Susan R. Kirshenbaum

art and life - both the cherries and the pits

June in Catalonia

Susan KirshenbaumComment

Images and captions - that’s about it this time folks. Not so much writing. Lots of thinking and experiencing. A little bit of art making. A great deal of hanging out with old friends and new from everywhere. Also a lot of leisurely eating and drinking our regional specialties. If you want to feel like you’re traveling along, check out my Instagram page too.

Girona is a romantic medieval city with an ancient, well-preserved Jewish Quarter (Call), a surrounding Roman wall, and a magical Old Quarter (Barri Vell) which is our operating base. We’re 30 minutes north of Barcelona by fast train. Girona is an ideal base for day trips. In the summer it can’t be beat for the many delightful beaches of the Costa Brava and some are just 25 minutes from home. We’ve been coming here for years and watching the area evolve. Now there’s much more English spoken, many more tourists and cyclists, and for better or worse, a growing international flavor.

DOORS, WINDOWS, & WALLS

GIRONA DAY & NIGHT

We lived here in 2004-6 and during that time we had 35 visitors! Even our current stay is busy with guests. But it’s always fun to show our friends around and spend time together here.

As the week progresses the city gets busier and louder. On a Sunday or a Monday it is very quiet and people tend to head to the beach on summer weekends. There are festivals all summer long and so much is free and inexpensive - what a treat compared to living in the SF Bay Area where summers are cold, foggy, and just as expensive and crowded as any other time of year, if not more.

Classic day view of Girona along the Onyar River, one of three rivers here (like my home town of Pittsburgh, PA).

Night view with full moon from the bridge near our place. That’s our biggest cathedral all lit up.

Monday nights are VERY quiet. This is our street.

The walk home from our friend’s place at night passing Sant Pere de Galligants.

We immediately hit Girona’s Devesa market (in the park) for the most inexpensive food you can buy in these parts.

A rather large statement in the historic center of Girona. We are in the heart of the Catalan independence movement.

A rather large statement in the historic center of Girona. We are in the heart of the Catalan independence movement.

Girona’s “Banys Arabs” are not actually Arab baths, yet they are quite old and in the style of the Moors (who were in Spain for a very long time).

Girona’s “Banys Arabs” are not actually Arab baths, yet they are quite old and in the style of the Moors (who were in Spain for a very long time).

Walking along “the wall” which partially surrounds Girona’s Barri Vell (Old Quarter).

EXCURSIONS

Here’s the stunning Roman bridge in the historic and charming village of Besalu.

We stopped in Sant Marti during “the golden hour” which seems to last a long time here on the Costa Brava.

We enjoyed a Sunday at the village flea market.

First impressions of Barcelona on day #1 with incredible light!

BARBIE IN CATALONIA

Of course Barbie came along on this trip and she is participating in most of my activities. She reminds me of the project we are working on and how it’s expanding.

Barbie is making herself at home here in Girona.

Here’s Barbie on the balcony.

Barbie having a beer at the beach. It’s the perfect way to end the day here.

SEEKING BARBIE STORIES

I’m looking for MORE Barbie stories! Please send me yours - from a couple of lines to a few paragraphs…from nasty to sweet. What was/is your experience with the Barbie clan? Email me: srkirshenbaum@gmail.com

See more about the first iteration of “Barbie on the Cusp” here. Thanks!

LOCAL FLAVORS

Patatas Bravas with a spicy salsa reflects a recent shift in local taste buds.

The other classic snacks to go with our drinks - Pa amb tomàquet, assorted olives, and a pile of jamon.

A yummy chilled apple soup! Must learn to knock it off…

A rich mushroom stew served in Besalu. One of my favorite dishes so far.

Tallarines - aren’t they lovely? They’re tiny little clams, about the size of a fingernail.

Tallarines - aren’t they lovely? They’re tiny little clams, about the size of a fingernail.

LA PLAYA

On our first day of prime time at the beach we went to a new spot. It was beautiful! There are so many coves here to explore. I had my favorite beachside dish, sepia a la plancha (above).

Playa La Fosca - perfect even with the sea still a bit cool.

The pair sitting in front of us at Playa La Fosca.

