Susan R. Kirshenbaum

art and life - both the cherries and the pits

A Re-Introduction

Susan KirshenbaumComment
  Tami modeling at John Goodman's Drawing Group - my long-time Monday night figure sessions. See my next blog coming up about the topic of working with models.

Tami modeling at John Goodman's Drawing Group - my long-time Monday night figure sessions. See my next blog coming up about the topic of working with models.

HOT SUMMER SIGNALS CHANGE

A little environmental check-in. Today it is really summery in SF, almost like Pittsburgh, PA, my home town. It's not usually a hot summer in SF, not in a recognizable way. The galleries get hot though, I mean the temperature inside, as we hold our openings with no air conditioning and we stand on the streets smuggling our plastic cups of wine outside. I'm not talking about climate change - not here/now. But maybe that will be the theme of my blog this fall to coincide with Gaia - the city-wide climate change conference. This topic is always on our minds.

  Here's  No Where to Run , one of my climate change themed works.

Here's No Where to Run, one of my climate change themed works.

PAIN AWAKENS AWARENESS

And now a little body check-in. I'm in the midst of a medical summer, filled with long-delayed surgeries. This gives me bit of extra time to think. To lie around on the sofa with a book, a sketchbook, a friend, a cat, and an ice pack. I kinda like it. This medical stuff hasn't kept me from showing my work, making art, or trying to get my art in front of people. Every day is about creating awareness, broadening my audience, generating fans and patrons.

  Foot up, cat on lap, and a furry cover...

Foot up, cat on lap, and a furry cover...

AN ART STATE OF MIND?

The mental check-in is next. Long ago, I thought that art-making required high drama in my life. And that was exciting, inspiring, and fed the fire...but my quiet life has disproved this idea. All inspiration isn't from deep sadness and pain (wow)! I may not be writing dark poetry anymore, but it turns out I still have plenty to say about myself and the world around me.

CHANGES REFLECTED

While creating this blog I started working on a new section of my website: Exhibitions. It's filled with show photos and very short descriptions. It describes what I've done lately. But here's the surprising part. I just discovered that I've only been doing this full-time art-making for two years. Seriously, I'm the most impatient person I know. I'm feeling so urgent, like I've lost so much time. Not to mention that most /many EMERGING artists are maybe in their early 20s and I am clearly not.

I just went through hundreds of my photos and re-evaluated. Time is speeding up. I've - in fact - to my great surprise - done quite a lot. But, still, I have no time to waste and so much more to do. Don't you?

 Burma Series: Breaking Walls, Breaking Patterns  shines a light on the plight of the Rohingya women being forced out of Burma. It's important to me to bring attention to this group of people who are being systematically persecuted

Burma Series: Breaking Walls, Breaking Patterns shines a light on the plight of the Rohingya women being forced out of Burma. It's important to me to bring attention to this group of people who are being systematically persecuted

About more than figures

My latest piece addressing a cause is shown above. Created as part of my Burma Series, this piece is my interpretation of the SFWA show theme "Patterns" where it was recently shown. The background pattern is a photo I took of a painted wall inside an ancient Buddhist temple in Bagan, Burma on a recent trip. When we visited I was asked to wear a long sarong to wrap myself fully, as these ancient sites in ruins are still  considered as sacred and holy as new temples.

But there's a problem in Burma. There is a pattern of female persecution and punishment that must change. How can each of us ensure women's safety and freedom of speech and religion? Oppression of women, acceptance of women as whole human beings, religious dogma and religious freedom of expression, the dangers of militarism, and political hypocrisy - these are some of topics I think about a lot and try to instill into my art. Traveling is of utmost importance to me in order to experience different places, people, and ideas directly.

  Bagan, Burma temple site.

Bagan, Burma temple site.

CAUSE MARKETING

I know why some people think I'd branched out into product design. After seven years of working as a creative director in-house at the JCCSF, I left in 2014 and once again founded a creative agency. I've had three agencies so far, including Kirshenbaum Communications - that lasted for over a decade. My teams and I have done good strong work for people and organizations. One of my last clients was The Second Opinion, a non-profit who helps people get FREE second opinions regarding their cancer diagnosis. What could be more important work?

