Susan R. Kirshenbaum

art and life - both the cherries and the pits

July Heats Up

Susan Kirshenbaum1 Comment

Decorative wine jugs at a country restaurant just outside Girona.

SIZZLING SUMMER IN SPAIN (& A TOUCH OF FRANCE)

As the temperature rose to 104 degrees Fahrenheit we went to Aguablaves - a tiny cove beach and village with great seafood restaurants and a Parador. We spent another few days stationed in the charming village of Begur - a long planned getaway with our friends from London (where it cannot possibly be this hot). Sant Marti, Sa Tuna, and La Fosca were also winning beaches on day trips in between.

A rocky beach cove. But I’ve got my water rock shoes now!

What I’ve seen as the temperatures rise and we plunged from June’s coolish evenings to July’s hot nights, are the growing crowds at the beach and the ice cream flowing. This is ice cream and granizada weather. So when it’s hot you want to eat light but you also want to explore all the taste sensations around….so fish and seafood are the winners. But after a meal of fideua (a type of paella made with tiny noodles) we seem to require gelato, a growing habit. Then a nap on the beach and a cooling dip in the Mediterranean. Ah, summer on the Costa Brava! It’s an international soup…there are so many languages being spoken as you imagine where people are from - on the beach with your eyes closed against the sun.

The walking trail along La Fosca beaches.

Nearing the end of our second month here, we took a road trip cross-country, following one of many Pilgrims Routes to and from Santiago de Compostela. Spanning the country at its widest point in our rental car, we were hardly pilgrims, but the coolness of the NW region - the Atlantic coast - beckoned. It was our first trip to Santiago and our third time visiting parts of the Pilgrim’s Route. It was an adventure we shared with our niece (and if I’m lucky she’ll share some of her photos for me to post).

Panorama of famous Catedrals Beach and site on the Atlantic Coast in Galicia.

Once again, this post is mainly photos with captions. This has been a dense two months of hanging out with old friends and new with lots of leisurely partaking of the local specialties. You can follow along with my Instagram page too.

EDIBLE DELIGHTS

Lunch at the beach starts with these perfectly grilled sardines - so fresh and delicate.

My favorite Spanish casserole is the noodle version of paella, fideua - with clams, mussels, and squid, plus a dollop of aliIoli (whipped garlic & olive oil).

In the morning we stock up at the market. On the right is sepia, my favorite local seafood and yes, it’s a member of the Cephalopoda family.

Upscale dining in Barcelona served up this house special - a raw carpaccio of codfish. The red threads are akin to saffron.

My fav type of clam - the razor - and especially deliciously prepared in Galicia.

Tuna tapa is featured in front - I keep going back for this dish.

Fish drying in Galicia.

Sete’s market was gorgeous inside and out. Filled with a wide variety of cheeses, seafood, & fish, meat, olives, produce, and prepared dishes (tagines, paellas, and baked goods) - a delight.

Buying coffee in the market (Languedoc region of Southern France).

KEEP MOVING

It’s great to keep moving despite the heat. There’s always a cool breeze on the water. This was my first exploration of the lake at Banyoles which is a lovely place to spend time. It was a refreshing change from our usual coastal daytrips to the Med. The lake provides boating, swimming, kayaking, and an easy walking path around the water’s edge. With drinks, snacks, and views all along the way!

What a pleasant surprise to find this sculpture that appears to be diving into the lake at this private grassy beach area run by a fitness/country club where Chinese Olympic rowers practiced.

After I got the hang of kayaking I enjoyed the quiet water and small fish below. Photo by Shelley Hill.

Tiny lake houses dot the shore.

Tiny lake houses dot the shore.

Rental kayaks are ample in Banyoles.

A PICTURESQUE FRENCH CEMETERY

Delicate, colorful, porcelain flowers abound here.

Delicate, colorful, porcelain flowers abound here.

Watering cans provided for the live flowers and plants.

Watering cans provided for the live flowers and plants.

Stories here are so frequently illustrated through gravesite art. This man was a woodworker.

Stories here are so frequently illustrated through gravesite art. This man was a woodworker.

ALONG THE PILGRIMS ROUTE

View of the famous, golden cathedral from the park where week-long festivities were taking place in Santiago de Compostela.

In this town along the Pilgrims Trail in the middle of Spain, there’s an elaborate cathedral, an ancient, simple church, and a fanciful Gaudi church all next to each other in one square where we stopped by for a bite.

In this town along the Pilgrims Trail in the middle of Spain, there’s an elaborate cathedral, an ancient, simple church, and a fanciful Gaudi church all next to each other in one square where we stopped by for a bite.

ART SEEN IN SETE

In Sete, France with fellow artist friend Diana we visited the Contemporary Art Center. We kept trying to go there and it was always closed but eventually we got in and it was worth it to see the two women’s work featured there and shown below.

“Will you accompany me to the beach” by Valentine Schlegel

OUR LOCAL SITES

The archeology museum at this site of the original Greek and Roman cities in Empúries is small but wonderful. Everything in the museum comes from this site - which is extensive, and it is spectacular. Maybe don’t go there when we did - in July at the high point of the heat during a heat wave. Otherwise, go.

One of a multitude or fantastic mosaic floors in the Roman city ruins at Empúries.

A well-preserved carved stone portrait of a woman from Empúries (Roman) in the archeology museum.

PICASSO MUSEUM VISIT

The Picasso Museum in BCN is a delight - located in a gorgeous old building in the Barri Gotic, it is rather hard to navigate, yet the space is so lovely and the shows and displays quite interesting. It was an important destination for our niece - so it was easily worth the effort of two train rides and an advance booking.

The courtyard of the Picasso Museum swathed in protective gauze.

