Susan R. Kirshenbaum

art and life - both the cherries and the pits

Packed East Coast Trip

Susan KirshenbaumComment

I recently took a quick trip back East to surprise my sister-in-law for her birthday. We made it into a tri-city marathon, visiting Baltimore, Philadelphia, and NYC.

Step outside Baltimore city and it's horse country. So lush and green.

Step outside Baltimore city and it's horse country. So lush and green.

Sudden thunder, lightening, rain, and sun - fabulous weather! At Fells Point, Baltimore, MD.

Sudden thunder, lightening, rain, and sun - fabulous weather! At Fells Point, Baltimore, MD.

We saw how much Baltimore has changed (in certain neighborhoods) where gentrification has taken hold, and what remained the same - in personality and physical structures. I sure do miss the east coast. As a Western Pennsylvanian, I'm not from "the coast", in fact, Pittsburgh is on the border between the midwest and the east. But I know my love of old architecture in Europe is rooted in old American cities. 

This is the Phoenix Shot Tower built in 1828.

This is the Phoenix Shot Tower built in 1828.

Shot Tower is a Baltimore landmark I've enjoyed ever since my husband bought a postcard with this image from me in order to introduce himself. We just celebrated our anniversary in Baltimore over 30 years later.

Candy-colored houses along Federal Hill Park, Baltimore.

Candy-colored houses along Federal Hill Park, Baltimore.

First night in NYC at a Cuban restaurant in East Harlem. The mural behind me looks like a stage set or I'm actually IN Cuba. Yes, that's my microbatch textile scarf I'm wearing.

First night in NYC at a Cuban restaurant in East Harlem. The mural behind me looks like a stage set or I'm actually IN Cuba. Yes, that's my microbatch textile scarf I'm wearing.

Whitney Biennial - Is she part of the exhibit? If so, I like it, a lot.

Whitney Biennial - Is she part of the exhibit? If so, I like it, a lot.

A colorful room at the Biennial. Thinking about site- specific art like this faux stained glass.

A colorful room at the Biennial. Thinking about site- specific art like this faux stained glass.

Love this brickwork in B-More.

Love this brickwork in B-More.

Happy pooch in dog park as seen from a footbridge in Philadelphia.

Happy pooch in dog park as seen from a footbridge in Philadelphia.

I'd really like to know what other people think of the Biennial this year. I admit, I'm still puzzling over it. Maybe we just did and saw too much and my senses were simply over- and under-whelmed! In a single day I attended three trade shows, including Surtex, the art licensing show, which was really interesting to me as I'm investigating licensing my art for fashion, product and textile designs. All three (furniture and stationery too) were at Jacob Javitz Center. I went with my design/ illustration Parsons friends. THEN we went to the Whitney show with another group of art friends. No wonder I couldn't stand up for another moment at the end of our last full day....

So my interest in digitally printed clothing pulls me toward this complicated story at the Whitney Biennial. 

So my interest in digitally printed clothing pulls me toward this complicated story at the Whitney Biennial. 

At the Surtex Trade Show in NYC, for art licensing, an attractive booth.

At the Surtex Trade Show in NYC, for art licensing, an attractive booth.

Artful Weekend

Susan KirshenbaumComment
ArtSpan artists dropping off their work for stARTup Art Fair weekend - before the room is transformed into a gallery.

ArtSpan artists dropping off their work for stARTup Art Fair weekend - before the room is transformed into a gallery.

stARTup Art Fair Taking Off

Eighteen artists were selected to be in ArtSpan's room at Hotel Del Sol for stARTup Art Fair. I was one of them, with my soft sculpture. Rhiannon MacFaden has been involved since it started and she thinks this fair is really taking off now. It is San Francisco's contemporary art fair for independent artists, which takes place annually during Art Market SF. http://sf.startupartfair.com

Joen (L) and Allison (R) of ArtSpan as we wait for the crowds to show up.

Joen (L) and Allison (R) of ArtSpan as we wait for the crowds to show up.

Art Market SF is a Hit This Year

Speaking of bold strokes at the Art Market, here's a gorgeous ultramarine blue piece that caught my eye.

Speaking of bold strokes at the Art Market, here's a gorgeous ultramarine blue piece that caught my eye.

Along with the bold there is the delicate and beautifully crafted work.

Along with the bold there is the delicate and beautifully crafted work.

Legion of Honor - Always Inspiring

This sculpture is much larger than life and totally natural. It contains a candle wick that was lit upon installation. Fischer's work is interspersed throughout the museum in surprising ways!  https://legionofhonor.famsf.org/exhibitions/urs-fischer

This sculpture is much larger than life and totally natural. It contains a candle wick that was lit upon installation. Fischer's work is interspersed throughout the museum in surprising ways! 

https://legionofhonor.famsf.org/exhibitions/urs-fischer

Me and my sculpture surrounded by selected ArtSpan artists work. 

