Susan R. Kirshenbaum

art and life - both the cherries and the pits

#scroll

SFWA SOLO SHOW & ART TALK (SHOWS & TELLS ALL)

Susan Kirshenbaum1 Comment

Excerpted from: ART TALK FEBRUARY 23, 2019

“WOMEN IN SILK: NOT WHAT YOU THINK” AND “LIFE SQUARED” AT SFWA

I gave an art talk on 2/23/19 at SFWA Artist Salon Gallery. The exhibition closes soon - see it through March 1, 2019.

WHY I DO WHAT I DO

What drives me to create this work? When I was younger, I thought the world was progressive, moving forward, never backward.

Maybe four years old doing what makes me happiest. Sitting at the window drawing.

Now I’m both astonished and delighted that at long last there is another wave of increased awareness about the ongoing exclusion and mistreatment of women.

As a young person growing up in the 60s through the 80s I watched and participated in a wave of progress in human rights. Not knowing better, I believed that political and social change are continuous and progressive.

Drawing on the front stoop in Pittsburgh, PA, around 1961.

I thought with the women’s movement that our progress was leaping ahead and my generation would at last achieve equality - that the world would not judge us by our bodies and treat us like second-class citizens. I was wrong. Now I know this is not so. But I see now that the old cliché one step forward two steps back is apt for much of life and obvious in our political climate. This is why resilience is so important.

The fight is still on and there is renewed energy. I continue to play my part through my art.

At Miami Art Basel in 2017 wearing one of my handmade art dresses.

THE FEATURED SERIES

Three years ago I began this new phase of life as a full-time visual artist. I realized "It's never too late to do what you really care about - and it's important for me to create lively, provocative art".

The work on these walls (in the SFWA Artist Gallery exhibition) represents three series over several years. The first was the Silk Scroll series of seven scrolls (White and Color Block).

The Laundry Gallery: First exhibit of all of the Silk Scroll Series

“Red Hair Curly and Straight” white silk scroll - I have thing about hair…

“Red Kimono” from Color Block Silk Scroll Series (created at the same time as the White Silk Scroll Series).

“Reaching” from the Color Block Silk Scroll Series

Next came the site-specific series of five “Banderas” (flags in Spanish) .

Troll House Reception 2017

And most recently I produced the Life Squared series of small works on paper in shadowboxes, often they are collages and/or mirrored images.

One of the walls in the show at SFWA

One of the walls in the show at SFWA

A FEMINIST FIGURATIVE ARTIST

All of my work is purely figurative and unashamedly feminist. It’s about women, reclaiming our bodies, being proud and self possessed. It’s straightforward yet open to interpretation. My drawings are brisk, bold, gestural works made from short poses. I’m inspired by my models.

Here’s the graffiti I shot in Spain before it became a layer in the collage to the right.

Here’s the graffiti I shot in Spain before it became a layer in the collage to the right.

Left side of a planned diptych collage - not in print yet

Digital collage: produced in 2 unique editions: a metal print and a print on paper in a shadowbox.

Right side of a diptych collage - not in print yet

Golden Gate Bridge up close and a collage layer.

Golden Gate Bridge up close and a collage layer.

I often make multiple versions from one original. I choose the best of the bunch or there may be several editions that spring from the initial drawing. This is one way that I make the most of the digital drawing process and my need to experiment and see my options.

Every February I watch for the first signs of spring in Golden Gate Park (SF) such as the magnolia trees in bloom. Nature is often a theme in my work.

Every February I watch for the first signs of spring in Golden Gate Park (SF) such as the magnolia trees in bloom. Nature is often a theme in my work.

Original version without magnolia tree

Version as a single figure collage

Version as a single figure collage

Collage version with magnolia tree

This version becomes a pattern collage

Version as a single figure collage

Original drawing before multiplying

Original drawing before multiplying

Original drawing before multiplying

Two titles: “Head Butting” and “Let’s Put our Heads Together”

My Valentines day 2019 image

“Leafy Dreams” collage is a popular piece in the show

“Skeletons” - an example of multiple images also in the show

INTO YOUNG ADULTHOOD

That’s me teaching in 1978 at Ivy School of Professional Art.

The impetus for being an artist goes way back. I’ve always drawn people. From paper dolls to life drawing, my singular interest and focus is figurative. And I enjoy using all sorts of mark-making materials. I think I’ve tried just about every tool and technique out there. In fact the first art class I ever taught was called Marks on Paper to teach freshman art students about the many ways of using of art supplies and found materials.

Weekend at Kala making silkscreen prints in 2017 - I still like to explore all methods and mediums. My work sometimes looks like it was silkscreened.

