Artist Susan Else with one of her creations from “Without a Net” (photo courtesy of Susan Else)

View a Whimsical Cloth Circus at Canton Museum of Art’s ‘Without a Net’

California-based artist Susan Else’s vibrant and fun creations are the focus of this exhibition, which runs from Nov. 21 through March 3. 

An elephant balances on a tightrope while riding a unicycle. A trapeze performer hangs frozen in midair, reaching out toward a perch already occupied by a brilliantly colored bird. California-based artist Susan Else sculpted these whimsical scenes using fabric and quilting materials to create a three-dimensional spectacle that invites a closer look. 

“It lulls the viewer into a sense of comfort,” Else says of working with cloth, especially quilted cloth, as an artistic medium. “People can approach my work.”

“Without a Net,” on display at the Canton Museum of Art from Nov. 21 through March 3, is presented alongside another exhibition, “Quilt National 2023: The Best of Contemporary Quilts.” The latter includes pieces that were part of the biennial exhibition hosted over the summer at The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens.

“I was looking for exhibits that we thought would pair well with ‘Quilt National,’ and that’s when I came upon Susan Else’s work,” says Christy Davis, curator of exhibitions at the Canton Museum of Art. “It [is] just a perfect blend to showcase together.”

Else began working with three-dimensional cloth elements in 1998 and eventually added movement and light to her pieces. “Without a Net” depicts a circus, with its collection of inviting and interesting works, touching on how such attractions of years gone by often exploited animals and people who were different. “When Ponies Dream,” a piece featured in “Without A Net,” examines that idea in the form of a spinning merry-go-round where horses sit atop human-like figures.

“I want people to look at my work and slow down,” Else says. “They can’t believe it’s made of cloth first of all, and then when you walk up to it … it’s kind of mesmerizing to stare at. Then there is always a moment when people realize the joke.” 

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