Me and my sculpture surrounded by selected ArtSpan artists work. 

Set-up day in the courtyard of Hotel del Sol.

Set-up day in the courtyard of Hotel del Sol.

One of the larger works on display at Art Market SF reminds me of my recent trip to Burma! It's a blow-up version of a reclining Buddha.

One of the larger works on display at Art Market SF reminds me of my recent trip to Burma! It's a blow-up version of a reclining Buddha.

The gala was packed but fun. Lots of VIP tickets were circulated. I had to go back again to get a better look at the work with less of a crowd.

Here's another piece of meticulous sculpture that caught my eye. Both the dog (above) and the porcelain (left) were at the Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis.

Here's another piece of meticulous sculpture that caught my eye. Both the dog (above) and the porcelain (left) were at the Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis.

After two art fairs I went back to see Monet's early work at the Legion. This museum is a fantastic place to go on a beautiful day! The views are spectacular. And this is a show to see again and again. This time we wondered around the upstairs galleries and caught the quirky sculptures of Urs Fischer (left).

What a jam-packed art weekend! It was filled with friends, feasts, art fairs, and art museums. It was bathed in sunshine and fair weather.

Sunday night wrapped up with my book group and a lively discussion of an unusual novel called The Vegetarian. My favorite parts of the book were about the art video that describes the protagonist turning into a plant.

Exploring Soft Sculpture

Susan KirshenbaumComment

In 2016 I began making soft sculpture as a natural outgrowth of learning to sew. I had not made a soft piece since art school days, when I made a large pink satin baby. This time, I started with a small prototype, in the form of a rag doll. She's made of leftover Lycra fabric with my artwork, Woman on the Bay Bridge.

Detail of Blue Woman with Pink Posey, at The Laundry, SF, CA, 2016

Detail of Blue Woman with Pink Posey, at The Laundry, SF, CA, 2016

Leaning against the gallery wall next to one of my silk scroll paintings, here's my first life-size soft sculpture.

Leaning against the gallery wall next to one of my silk scroll paintings, here's my first life-size soft sculpture.

Stage one was this rag doll made from fabric remaining from my "1-yard dress".

Stage one was this rag doll made from fabric remaining from my "1-yard dress".

Learning sewing and stuffing techniques

Learning sewing and stuffing techniques

Embroidery sampler

Embroidery sampler

Wrapped legs and pelvis, a work in progress

Wrapped legs and pelvis, a work in progress

At the Pure Barre studio on West Portal, instructor Kelly Leslie wears my art leggings.

Kelly says these leggings are not only extremely unique but durable and comfortable. Title of legging art: Women and Artichokes.

Moving into a full-size, standing sculpture, I took a similar approach. I used a work of art printed on a slightly different stretchy fabric. This time - rather than having a piece that is the same on both sides, I used the background of the painting for the backside. Both were sewn and stuffed and feel nice and squishy to the touch. I'll likely add armatures to future works so they can stand up better on their own.

My plan is generate quite a few of these pieces - enough to fill space. I envision a roomful of my printed, stuffed figures - made from my drawings. I see them stacked, hanging, and seated on stuffed chairs. I'm starting with a series titled 65 million refugees.  This is a very real and alarming number. I'm going to pitch this idea as an installation piece which will be customized to various spaces. I need grants and residencies to help me produce this large body of work (so to speak). 

I'm also taking a soft sculpture class now and learning a bunch of new techniques: creating different types of armatures, making pillows for body parts, wrapping, embroidery and applique, reed basketry, weaving, stuffing and batting, and more. Incorporating painting and drawing in 3-D. 

But also, like a sewing circle, being in a class (all women, no surprise), we are sharing knowledge. And I am realizing how long it takes and how labor intensive it is to make this work.

I'm happy about being a part of a movement with roots in the Bay Area. There's joy in making art out of every day life skills and transforming materials around me. I love the idea of combining sensory experiences too. I can't wait to use scent as well, since that is something very particular in my life. I inherited an extremely sensitive sense of smell which sometimes torments me, but I will put to use! In fact I look forward to using everything I know and have learned as a creative director over the years. Producing an experience and filling a space.

The idea of soft sculpture as it relates to the body and wearable art has always made sense to me. I started applying my art to fabric a couple of years ago. I use fabric as a substrate for single images on large silk scrolls, and I've made limited editions of wearables in patterns. This design, unlike others I've made, is not a single image nor a pattern, but it is made to wrap around a body creating a living, moving sculpture. Women and Artichokes is my photo of artichokes collaged with my life drawing.