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Susan Te Kahurangi King Fellowship


Committed to furthering research on Susan Te Kahurangi King (b. 1951, Te Aroha, New Zealand) and contemporary self-taught artists, the American Folk Art Museum has created the Susan Te Kahurangi King Fellowship program to be operational between May 2016 and May 2018. The program is generously funded by Mr. and Mrs. Lester A. Levy Jr.

Fellowship Project: 2016–2017
The fellow will work closely with the museum’s Curator, Self-Taught Art and Art Brut, to extensively study the Susan Te Kahurangi King artworks and documents that have been lent to the museum, over a period of twelve months (part-time) starting in May 2016. During the length of the fellowship, the fellow will write an article on the works studied to be published by the museum, develop a web page to be hosted on the museum’s website, and deliver a public lecture during an event organized by the museum on aspects of the research. At the conclusion of the fellowship, the fellow will be invited to contribute to an exhibition on Susan Te Kahurangi King.

Postdoctoral researchers, artists, graduate students, and PhD candidates enrolled in a qualified academic program in the United States or abroad are eligible to apply. Applicants must submit a one-page description (max. 600 words) on the scope of their research on Susan Te Kahurangi King, including their approach and the results to be achieved. They should include a curriculum vitae (with professional experience, awards, and publications), a paragraph (250 words) about their current position or the academic program they are enrolled in, and a signed letter of reference.

Terms and Funding
— Deadline for all application materials, including letter of recommendation: March 4, 2016, 5:00 pm
— Announcement of the recipient: April 4, 2016
— The fellowship must take place between May 1, 2016, and April 30, 2017
— Funding: $2,500

How to Apply
Send your proposal by mail or e-mail to the attention of:

Susan Te Kahurangi King Fellowship
American Folk Art Museum Administrative Offices
47-29 32nd Place
Long Island City, NY 11101 (with subject line “Susan Te Kahurangi King Fellowship”)



Profile of Susan Te Kahurangi King

by Petita Cole, Rachel King, and Chris Byrne

Susan Te Kahurangi King was born in 1951 in Te Aroha, a small rural town in the Waikato, New Zealand. She is the second eldest in a family of twelve children. Her father, Doug King, also known as Takarangi Kingi, though a copy editor by profession, was a passionate advocate and teacher of Maori language and culture. Therefore, it is no wonder most of the children’s middle names are Maori. “Te Kahurangi” translates as “the treasured one.”

At the age of three, King loved to talk, sing, and imitate anything she saw or heard. By the age of four, her ability to speak was in decline, and by the age of eight, it was a thing of the past. Occasionally she would sing in bed at night, but before long, that too had stopped. Though professional advice was sought and a number of assessments made, there were no conclusive findings or a diagnosis. At the age of five, King started school. Though her stay was short, her teacher reported that Susan displayed remarkable mental activity in the creation of complicated figures drawn on paper, and that she was able to concentrate on drawing for hours at a time. As King’s inability to speak set in, so too did her heightened ability and commitment to draw. Even at the tender age of seven, she was prolific and showed signs of talent as a young artist. In 1960 the family moved to Auckland to meet King’s educational needs. She now lives in the family home of one of her sisters in Hamilton.

At some stage in the very early 1990s, coinciding with a period where she was evidently feeling low, King left drawing completely. However, in 2008, fueled by renewed interest shown in her work, during the filming of Pictures of Susan (directed by Dan Salmon, Octopus Pictures Limited, 2012), she picked up the pencil and began to draw, continuing where she had left off almost two decades prior. King’s earliest drawings share the same qualities as other children’s, save for their exceptional precocity. As one becomes acquainted with her work, the rigorousness of her visual vocabulary—which shows a disregard for and indifference to time and medium—is evident.

In spite of King’s “isolation” from verbal and written communication, she has methodically created an entire analogous world through her work. After spending time reviewing the drawings and their chronology, the viewer will begin to discover visual lists, catalogs, or indexes of certain objects, which get reconfigured and distorted beyond recognition in subsequent pictures.

Top: Susan Te Kahurangi King (b. 1951, Te Aroha, New Zealand), Untitled, Te Aroha, New Zealand, c. 1960, crayon on paper, 13 1/2 x 8 1/4 in., courtesy of the artist and Chris Byrne, A32502. Photo by Adam Reich.

Bottom: Susan Te Kahurangi King (b. 1951, Te Aroha, New Zealand), Untitled (double-sided), Te Aroha, New Zealand, c. 1960, crayon on paper, 13 1/4 x 8 1/4 in., courtesy of the artist and Chris Byrne, A32417. Photo by Adam Reich.