Went to the playa at Sa Tuna. Gorgeous! It’s getting noticeably hotter outside as we approach July…

The next day we took a train to meet a friend who took us to another fav playa in a tiny pebble-filled cove. I love to eat at/on the beach here.

And I think there’s nothing better than looking up from the warm ground and just shooting the sky. I don’t usually see it from this perspective.

Lie on the beach and look up.

ART & POLITICS - MORE WALLS & DOORS

Just about everywhere there are strong graphic statements. They are covered with banners, handwritten, spray painted, or stenciled with signs and symbols (such as yellow ribbons), murals, paintings, posters, and graffiti art. And since storefronts are covered with grates to cover doors and windows, they are sometimes used for advertising. Often times the shutters are artistically painted. Even residential buildings sometimes have wonderfully painted doors.

What a character. Anyone know who this is?

Torn political posters from the recent election reveal layers of graffiti and painting underneath.

This is an ad for a Dr. Magenta (see small type) on a Barcelona doorway.

A kitschy art doorway using a great palette.

Sad and lovely face in a Barcelona doorway.

Sad and lovely face in a Barcelona doorway.

Another amazing grate - for an orthodontist?

A painted doorway in Girona near the art school, La Merce.

TRANSLATIONS

This restaurant has a wonderful garden setting just below La Merce. Why they named it “Meat Garden” is hard to imagine!

No areas are left uncovered with paint. I like the sea life on the left.

No areas are left uncovered with paint. I like the sea life on the left.

SAVE THESE DATES! 10/26-27

Fall Open Studios

See the evolution of my art residency project “Barbie on the Cusp” at Artspan Open Studios the last weekend of October from 11-6.

“Her Pinkness” is a new metal print that is all photographic. I’m showing it for the first time at SF Open Studios.

For the first time I’m holding my Open Studio Show at Pacific Felt Factory in the Mission (19th btw Bryant & York in SF).

I’ll be showing a variety of new work, books, and limited edition items that I rarely sell at my exhibitions. Don’t miss it. Updates are posted on my home page - so check back for details.

What's YOUR Story?

Susan KirshenbaumComment

At the reception (unconsciously) dressed similarly to the old black and white photo to my right.

Beside the vitrine at the Barbie on the Cusp exhibition reception April 2019 (SF, CA). The vertical photo is the perfect Barbie size!

Beside the vitrine at the Barbie on the Cusp exhibition reception April 2019 (SF, CA). The vertical photo is the perfect Barbie size!

The art book version of the story laid out for reading with a “write your own” notebook next to it.

This is the left entry side wall of the installation rounding the corner with drawings, props, and dolls.

This is another view of the left entry side wall of the installation.

At the reception, there was a video playing of me reading the story.

At the reception Fred and Laurette show off their books.

SIGHTINGS IN MEXICO

Mexican ceramic inspiration with genitals, unlike Barbie and her friends.

Researching while traveling in Mexico City in April 2019…Barbie seemed to be everywhere I looked!

Researching while traveling in Mexico City…

NYC ART FAIR + BARBIE

Here are a couple of pieces (two different artists) which I saw in May 2019 at the NYC Art Fair. I think they are kindred spirits to my own Barbie art and storytelling. These artists certainly have stories to tell!

Artist: Jemison Faust, “Are You Saying Yes to the Dress #4”

Artist: Jemison Faust, “Are You Saying Yes to the Dress #4”

Artist: Leonore Anthony, “Trophy Wives”

Artist: Leonore Anthony, “Trophy Wives”

THE IMPETUS

My latest art residency consisted of a six-week stint with Black and White Projects at Pacific Felt Factory in San Francisco. I’d love to do more residencies like this! I had a nice little chunk of space to work in and work with right here in SF. I had someone there to choose which project on my list to tackle and that same person to offer suggestions along the way. I was looking for this input as I sometimes feel like I’m working in a vacuum without other artists around sharing space and ideas. My project started out as “A Doll’s House” and developed into “Barbie on the Cusp” (see www.cherrypits.net/portfolio).

Since I already have established my recurring themes I wanted to continue to build on them: feminism, the female form, body love, self-love, personal histories and story-telling, human liberation and expression, censorship, multiple layers and streams of communication, costumes, nudity, the gesture, strong personalities, vivid colors, bold women, our shared humanity, nature as the body and other juxtapositions, plus all that is sensuous without necessarily being sexual.