GOING DIGITAL

As a creative director for many years I built campaign after campaign with teams of creatives. I conceived ideas and explored what words, images, and designs had the greatest impact. But I was not hands-on nor a techi.

I came around to using professional digital drawing tools for practical reasons. Without hauling around a car-load of art supplies I could switch from one tool or medium to another instantly. These are called “digital originals”. My process is the same for each piece, since I always start by drawing a live model.

Original - Version 1 in the “Tami Series” 2019

“Tami Series: 3x”, 2019

David Hockney made digital art and process videos famous. I too can add, test, and remove layers and lines. I can include my photography so that the work becomes a collage. I can make multiple iterations and series, like monoprints.

Sarah - original v1

“Obfuscated” - v3

“Obfuscated” v2

“Obfuscated” - v4

I edit my work, scale it, and apply my artwork to a variety of substrates, from tiny to huge, and paper to fabric and metal. It’s important to experiment.

The Laundry Gallery SF 2016 - a dialog about art at a wine tasting meetup at the gallery.

THE SCROLLS AND BANDERAS

The grand scale of these works makes the space feel alive with the figures. The fluidity of the fabric combined with the movement reflected in the drawings helps produce this life-like feeling, although the drawings are not intended to be realistic. They are meant to convey a personality and a relationship. They are not “model drawings” but more of a conversation with an individual.

A “digital original” drawing for the Banderas series.

A “digital original” drawing for the Banderas series.

This sheer series is meant to hang from the ceiling in an overlapping cluster

Production: Sewing the edges of the Banderas series

Production: Sewing the edges of the Banderas series

Production: Creating the Silk Scroll series in an upholstery studio

Production: Creating the Silk Scroll series in an upholstery studio

The “Banderas Series” at Radian Gallery in 2018

The “Banderas Series” at Radian Gallery in 2018

THE BANDERAS SERIES

When I originally created the Banderas series it was for a site-specific installation in response to my residency at the Troll house.

I needed to express and insert a strong female presence – to take up space and touch the tips of a tall person’s head – to have an impact on the young male residents of this co-work space in Pier 26.

Jack hanging the Banderas Series in a Pythagorean Triangle

Adam demonstrating the height of the Banderas

The arrangement of the five translucent banderas hanging from the ceiling creates a play of color, light, and shadow from the inside and the outside. Passersby could see this show while walking along the Embarcadero. The light filtered through the sheer chiffon and shifted the colors as they overlapped. I’d love to create a version of these pieces for an even larger space on a grander scale in a public building.

The installation at the Troll House on Pier 26

Besides light and shadow and content and form, color is a key factor in my work. I am in love with color!

From my Spanish Graffiti Series

A collage with my own textile art as a layer

From my Spanish Graffiti Series

Multiples and mirror images in a new series

COLLAGES & MIRROR IMAGES

When I create collages I combine my drawing with my photographs and painting to create a rich, layered affect. I continuously change the layers, photos, and colors until I’m satisfied. I’ve been photographing for decades, especially when traveling but now I have a place to include these images as part of a bigger picture.

Always photographing gardens you can see the flowers here.

This turned into fairy princess twins - harkening back to my youthful fantasies

This collage combines a photo of Spanish graffiti art that is also a sign for a shop.

Note that the background image matches the stance of the model.

POLITICS AND ART

Now some of my work is outright political and maybe even a little subversive, such as my “Burma Series”. This series comments on religious oppression, targeting a group of people as “the other”, and massive ousting of the Rohingya people by the Buddhist majority.

I photographed ancient temple walls in Bagan, Burma.

Aluminum dye-infused archival print, ed. 1/1 , 20 (w) x 25 (h) Burma Series

I have a series that features the struggle for Catalan Independence too. I spend a lot of time in the region and know it well, so I have conversations about the topic frequently. Most my work is not obviously political but still attempts to illicit a response.

“THIS IS MY MANIFESTO”

Backsliding, covering up, and our hard-won battles are still coming undone. Every expose is important for building a case to protect women from religious, sexual, political, social oppression, and abuse. We are all humans and we are all equal, naked, and striving to be free.

My work celebrates women.

I will see my narratives grow into gallery-size installations. In my upcoming art residency I have space to expand my scope, scale, and impact.

Catalan independence poster in Girona, Spain

“Filled with Poppies” -a California version of the collage above right.

Collage with Catalan poster changes the meaning

Post, Post, Post Mortem

Susan KirshenbaumComment
Getting ready 1: The shadow of one of my "helpers" for the shows. Making packets of gift wrap.

Getting ready 1: The shadow of one of my "helpers" for the shows. Making packets of gift wrap.

Getting ready 2: Cutting, sewing, and stuffing. The process of making my soft sculpture at SEW. 