  Here's a spread from their annual report we created along with portraits and video (by Dave Papas).

Here's a spread from their annual report we created along with portraits and video (by Dave Papas).

After my stint as Cherry Tree Creative, I was lured away by art again, but in this case it was via a design partner. We were going to help arts organizations with their marketing and branding. We founded Stir, which is still an active creative agency. 

  I loved our business cards with their neon orange edges and letterpress type.

I loved our business cards with their neon orange edges and letterpress type.

WHAT AM I WAITING FOR?

But in the end I had to ask myself - why work for other arts organizations - when I could market ME and my art work? It's easy to see why it was time. I've only been ready for this for my entire life!

  In my bedroom at around 4 years old, drawing, of course. Before the family started the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, PA.

In my bedroom at around 4 years old, drawing, of course. Before the family started the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, PA.

CREATIVE ROOTS

I always made art and I was strongly encouraged early on. The family opened an art school when I was five. That was my life too, as family businesses can be. Fortunately art was also my keenest interest.

Maybe you've seen these black and white photos on my website. My father was always taking photos of us. We learned to develop and print black and white photos in our home darkroom. We even got to work with oil paint at home. As the art school took off, home art-making shifted to the art school and my sisters and I took a variety of real art classes.

  On the front stoop of our house in Point Breeze, Pittsburgh, PA, at around 6 years old, drawing, of course. By now the school was in full swing. I thought I'd teach there (yes, at this age).

On the front stoop of our house in Point Breeze, Pittsburgh, PA, at around 6 years old, drawing, of course. By now the school was in full swing. I thought I'd teach there (yes, at this age).

  Here's Nigel in the background 2 x.

Here's Nigel in the background 2 x.

A cat CREATES A NEW OPPORTUNITY

Moving into the present, our big black cat Nigel is a lover, but he's also a "wool sucker" and has destroyed garbage-bagfuls of woolens.

  Patched the cat-chewed hole with velvet ribbon, my simplest of all fixes, and still a fav.

Patched the cat-chewed hole with velvet ribbon, my simplest of all fixes, and still a fav.

In 2016 I started making upcycled art clothes out of cat-chewed knitwear. In order to do this I shopped around and found my friend and sewing mentor Connie Walker-Shaw of SEW in West Portal. Connie has imagination and talent. She works with kids and has a great deal of patience.

Upcycled baby hat- one of a kind - made from cashmere scraps.

SEWING - FROM UPCYCLING TO NEW

It was during my clothing upcycling period that I began making my own textiles. I needed to learn to sew from scratch, beyond a serger (a special sewing machine for knitwear). I got a home sewing machine and lots of cool supplies and I began working closely with Connie. I was able to create clothes and "art merch" to sell. 

Since I work digitally already, I was able to transition to making fabric and paper using my files and online software with Spoonflower. Connie helped me progress into pattern-making and sewing original designs. We designed and made throw pillows, dresses, leggings, silk scarves, cherrypit-filled neckrolls (with the help of my neighbor Mary), carry-all bags, tea towels, cocktail napkins, charm necklaces, and more.

Maker & Moss Pop Up Show #1, Hayes Valley, SF, 2016.

  My second Pop-Up had a mixture of art and art merchandise. This was at a friend's lovely blueberry farm in Sebastopol, 2016.

My second Pop-Up had a mixture of art and art merchandise. This was at a friend's lovely blueberry farm in Sebastopol, 2016.

ART VS. CRAFT

Looking back at my making process - It's true that I got wildly excited about creating textile designs using my artwork. Because I work digitally it's much easier than I'd imagined to convert my figures into repeat patterns.

  This is some of the art paper I've made. Paper and fabric, the basis of the products and this is probably my favorite part. Maybe just make them?

This is some of the art paper I've made. Paper and fabric, the basis of the products and this is probably my favorite part. Maybe just make them?

