Category Archives: My art

Artwork and various creative projects and obsessions.

My first burlesque drawings in Berlin!

Immodesty Blaize at Vaudeville Variety Wintergarten Berlin March 19 2017 by Suzanne Forbes

We’ve been here almost two years, but it took me until now to get to a burlesque show and draw!

Sheila Wolf at Vaudeville Variety Wintergarten Berlin March 19 2017 by Suzanne ForbesLuckily I got to start at an exceptionally fine one, as Queer’lesque producer Sheila Wolf, above, invited me to draw Vaudeville Variety at the Wintergarten.

Gloria Viagra at Vaudeville Variety Wintergarten Berlin March 19 2017 by Suzanne ForbesBerlin’s legendary Wintergarten is a classic cabaret supper club, with velvet seats and a starry sky ceiling.

It is beautiful, luxurious and comfortable, a fitting tribute to the original Wintergarten which was destroyed by bombs in 1944. I had a table to put my stuff on and wasser mit gas and everything!

I was seated next to Gloria Viagra, shown here; Gloria was the afterparty DJ and is a very well-known Berlin performer. We had a delightful chat!

The show was wonderful. I couldn’t draw everybody, but I did get in a lot of drawings.

Tom Harlow and Dave the Bear at Vaudeville Variety Wintergarten Berlin March 19 2017 by Suzanne ForbesThe ravishing, award-winning boylesque babe Tom Harlow (legs for days!!!) danced to the Tom Jones and Jools Holland version of “St. James Infirmary Blues”. I drew Dave The Bear, stripping to “Video Phone”.

I was mesmerized by the sublime “Opium and Bondage” performance of Marlene Von Steenvag, where she actually ties herself into a rope harness at the end while dancing.Marlene Von Steenvag at Vaudeville Variety March 19 2017 by Suzanne Forbes

Immodesty Blaize with Gloria Viagra and Sheila WolfAnd I made two drawings of the amazing, the breathtaking Immodesty Blaize!

I’d never even dreamt I’d get to see her perform live. Let me tell you, the only thing more amazing than Immodesty Blaize in a corset is Immodesty out of a corset!

I stopped drawing after the second one and just watched her move. Here‘s Immodesty and Gloria, with Sheila in the background!

Immodesty Blaize at Vaudeville Variety by Suzanne Forbes March 19 2017

Immodesty Blaize at Vaudeville Variety by Suzanne Forbes March 19 2017

These drawings are licensed Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0; you are welcome to share them or print them out as long as you give credit to Suzanne Forbes, artist.

You can find full-size downloadable versions here on my flickr. Burlesque album (NSFW!)

As always, the support of my precious Patrons on Patreon makes it possible for me to do this work documenting the community and share it with you all. You can help for as little as a buck a month!

Update: here’s one of the beautiful pictures Gloria took of me. Look how fucking happy I am in Berlin. You can see the rest here, on Gloria’s pinup fashion feed!

Photo of Suzanne Forbes by Gloria Viagra

Photo of Suzanne Forbes by Gloria Viagra, March 19 2017 at Vaudeville Variety

RIP, Bernie Wrightson. Master of light and darkness.

Memorial to Bernie Wrightson March 19 2017 Suzanne Forbes CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Memorial to Bernie Wrightson March 19 2017 Suzanne Forbes CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

One of the all-time greats of comic art has just died. Bernie Wrightson has passed on at only 68.

He was a genius who elevated comic art to new level. HIs pioneering work co-creating Swamp Thing opened an incredible space and laid the groundwork for the Moore-Bissette-Totleben run, which impacted me and my boyfriend Rob profoundly. His legendary creative fellowship with Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Barry Windsor-Smith and Michael Wm. Kaluta at The Studio inspired my generation of comic artists to be artists, not work-for-hire content producers. (There’s a book!) He worked on dozens of famous characters in comics and movies, from Batman and Spiderman to The Punisher, and with Stephen King and Steve Niles. You can’t begin to imagine how how influential his work was.

Every time you looked at his Frankenstein work, you just said, how the hell can anybody be so good?

He set a standard for excellence that was so inspiring. I never met him, though I was at the same con as him a few times during my pro career in comics. A great regret, and a tremendous loss of a great artist who was loved by all.