VIEW FROM THE TRAIN

Viewed out the train window from BCN to Girona as the sun sets.

FRESHLY-MADE ART

“Llibertat”, a new piece with added layers of Catalan political messaging imagery.

“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was inspired by the dramatic summer skies here.

UPCOMING

Group show at SFWA, “Memories”, juried by DeWitt Cheng, San Francisco-based critic, curator, teacher, and blogger.

RECEPTION AUGUST 8, 5:30-8PM

“Melancholy” is one of two of my works to be shown in SFWA’s August exhibition “Memories”.

San Francisco Women Artists Gallery (SFWA) is membership gallery that dates back to 1887. Located in the Inner Sunset at 8th Ave and Irving St, it’s open Tuesday-Sunday.


JUST ONE MORE THING:

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR MY UPCOMING AUGUST BLOG POST, “PORTALS”!

CLASSIC FRENCH FISHING VILLAGE

Filled with bridges over canals this charming village is close to the sea for daytrips to the beach and is a lively port. It is also located right between Aix en Provence and Girona so it makes for a great meeting spot with our friend Diana (who lives in Aix) for a reunion.

Close-ups of common sites at one of the many fishing docks.

Close-ups of common sites at one of the many fishing docks.

So many bridges - both walking and car bridges to cross the multiple canals of Sete.

One of the scenic views of a Sete canal with colorful touring boats.

Sete is famous for jousting in gondolas and we watched one of these fellows toppled!

Ideal Bar (maybe!) in Sete in the market square.

Ideal Bar (maybe!) in Sete in the market square.

A MOUNTAIN VILLAGE EXCURSION

Man with traditional Catalan shoes - Espadrilles. We’re in one of the squares in the mountain town of Camprodon (the 2 women are with him).

A grand old home for sale in Camprodon. maybe I’ll make a new section of my blog called “PlaceS that I fantasize about buying”. The contact info is large enough for readers like you!

Many Barcelona-dwellers have second homes in this mountain town.

Note the yellow ribbons and Catalan independence signs.

PLANTS & ANIMALS

Ah - to walk right into the fields of sunflowers to see the bees diving and the petals lifting in the soft summer breeze (outside Monells/Madremanya).

Nesting storks are visible throughout central Spain. We first saw them here - on the tippy-top of the spires of this old church with kids juggling in front.

WAY UP IN THE PICOS

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A giant symbol of Spain (not Catalonia which is the donkey) we didn’t expect to encounter an enormous bull so close, let alone with a team of females and calves in tow. You must stop the car and wait for them to pass on these narrow roads.

BARBIE’S TRAVELS

Of course Barbie travels with us now. And I am still looking for YOUR BARBIE STORIESso please keep sending them to me ( a few lines are fine): srkirshenbaum@gmail.com

Hanging out at Sant Marti d’Empuries.

Dressed for the French beach…

In her nest of succulents.

Barbie’s friends - a bunch of new, naked Barbies dominate a shoestore display in Barcelona.

Barbie’s friends - a bunch of new, naked Barbies dominate a shoestore display in Barcelona.

Having evening cocktails on the patio in Santiago.

Gazpacho for lunch (with Barbie-shaped water bottle).

AN ART VENUE IN BCN

I saw a wonderful photo exhibition by Richard Learoyd at one of my most beloved art spaces in Barcelona - a gorgeous, intact mansion, Fundacion Mapfre. The artist uses a camera obscura. There’s a lot of reflection in my photos which distracts from this extremely powerful man + octopus tattoo image. Turns out this artist exhibits his work right in SF at Fraenkel Gallery and Pier 24 Photography. Go figure! His photos resemble paintings and I especially enjoy his figurative work. The image on the right below shows some of the details in the gallery space including mosaic floors, gilding, and artistic murals inset into the walls.

Love this nude facing away with his stunning tattoo.

Clearly a favorite model-muse and you can see why.

HANGING WITH FRIENDS & FAMILY

Jack & Karen on the coast trail.

Jack & Karen on the coast trail.

Lyn & Odilia overlap in Girona.

Sonia’s birthday tapas.

Valentina Instagraming our sardine lunch.

Neal celebrates his birthday in BCN.

David, Neal, & Jack at BCN’s Arco de Triunfo.

Vicenc outside the tapas restaurant.

A meal with friends at a country restaurant which lasted about six hours.

Susie & Keith at Carrer de La Barca.

Jaime with Karen & Richard during a lively evening of drinks & snacks in the hood.

Visiting tiny villages and art foundations with Anna and Miquel.

Richard framed by a Daliesque element.

Richard framed by a Daliesque element.

Odilia enjoying her first European road trip.

Odilia enjoying her first European road trip.

Susanna & Justin revisiting their wedding site.

Day tripping with Brooke to Castellfollit de la Roca.

Diana sipping by the canal in Sete, France.

Shelley at the lake.

Old friends in BCN.

In BCN with Martin (mosaic artist & teacher), UB, & Will.

Martha & Jack at the beach.

Kathy & Jack at Nykteris for excellent cocktails in the hood.

Kathy & Jack at Nykteris for excellent cocktails in the hood.

Yup, that’s me - photo courtesy of Shelley Hill.

SAVE THE DATES

ARTIST WORKSHOP: PREPARING FOR SF OPEN STUDIOS-PANEL DISCUSSION: Q&A discussion about preparing for SF Open Studios with panel of experienced SFOS artists - I’m a panelist. Come and get some useful tips.

AUGUST 20, 6:30PM - 8:00PM

Mark your calendars for my Open Studio at Pacific Felt Factory in the Mission (PFF) on Weekend 3

OCTOBER 26-27, 11AM-6PM


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.