Getting ready 2: Cutting, sewing, and stuffing. The process of making my soft sculpture at SEW. 

The last show and sale of 2016. I'm with my work on display at The Blueberry Farm in Sebastopol, CA. 12/16

My pop-up storefront in the heart of Hayes Valley in SF, CA. October 2016

My pop-up storefront in the heart of Hayes Valley in SF, CA. October 2016

I'm  wearing one of my art dresses next to one of my color block silk scrolls  at the Maker & Moss pop-up.

I'm wearing one of my art dresses next to one of my color block silk scrolls at the Maker & Moss pop-up.

Our Opening Reception Brunchette at The Laundry. November 2016

Our Opening Reception Brunchette at The Laundry. November 2016

My soft sculpture installed. November 2016

Newest fabric design made into long, 2-sided silk scarves, a tribute to Warhol (a fellow Pittsburgher). I have two left  in my online shop.

IT'S THE END OF THE YEAR!

My three art shows are wrapped up and I'm taking off for an exotic travel adventure! After this last blog post please check back next year. I promise an awesome slide show from a very photogenic trip.

I'm still thinking about what I learned from my 2016 shows and how that will affect what I do next year as I plan. The October, November, and December art events were the culmination of several years of creating multiple bodies of work. The emphasis for each show was unique.  

My first show was a one-day Pop-Up at Maker & Moss (see my blog post). Held at my friend's artistic retail housewares shop in Hayes Valley, I was asked to make a lot of art merchandise for this show. I  went into production for many months - designing, sewing, finding helpers, making new editions of prints, figuring out my product lines, packaging them all up.

This was a lot of work for one day. It's unlikely that I'll book another one-day only pop-up, but it was a healthy deadline and test run.

The second show started out with SF Open Studios and a shared rental gallery at The Laundry in the Mission. Talented artist friend Lisa Lightman shared the space with me. Our art paired beautifully. 

This was my first opportunity to show all seven pieces in my new series of life-sized silk scrolls and the beginning of a another new series, large soft sculpture. With a fan creating a gentle breeze, my scrolls fluttered slightly, producing an experience for the viewer of being in a roomful of nude women in conversation. 

One of my corners of the gallery showing a color block silk scroll (left), two of my white silk scrolls (right), three of my prints and a drawing (center) Plus the fan.   November 2016

One of my corners of the gallery showing a color block silk scroll (left), two of my white silk scrolls (right), three of my prints and a drawing (center) Plus the fan. November 2016

This is my friend who stopped by during her Thanksgiving visit. She felt an affinity for the red-haired subjects in these scrolls. November 2016

I also showed (and sold) silkscreens, etchings, fine art digital prints, and pre-digital life drawings at The Laundry. 

Another corner of the gallery shows a large silkscreen (top left), Backs, a set of four fine art digital prints (below), and a gouache painting (right). More redheads!

We were asked to stay on in the gallery through November - a wonderful chance to get more exposure. We had opening and closing events with Spanish champagne and snacks, an art talk, and more. I sold prints and drawings met some interesting people. I got some exposure to curators and galleries and photos of my scrolls as a group.

The Laundry is a new hotspot in the Mission. It's a shared workspace and artspace focussed on building a creative community. This is a place to watch! I plan to stay involved with The Laundry and show my work there again.

I've just wrapped up my last art event, at The Blueberry Farm in Sebastopol, an annual group holiday show and sale with five artists (jewelry, sculpture, photography, painting, and montages). I sold prints, drawings, art cards, tea towels, silk scarves, cherry pit filled hot/cold pads, gift wrap, art leggings, and more.  

Even the weather was on our side. It was a gorgeous, crisp late fall weekend. This farm is utterly charming...even the mint-filled ground cover smells great. We served tiny blueberry muffins and home-baked goodies. It was nice to be out of The City and I met lots of cool locals and was impressed by my SF and East Bay friends who made the 1.5 hour trek to see and buy. I'd do it again next year!

Hosts and artists Alivea and Gayle Cole at The Blueberry Farm. Thanks! December 2016

Just About Exhibition Ready!

Susan KirshenbaumComment

Here are several pieces from one of my new series titled White Silk Scrolls. Most of the finished pieces are around 6 feet tall – human scale. Galleries might ask how these scrolls hang. I've worked out a plexiglass rod system, top and bottom, mounted to the wall with L screws. They are each about an inch from the wall so air and light can pass through and behind. I'll be showing some of these works, along with works on paper, at ArtSpan SF Open Studios the weekend of November 5-6, 2016. Look for updates about my show and sale which will take place at The Laundry, a new exhibition space on 26th Street between Mission and Capp. Photos by David Papas.