A FAMILY BIAS

Even as a teenager, with a family who actively encouraged my art-making - but not other kinds of making (certainly not crafts!), I studied jewelry and I loved it. I even pursued it as an apprentice silversmith in Silverton, CO - a story for another time.

As a teenager with my father in our art school gallery.

Suffice it to say that I enjoy using my hands and physically making. I also like making ceramics and getting messy! And I do love salt...

A ceramic project creating a series of salt containers with lettering and drawing.

SCULPTURE AS A PATH

Eventually I worked my way into soft sculpture, using my own art textiles and by taking yet another City College class. This made me feel like I was making art again. I imagine some very large projects - rooms filled with my figures - stuffed and printed fabric sculptures. This might still happen in the right space - something I hope to get with a next residency and/or a gallery.

  This is a first prototype, like a rag doll, it's made from the remnants of an art dress (above right photo).

This is a first prototype, like a rag doll, it's made from the remnants of an art dress (above right photo).

 Woman with Pink Posey  is   almost life-sized and intended to be the first in a series. At The Laundry, fall 2016.

Woman with Pink Posey is almost life-sized and intended to be the first in a series. At The Laundry, fall 2016.

  Enjoying the flexibility of the digital arena and multiple versioning is very much like printmaking.  Illusive Rose , 2018.

Enjoying the flexibility of the digital arena and multiple versioning is very much like printmaking. Illusive Rose, 2018.

TRANSITION FROM MERCH TO ART

Spoonflower made it possible for me to take my repeat patterns for textiles into the realm of paper art, too. While making limited edition fine art prints on paper for gallery shows, I was having so much fun making other kinds of work that I wasn't worried about potential confusion in the marketplace. Some artists don't worry about this.

I've always loved interior, product, and fashion design. I became enamored with the possibilities and challenges of learning to design and make beautiful, humorous, functional and decorative merchandise mostly by myself. I got a lot of encouragement and sold a good amount of what I made. There's satisfaction in that. Art is a much harder sell. 

Then I figured out how to make scrolls. Printing my own textiles first helped me gain confidence technically so I could cross over into art-making. I began combining large image outputs onto fabric then sewing them to finish the pieces. My art coach Rhiannon Macphaden has helped me along the way. I was able develop my first two large-scale series of limited edition silk scrolls. Several are now hanging at my Grove Salon show curated by Abrams Claghorn Gallery.

  Here's the scroll,  Red Hair Curly and Straight,  hanging at  Arc Gallery  for the Life/Live show. Now hanging at Grove - reception Aug. 24.

Here's the scroll, Red Hair Curly and Straight, hanging at Arc Gallery for the Life/Live show. Now hanging at Grove - reception Aug. 24.

IDENTITY & CLARITY OF PURPOSE

Because people have asked me or expressed confusion, I want to be very clear now. My art-making is not an extension of my design career. I have not become a "maker" either (although I do love the maker movement).

> I am not in the textile and/or product design and making business.

> You might still see me in an art dress which I've created just for me (below).

> You might be able to buy a unique art charm necklace or a rare silk scarf from me (below).

Dave Papas, my photographer friend, had many years of great photo-birthday parties. Here I'm showing off my art scarf - now a collector's item!

And maybe I'll get back to making more beautiful, clever products again, for buyers. I especially enjoyed the idea of my rabbi friend wearing my scarves to synagogue (as well as other friends and family clothed in my artwear in nude-unfriendly environments).

This would have to be after my brand as an artist is stronger - someone perhaps whose work you have seen in publications and galleries, but are unlikely to find in shops or on Etsy. That's how it is now.

  At Art Basel Miami in front of a suitable painting that goes well with my art dress.

At Art Basel Miami in front of a suitable painting that goes well with my art dress.

CLEAR AMBITIONS

> To make the most interesting, rewarding art that I can.

> To push myself and my viewers as far as I can.

> To get the work I make out into the world, for others to consider and respond to.

These are my mottos today.

  An art talk at The Laundry in 2016

An art talk at The Laundry in 2016

CALL ME AN ARTIST

I've never stopped making art. But there were times over the course of my life when I ran from the title of "artist". Now I embrace it.