EXPANSION - YOUR STORIES

As I dug deeper into this project and discussed it with friends, I heard stories that I wanted to add to my story. Now I invite you to think about how Barbie affected you. I would like to include a variety of stories (all kinds!) in one of my next Barbie books. I will not include your name and I will lightly edit stories.

Please email me your stories to: srkirshenbaum@gmail.com

THE RESIDENCY PROJECT

The residency took me down some old art paths that felt new. Digging into my personal history I became focused on the Barbie game I played as a 13-year old. What that would look like as an art project was tough to work out. I don’t have a collection of Barbies, so I put out a call for them and yes - I still need more!

I started by writing and drawing the story digitally. But once I got a box-full of Barbies and had collected an assortment of Barbie-related materials I began visualizing the gallery installation. I had the luxury of space on several walls and a floor - to convert into my Barbieland. I wanted to combine all types of things into an installation that spun off of the basement Barbie game that I played with my 13-year old girlfriends growing up in Pittsburgh in the 60s. And I wanted to illustrate why that tale is still relevant (and not a cliche) today. Barbie has been a popular art and fashion theme for decades, but there’s still a lot of substance there to explore.

THE INSTALLATION

Installation art is something I haven’t done in a long time, if ever to this extent. I was thinking about a class from my distant past in video and performance art at SFAI with Howard Fried and Karen Finley. Right after that I had a one-person show which included a performance piece. So I referenced these distant experiences, but I got so excited about the story aspect that I developed a story book in three formats:

  • A small square printed version in an edition of six (Chatbooks)

  • An 8.5 x 11 version ink-jet printed and accordion-folded for display in the center of the exhibition

  • A video of me reading the story

Book jacket of my first limited edition “Barbie on the Cusp” produced in April 2019.

Other elements of the installation included a game board of sorts on the floor, littered with headless dolls in positions that indicated sex and violence , some surrounded by body outlines, all surrounded by hazard tape.

Small headless Barbie doll children crawled up the walls and were rudely taped down. Little piles of dolls on the floor below. Paper mounted around the walls are short-pose life drawings of a model (Tami Tsark) in underwear and odd outfits with props including her interacting with Barbies.

DIGITAL VS. MANUAL

I started the drawing process in my comfort zone, on my iPad (the source for the first book) but I soon moved to drawing on the paper on the walls. This was all about getting out of my comfort zone. I want to draw directly onto the walls next time!

A chapter divider page in the book of the model in gloves, hat, and underwear with Barbies.

A chapter divider page in the book of the model in gloves, hat, and underwear with Barbies.

Here I’m drawing my model, Tami, at the residency studio. Working with short poses as always, but going non-digital this time.

INSPIRING OTHER ARTISTS

Friends at the reception. Liz (center) made this intricate paper Barbie gown out of art paper she bought from me at another show!

A NEW DIRECTION

Here a new piece of work: “Pairs: Pink Twins” produced in May 2019.

Inspired by the photos I took of piles of Barbies during my show and my constant picture-taking in the SF Botanical Garden I began a new series of side-by-side photos.

REMINDER TO SEND BARBIE STORIES! SRKIRSHENBAUM@GMAIL.COM

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’ll be away for awhile - in Spain. I’ll be returning in August. Meantime I will post images and updates here and on FB, Instagram, and Patreon.





Colorful, Delicious Mexico, Part 1

Susan Kirshenbaum1 Comment
Found composition in the market.

Found composition in the market.

PART ONE

ART SEEN/SCENE

In March my husband Jack and I flew to Mexico City and Oaxaca for a week each. Wow, what a great trip. We saw and did so much that I just decided this has to be a two-part blog.

The weather was lovely - mostly dry and warm. There was a bit of a heat wave. (What place in the world isn’t having unusual weather?) And it’s a rather high elevation - 3-6ooo feet up - so that took getting used to.

We went to several art galleries and collections, small and large museums, various interesting shops, fabulous markets, and we walked and walked. All the while we were snacking on mangoes and sidewalk treats. Having lunch/dinner at 3pm meant that we had to lie down for a siesta in our B&Bs. Sometimes that would end up being the end of another very dense day.

