Susan Worsham: Bittersweet / Bloodwork

September 4 – October 12, 2012
Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery
Lecture: Thurs, Sep 13, 2pm
Reception: Thurs, Sep 13, 5-7pm

Collect Bittersweet/Bloodwork exhibition catalog, Contact Sheet 168

When Susan Worsham was just eighteen her brother took his own life after severing his spinal cord in a motorcycle accident. As a young girl she had already lost her father to a heart attack, and finally in 2004, she lost her mother as well. In the words of Worsham, “Shortly after my mother passed I came across a set of antique veterinary slides. They were some of the most interesting things that I had ever seen. I framed ninety of them in a long wooden frame resembling the shape of the slide itself. It was the first piece of art that I made after my mother died. I called the piece a watercolor because of the collection of pastel colors, but it was also a sort of poem when you got close and read the titles . . . Rabbit’s Lung, Fowl’s Spleen, and even Human Umbilical Cord. They seemed to hold beauty and death at the same time.”

Worsham went on to photograph her old childhood home as well as her oldest neighbor, Margaret Daniel. Margaret is one of the last remaining threads from Worsham’s childhood and was the last person to see her brother alive. She made him her homemade bread, and he finished the whole loaf before he shot himself. The story came full circle one day when Margaret brought out her dissection kit and microscope slides. She had been a biology teacher and was holding on to the same sort of slides that fascinated Worsham. Margaret’s microscope and slides have since become a metaphor for Worsham’s desire to look deeper into the landscape of her childhood—from the flora and fauna to the feelings, Margaret calls it ‘blood work’.

In addition to Worsham’s touching photographs made in and around Virginia, this exhibition features a selection of Margaret’s dissection tools alongside her microscope, as well as audio recordings of their various conversations about plants, life, and death. All together, the photographs and accompaniments in Bittersweet/Bloodwork speak of the poetry of childhood, nature, discovery, love, and loss.

“I can remember one particular time when I visited Margaret,” says Worsham. “I looked out of her large picture window and saw what looked like a nest or hammock of small red berries draped between the winter trees. I asked Margaret what it was. She answered, ‘Why, that’s bittersweet. Bittersweet on Bostwick Lane.’”

Shane Lavalette
Associate Director, Light Work

Susan Worsham was born in Richmond, Virginia. She took her first photography class while studying graphic design in college. In 2009 Susan was nominated for the Santa Fe Prize For Photography, and her book Some Fox Trails In Virginia won first runner up in the fine art category of the Blurb Photography Book Now International Competition. In 2010 Susan was awarded the first TMC / Kodak Film Grant, and was an Artist-in-Residence at Light Work. Her work is held in private collections, and has been exhibited at the Corcoran Museum during FotoWeek DC, The Photographic Center Northwest, Dean Jensen Gallery, and the Danville Museum. Susan was named one of PDN’s 30 “Emerging Photographers to Watch” in 2011.
Find more of her work online at

Support for this exhibition was provided through the New York State Council on the Arts and Syracuse University. All images for the exhibition were printed by Light Work/Community Darkrooms.