There are six pieces of original Bernie art available for sale at the Comic Art Fans site right now. There’s lots of gorgeous images available to print in the Wrightsons Zazzle shop too.

RIP, Bernie Wrightson.

Update: SO much better! My friend and colleague at ESDIPBerlin, illustrator Rafa Alvarez, collaborated with me to make this picture actually look the way I imagined it in my head, using his amazing skills. I feel like together we did some justice to Bernie’s inspiration. Every new generation of comic artists and illustrators shares the responsibility of carrying this torch.

Bernie Wrightson Memorial Collab Suzanne Forbes x Rafa Alvarez

Bernie Wrightson Memorial Collab Suzanne Forbes x Rafa Alvarez March 20 2017

Another perfect Berlin day.

The graceful violinist by Suzanne Forbes March 17 2017On Friday I was feeling a little shaky. So I went rambling around Friedrichshain in the just-a-bit-raw weather with Daria, and felt immeasurably better.

pink musician March 17 2017 Suzanne ForbesOn the train I was working on the drawing of the violinist I started last week, (when we went to Dussman Cafe, pics soon), and then:

this guy with a pink accordozylophone thing got on!

Ninja drawing by Daria Rhein photo by Daria Rhein

Ninja drawing by Daria Rhein, photo by Daria Rhein

As I drew the guy I could hear Daria’s voice in my head saying “Don’t overwork it!”, just as I hear the voices of my teachers and mentors advising me at so many moments.

To be guided by the wisdom of artist friends is the best thing in the world.

We got china markers when we went to Modulor, because I hadn’t one for decades; here’s Daria’s first china marker drawing! I used a mix of greyscale marker and china marker on the musician drawings.

There is nothing, absolutely, nothing, like living and working around true peers for an artist.

Yesterday we went first to look at a possible flat for her and the adorable auburn-haired English lad. It was a really gorgeous perfectly reno’d altbau, in the absurdly desirable neighborhood around Boxy, about 700 sq. ft., rent about $750. Yes, you should still move to Berlin. Changes in the law meant to control rising rents appear to have worked, and you can still get an incredible place for what seems like nothing.

Then we went to Daria‘s tattoo studio Tremuschi Ink!

It is the coolest place ever in the world, absolutely not kidding.

Photo: Steffen Diemer, Model: Lexy Hell, Corset: Redcat 7. Hairpiece: icing

Photo: Steffen Diemer, Model: Lexy Hell, Corset: Redcat 7.

It is open in the front half to the incredibly charming handmade burlesque fashion design shop Redcat7, where a pink-haired gal manned the counter. One of the tattoo artists was working on sketches for a throw-up style tat; in the back Sammy, the designer and owner of Redcat7, was getting ready to be tattooed by Vivien.

They have benches and a tattoo bed and rests of every kind, to tattoo any part of you comfortably, and a big lightbox for composing designs, and a screened private area.

The walls are covered with framed art and there is a tag wall too.

After we rifled through all the pretties at Redcat, we walked to Aunt Benny.

Coexist Berlin Instagram shotIt was a long walk, through all the charms of Friedrichshain, past the coolest shops and dive bars and eis cafes and music shops and print shops where people were making beautiful real screen prints like people do in Berlin.

We had to go in to Coexist Berlin, a totally amazing punk pastelgoth alternative fashion shop for local and European designers.

I told the lovely pastel-haired designer of Indyanna who was working that it was like a perfect flashback to Betsey Johnson’s first store in Soho, Manic Panic and Trash & Vaudeville in the 80s.

Patches at Coexist BerlinIndyanna designs included a biker jacket lined with blue leopard and appliqued with blue glitter flames I badly coveted.

Ragged Priest dress

Ragged Priest dress

I bought an insane Tyvek paper jumpsuit in Patricia Field in 1980 and it was just the kind of thing Coexist would sell. Daria wanted this mesh flame dress by The Ragged Priest for her next tattoo convention– comfy but rad!

We arrived at Aunt Benny and met the lovely English girl Daria painted the last time she was there. I had mint lemonade since it was St. Patrick’s Day and we shared the really, really, really quite extremely good Carrot Ginger cake.