Art in Mexico is political! It often refers back to peoples’ roots and Mexican history - there’s a lot of symbolism, skulls and skeletons, snakes and other animals, guns…

A huge contemporary art exhibit by xxx at Jumex in Mexico City.

A huge contemporary art exhibit by xxx at Jumex in Mexico City.

An art installation in a courtyard in Oaxaca brings together ancient functional tools with contemporary art installation.

An art installation in a courtyard in Oaxaca brings together ancient functional tools with contemporary art installation.

Lots of collaborative works shown in the contemporary art museum in Oaxaca.

Lots of collaborative works shown in the contemporary art museum in Oaxaca.

One of my favorite paintings by Oaxaco-born artist Rufino Tamayo. Seen in Museo Jumex.

One of my favorite paintings by Oaxaco-born artist Rufino Tamayo. Seen in Museo Jumex.

Contemporary yet so tribal in feel…All made of labels! This piece was a fav of mine in the Museum of Crafts in Mexico City.

Contemporary yet so tribal in feel…All made of labels! This piece was a fav of mine in the Museum of Crafts in Mexico City.

A tiny portion of a huge collaborative quilt shown in the contemporary art museum in Oaxaca.

A tiny portion of a huge collaborative quilt shown in the contemporary art museum in Oaxaca.

TATTOOS & PIERCINGS

Back in the SF Bay Area I now see people’s tattoos and piercings in a different light. Throughout Mexico I observed the ancient and contemporary art and artifacts made by and about the indigenous populations. Tattoos and piercings are a popular look in Mexican cities and it fits right in… (see below).

Here’s a contemporary painting shown in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

Here’s a contemporary painting shown in the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

EXPRESSIVE FIGURINES

As a figurative artist, I love human figures, and the works I saw on this last trip are some of the most expressive I’ve ever seen. Maybe I was studying them more than usual. Checking to see what their facial expressions and their hands were doing as well as their clothing, accessories, and if obvious - their bodies and genitals.

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STORYTELLING

A book?!? This particular display was an inspiration for my current work in the show “Barbie on the Cusp” - I created a book that opens out to 12.75 feet.

A book?!? This particular display was an inspiration for my current work in the show “Barbie on the Cusp” - I created a book that opens out to 12.75 feet.

Ancient writing and illustration tells us how they lived.

Ancient writing and illustration tells us how they lived.

Ancient painting tools

Ancient painting tools

Another story-telling vehicle carved out of sandstone.

Another story-telling vehicle carved out of sandstone.

Did I leave my iPhone behind at the museum?

Did I leave my iPhone behind at the museum?

THE DUALITY THEME

Good/evil, life/death, you name it, your counterpart is right there

Good/evil, life/death, you name it, your counterpart is right there

ADORABLE ANIMAL VESSELS

They are so cute!

They are so cute!

WALL ART: GRAFFITI, PAINT COLORS, POSTERS & SIGNS

A portion of a large wall in a great palette!

A portion of a large wall in a great palette!

A little of everything

A little of everything

Yummy peeling posters

Yummy peeling posters

Lovely calligraphic graffiti wall (1)

Lovely calligraphic graffiti wall (1)

Lovely calligraphic graffiti wall (2)

Lovely calligraphic graffiti wall (2)

Rounding the corner

Rounding the corner

Two mouths / wall

Just a restaurant sign…but more

Just a restaurant sign…but more

Hazard paint, grafitti and DISCO posters!

Hazard paint, grafitti and DISCO posters!

Emotional wall stencils

Emotional wall stencils

Love the (unintended) collaborative aspect of multiple graffiti artists

Love the (unintended) collaborative aspect of multiple graffiti artists

Politics and stencils on a wall - don’t know who Barcenas is…

Politics and stencils on a wall - don’t know who Barcenas is…

Covered moto + graffiti art wall outside of the market

Covered moto + graffiti art wall outside of the market

Old paint layers / wall

Old paint layers / wall

Graffiti and art mixed composition

Graffiti and art mixed composition

HEADS & SKULLS

An ornamental carved jaw bone painted silver! Most ceremonial objects like these were buried in the crypts.

