmarried a crown made of beaded and fabric flowers, similar to a bridal wreath, would be dedicated to them at their funeral, symbolically performing a wedding ceremony for the dead. These wreaths were made primarily by women and children, oftentimes under precarious conditions and for very low wages. Donath’s “Death Crowns” capture the custom’s meaning but also refer to its gendered structural context concerning labor and production. By reappropriating this custom, the artist not only challenges the patriarchal preconception of marriage as female destiny and the prevailing gender hierarchy between men and women—she also gives material substance to historical grievances and their lasting impact. In doing so, Donath grounds her works in a pursuit of agency and emancipation.