Everything looked gorgeously fresh and delicious. We sat in a secret alcove in the secret corner room that you get to by going to the WCs. We discussed getting a visa so I could go to visit Moscow with Daria later this year and see the magnificence of her home town.

Berlin, du bist so wunderbar!

An Ode to Creative Work by Behance from Behance on Vimeo.

Why my rapist gotta google me?

Spectral phantasmagoria of my peripheral vision 1981: journal drawing, winter 1981

Spectral phantasmagori of my peripheral vision: journal drawing, winter 1981

I’ve always had a problem with the phrase “my rapist”.

My "Angry Unicorn" tag, journal drawing winter 1981

My “Angry Unicorn” tag, journal drawing winter 1981

It attaches so much ownership and blame to what is actually an event that happened TO me, without my consent. It’s so much clearer to say “the man who raped me”.

Except I was groomed as a child to become a perfect assault victim, and my teenage alcoholism created a perfect storm of vulnerability, and so multiple men raped me.

Which means it’s not clear at all, to say “The man who raped me.” I can’t even say, “The man who raped me when I was fourteen”, and have it be clear.

So, one of the men who raped me when I was fourteen. The first one. Left a comment on my blog. Yesterday.

With a beloved friend and student, Charlottenburg Fall 2016

With a beloved friend and student, Charlottenburg Fall 2016

Rusty iron in my mouth, cupping my coffee cup for warmth, safe in Berlin, safe and loved, so loved, so strong, and still it sent an electric charge of nauseous danger through me.

He reaches out every few years, contacts me on social media, says he’s glad I’m doing well. That I wasn’t doing so well the last time he saw me. But never, “I’m so sorry”. Just say it. Trust me, it won’t solve the problem. You will still carry guilt and grief and horror at your actions.

But there is a tiny scrap of peace in knowing you have done due diligence at last.

I know how it is not to be able to say it. It took me thirty years to say it in one instance, to clearly and openly admit my guilt at the harm I did. And they say making amends lets you forgive yourself, but maybe sometimes it only lets you open your heart to the depth of the wrong you did or the loss you endure. And you just have to live with the depth of that wrong, just breathe it in and say I am so sorry to the universe, to the family, to the spirit of that blue-eyed boy or girl.

It makes me furious that he always mentions how I wasn’t doing so well the last time he saw me.

Opening my 80s and 90s journals box to write this piece, 2017.

Opening my 80s and 90s journals box to write this piece, Berlin 2017.

Well sure, I was a teenage alcoholic and drug addict whose boyfriend had just tried to kill himself in front of her and been locked up at Bellevue. I am an addict, a person with multiple disabling diseases of the mind and body, and me being that doesn’t make me a lesser person, or excuse the harm you did.

My alcoholism did not make me complicit in the violations that occurred to me.

Yes, no thanks to you I’ve been clean and sober for 28 years! No thanks to you I’ve sought treatment for my depression and OCD and DSPS and PTSD and spent 28 years trying to become a better person!

I dated my rapist.

Journals from the 80s and early 90s.

Journals from the 80s and early 90s.

That is, I continued to see, and had sex once or twice with, the first man who raped me when I was fourteen. For several months, until on an early Summer day, I replaced him with a gentle lover.

I was so incredibly happy that winter, when I first met Evan. The happiest I had ever been.

On January 8, 1981, my fourteenth birthday, I woke up with a clear decision in my mind.

I would try one more thing before I killed myself: becoming a drug addict.

It seemed totally reasonable; I could not endure my feelings and the pain I was in, but drugs offered a way to manage those feelings until I had more resources.

I was somehow sure that if I made it to adulthood, got away from my father, I would be able to get tools to be happy.

With GIlly and other cherished friends, Abington Square Fall 1981

With GIlly and other cherished friends, Abington Square Fall 1981

So I walked into Tony’s coffeeshop next to Stuyvesant High School, and asked where the kids with the drugs were. I found Gilly, and she took me to my people.

I had Found the Others, at only fourteen. Living in the Bay Area, I met a lot of people who hadn’t found their people til college, or til they moved to San Francisco. I was incredibly lucky, and it surely saved my life. My people were the last group of Stuyvesant Freaks, who hung out in the east half of Stuyvesant Park.