An ornamental carved jaw bone painted silver! Most ceremonial objects like these were buried in the crypts.

The theme of the jaguar swallowing a man/soldier/conquistador is prevalent. This one is special with its abalone shell scales.

The theme of the jaguar swallowing a man/soldier/conquistador is prevalent. This one is special with its abalone shell scales.

Ancient gem-encrusted skulls make for some lovely art.

Ancient gem-encrusted skulls make for some lovely art.

STRONG PRINTMAKING EVERYWHERE

On the free tour of printmakers’ studios, this fellow was a fascinating speaker and artist.

On the free tour of printmakers’ studios, this fellow was a fascinating speaker and artist.

Little and big printing presses seemed to be everywhere in Oaxaca.

Little and big printing presses seemed to be everywhere in Oaxaca.

MAGNIFICENT MARKETS

I admit I love her ribboned braids (right), although they were a common sight in this very Indian market outside of the city of Oaxaca with people cooking meat on open flames in the middle.

This fellow surprised me: An older man with a manual typewriter in a Oaxaca City market, writing a letter for a customer.

The outdoor area where the antiques are spread out has graffitied walls behind it.

…AND CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE

Jumex, one of several contemporary art museums in Mexico City.

Jumex, one of several contemporary art museums in Mexico City.

Here’s a lovely glass building - it is an award-winning greenhouse in the Botanical Garden in Oaxaca.

Here’s a lovely glass building - it is an award-winning greenhouse in the Botanical Garden in Oaxaca.

BOLD COLOR, TEXTURE, PATTERN

Everywhere in the Historic District of Oaxaca there’s gorgeous, rich color - in the wall paint and added bonus of attractive graffiti art.

Everywhere in the Historic District of Oaxaca there’s gorgeous, rich color - in the wall paint and added bonus of attractive graffiti art.

Frida Kahlo’s Azul House (museum) is indeed the color of so much in Mexico, and so often seen in the strong combination with reds, yellows, oranges, and salmon pinks.

Frida Kahlo’s Azul House (museum) is indeed the color of so much in Mexico, and so often seen in the strong combination with reds, yellows, oranges, and salmon pinks.

Candy cane stripes make this a stand-out food stall in the market outside of Oaxaca.

Candy cane stripes make this a stand-out food stall in the market outside of Oaxaca.

STRANGE SITINGS

Loved looking up at the “junk trees” (non-indigenous) in bloom everywhere in March. So funny to catch sight of all the shoes in this tree (enlarge the image so you can see).

In a groovy, tiny Oaxacan cafe and mezcal bar, this art piece was on the shelf next to us.

In a groovy, tiny Oaxacan cafe and mezcal bar, this art piece was on the shelf next to us.

FRIDA, DIEGO, & TROTSKY

Love this image of Frida dead center. A highlight of our trip was the xxxx where most of the walls including the stairwells are filled with Diego’s ultra political murals.

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Back at Frida’s house (I was a never a fan before this trip - but I am now!) is her painting studio just as she left it.

Back at Frida’s house (I was a never a fan before this trip - but I am now!) is her painting studio just as she left it.

This is the urn (left) where her ashes are kept on display in her bedroom.

This is the urn (left) where her ashes are kept on display in her bedroom.

Frida’s death. I have two photos that relate top it directly. Because she was a tragic heroine, like a fairy tale.

And this is her death mask.

And this is her death mask.

Diego…I had so many favorite murals I wanted to show you all, but this one (below) seems most apt to our times about the moneyed class.

It’s still all about Wall Street.

It’s still all about Wall Street.

It’s an orgy. About gluttony, I think. Note the soldiers always in the back.

It’s an orgy. About gluttony, I think. Note the soldiers always in the back.

And Trotsky…lived with Frida and Diego for two years then he got a house and that’s where he was murdered with an ice ax. Right in his office, by a Stalinist. Another fascinating little museum not far from Casa Azul.

His desk where he was murdered while trying to record his story.

His desk where he was murdered while trying to record his story.

PRETTY, UNUSUAL, & TASTEY

Shrimp cocktail! A funky fun place near the market with great food and drinks. Very local.