As a Bay Area-based artist I would like my work to be seen and experienced in many different regions of the world, in all kinds of spaces, and for all kinds of audiences. Offer me a space to fill! I'll consider just about any kind of challenge.

Troll House installation of Banderas Series (5- 8' high scrolls). My first site-specific installation piece will be shown again at The Wessling Gallery in Sept. 2018.

HOW DO YOU DO?

For all of the reasons expressed here, about a year ago, I began to wind down the "art merch-making" to focus 100% on art that would be best displayed in a gallery or a residential or commercial space. That's my current work as I've yet again re-emerged.

How is it that I am "emerging", when I've done this all for so long? That's why everything I say starts with "re-".

So now I'd like to re-introduce myself - although I've made no drastic changes and there may be no surprises. I was not crystal clear in my messaging when I first re-launched my art career. I just wanted to make art and I thought that was enough, but it's not.

 Curly Girls in Pink.   Who am I? I am a curly girl artist. I allow myself to like pink a lot. I love color. You will see this in all of my work, from rusty naturals to neon brights.

Curly Girls in Pink.

Who am I? I am a curly girl artist. I allow myself to like pink a lot. I love color. You will see this in all of my work, from rusty naturals to neon brights.

  This man has a clear identity. His artwear is taken to the extreme. He attended one of my recent openings at  City Art Coop Gallery  and happily posed for me. That's my July wall behind him.

This man has a clear identity. His artwear is taken to the extreme. He attended one of my recent openings at City Art Coop Gallery and happily posed for me. That's my July wall behind him.


DON'T MISS ART EVENTS

AUG. 9: RECEPTION AT SFWA

AUG. 24: RECEPTION AT GROVE SALON

Curated by Abrams Claghorn Gallery

SEPT. 5: RECEPTION AT THE WESSLING GALLERY

See the Banderas Series here.

NOV. 3-4: OPEN STUDIOS WEEKEND AT SFWA

WITH VIP RECEPTION 10-NOON, NOV. 3

Dates to come for Art Workshops, Demos, & Talks

  ArtSpan Open Studios Guide Ad for our group

ArtSpan Open Studios Guide Ad for our group

WHAT'S COMING UP

Mark your calendars for my first East Bay Show; a Pop-Up art show with old friends in SOMA; and ArtSpan Open Studios at SFWA. Read about my upcoming art events in the NEWS section of this site (2.0 version). Look for my upcoming section "Exhibitions" (2.5 version), launching soon!

ArtSpan Open Studios

I'll be in a group of SFWA members holding Open Studios at the SFWA Artist's Salon Gallery October-November and during Weekend 4: Sat.-Sun., Nov. 3-4, from 11am-6pm. Kick off Open Studios weekend at our VIP Reception - with bubbly of course - Sat., Nov. 3, from 10-noon.

Throughout the rest of the weekend join us for art talks, demos, refreshments, and a chance to meet and chat with this talented group of SFWA member artists. I'm especially looking forward to this show since I'll be exhibiting a new body of work!

We will be showing our work from the beginning of October through Open Studios weekend. Come by and see my latest collage drawings. I'll be doing iPad Pro art demos at the SFWA gallery on October 27-28.

"What Brings Us Joy" at SFWA

Get a sneak preview of my first two pieces this week at the August SFWA show themed "What Gives Us Joy" on Thurs., Aug. 9, 5:30-8pm.

Wall Series: Angelica's Heart, 2018, at SFWA during the July show "What Gives Us Joy". Printed on canvas.

Sneak Preview

Here's a sneak preview of some of the work that might be shown - but you still have to come and see the show! It's an ongoing series I'm building with my life drawings combined digitally with layers of my photos of walls, skies, and textures. This combination of imagery, inspired by a recent trip to Spain, led me to the title. I'll also have a new selection of small, unframed prints and cards for sale throughout the weekend.

Wall Series: Escape into the Deep, Dark Green, 2018

Look for more announcements about special events coming up this fall!