Shrimp cocktail! A funky fun place near the market with great food and drinks. Very local.

Why did this place come up as the very best ice cream in Oaxaca? After a long dark search we found the ice cream shop. It turns out it’s made of soy milk in this super strange process. Not good at all!

Why did this place come up as the very best ice cream in Oaxaca? After a long dark search we found the ice cream shop. It turns out it’s made of soy milk in this super strange process. Not good at all!

Three of these moles are the real deal and the rest are more like stews. But so fun to try to them all!

Three of these moles are the real deal and the rest are more like stews. But so fun to try to them all!

Purple food! This was a splurge restaurant (La Casa) and the dish was very good despite how pretty it is. That’s purple potato puree.

Purple food! This was a splurge restaurant (La Casa) and the dish was very good despite how pretty it is. That’s purple potato puree.

Our daily favorites. Fresh, ripe, cut perfectly…

Our daily favorites. Fresh, ripe, cut perfectly…

The best soup I’ve had and one of my very fav dishes in Mexico. It’s ice-cold and lime-tangy with perfectly cooked shrimp. I could eat this every day.

The best soup I’ve had and one of my very fav dishes in Mexico. It’s ice-cold and lime-tangy with perfectly cooked shrimp. I could eat this every day.

We tried a lot of excellent local craft beers. This one has a great label although the style is not my favorite variety.

We tried a lot of excellent local craft beers. This one has a great label although the style is not my favorite variety.

How many times we walked past these offerings until at last we went for the mezcal. Thousands of local varieties and mezcal tasting rooms - like Napa/Sonoma. A boon to the economy.

How many times we walked past these offerings until at last we went for the mezcal. Thousands of local varieties and mezcal tasting rooms - like Napa/Sonoma. A boon to the economy.

THE WEAVING VILLAGE - A DEMO

At the Jacobo family of weavers in the village where it’s all about weaving, xxx, mama does the dyeing and spinning demo.

At the Jacobo family of weavers in the village where it’s all about weaving, xxx, mama does the dyeing and spinning demo.

Shades of pink to red come from dyes that are derived from a little beetle in the ladybug family called cochinella. It thrives on cacti in Mexico and was an original source of wealth in the “new world”.

Shades of pink to red come from dyes that are derived from a little beetle in the ladybug family called cochinella. It thrives on cacti in Mexico and was an original source of wealth in the “new world”.

Here are more of the ingredients of these natural dyes. Interestingly, although the traditions are ancient, the Zapotecs (who each speak a different dialect, from village to village) make these gorgeous rugs and are continuously developing new natural dyes and colors.

Here are more of the ingredients of these natural dyes. Interestingly, although the traditions are ancient, the Zapotecs (who each speak a different dialect, from village to village) make these gorgeous rugs and are continuously developing new natural dyes and colors.

LAST (BUT NOT LEAST) ART RESIDENCY WITH BLACK & WHITE PROJECTS AT PACIFIC FELT FACTORY

“BARBIE ON THE CUSP” - Barbie! Oh, where does SHE fit in?

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I created a storybook, which I also read aloud on video, and did an installation with my dolls, some costume props, and life drawings done on the spot. Everything is different from my usual work.

This image is from a market in Mexico - a wedding cake topper?

This is the project that I pitched and now I’m in the midst of my Art Residency with Black and White Projects at Pacific Felt Factory in SF. I took two weeks off in the middle of ALL this, and went to Mexico where I obsessed over Barbie the entire trip (without making any real progress). My iPad died. And I am self-identified as an iPad artist.
But for now - if you want to see what I’m working on in this mostly analog project installation show, and you live in the SF Bay Area, come to PACIFIC FELT FACTORY this Saturday, 4/13 from 3-5pm.

We’ll talk Barbie. You might even tell me your own personal Barbie story.

The name of the show is “Barbie on the Cusp”. Details:

“BARBIE ON THE CUSP”

BWP ART RESIDENCY PROJECT

BY SUSAN R. KIRSHENBAUM

DATE: SATURDAY 4/13

FROM: 3-5PM

(REFRESHMENTS SERVED)

LOCATION: 20TH ST BTW YORK & BRYANT, IN THE MISSION IN SF

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