I immediately began taking all the chemicals of every kind I could find, as well as drinking. But my people didn’t drink much; they were Deadheads, and psychonauts, and hippies. So my first serious forays into drug use involved a lot of psychedelics and pot. I was stoned all the time. I smoked pot all day, and I took speed and acid with it.

My new best friend Jenny, who like all my new friends was a junior or senior, was so disappointed that I was still a virgin.

She had lost her virginity at 14, and wanted to be able to talk girl talk about sex with me. Falling in love with her, day by day, it became even more urgent to me to get rid of my hymen. I loved Jenny, I wanted to be lovers with her, but she was straight, and I couldn’t even tell her.

I had been seriously wanting to take a lover for almost a year, since before when I saw “Little Darlings” the previous summer. Boys fascinated me, mesmerized me, roused a terrible angry hunger in me, and as the Spring came on it intensified.  In early March the warmer nights began and our tribe started its routine of going to Central Park after dark.

We roamed the park in a mob, only afraid of the Guardian Angels.

The park, shunned at night by everyone but criminals in 1981, was our huge playground. One night, high on acid and jug wine, I broke my ankle falling from the Frisbee Hill rocks. My friend Billy carried me to the huge Upper West Side apartment of one of the sweetest and kindest of the Music and Art kids, an adjunct tribe to our Stuyvesant Freaks.

In the morning I woke up and realized my ankle was broken; my mom took me to the hospital where it was reassembled with a pin.

And I had a cast and crutches. Plus a vague sense that smoking pot was turning weird for me.

Inside journal cover, Winter 1981.

Inside journal cover, Winter 1981.

But I was still deliriously happy, because my friends were amazing and after I had briefly run away, my mom was taking me away from my father, to a place of our own. She had found a place, on leafy Abington Square in the West Village.

A week later, now pretty mobile, I was back at the Music and Art guy’s place for a party. I had promised Billy I wouldn’t drink this time, so my friend John suggested a nice bowl. I smoked with him in one of the rooms of tie-dyed laughing singing teenagers, the huge flat’s endless rooms filled with our people, our beautiful brilliant gifted people. (You never knew where the parents were.)

But the high went wrong, it filled me with terrible paranoia, and suddenly I felt wildly unsafe and terrified.

So John let me drink a bit of wine, to take the edge off. My friends were three and four years older than me, there was no-one my age around, and they were experienced users. I started drinking. Billy, a gentle drug-dealer who genuinely cared about me, yelled at me. I went into the bedroom of the host guy (it grieves me I no longer remember his name, maybe David or something) where I had spent the previous Saturday night struggling to get up and dance while Billy held me and explained that my ankle was hurt. It was crowded with our people, and small; the kids always got the maid’s rooms in these flats.

I was sitting on the floor, looking across at a boy I knew playing guitar.

His name was Teo, and he would become my first boyfriend. He was wearing a white embroidered cambric shirt from India, open at the chest, and he was playing “Blackbird”; his long dark curls tumbled over his shoulders. I was drinking whatever bottle was passed to me. I was so happy and so full of love for the world I’d stumbled into. I blacked out.

I came out of the blackout kissing someone. I pushed him away to find out who it was.

Age 14 or 15, on Abington Square

Age 14 or 15, on Abington Square

It was Evan, a senior who I had bought acid from once or twice. Blue Dolphins, maybe. He was a graffiti writer, and tall and slim and beautiful, with brown eyes and long golden-brown hair in a ponytail.

I found him quite acceptable as a kissing partner; he was on my mental list of guys I found hot, “candidates”. He was eighteen, a little old, but that was ok. We were sitting in the window, and it was dark; the room was empty and silent. A lot of time had passed, obviously.

I kissed him some more, and we decided to go to my place. In the lobby we were kissing, me on my crutches, him holding me up I suppose, and he pulled away and said, “Look what you’ve done to me, you goddam little nymphomaniac!”.

I had a vague idea he was a vegetarian or Buddhist or something, and I thought possibly he had committed to celibacy for some spiritual reason.

So I thought perhaps what he meant was that i was seducing him into unwanted carnal feelings. I did not fucking care. It was April, it was Spring, young people had boiling sap for blood and missing out on desire was obvious foolishness.

We caught a cab the long way down the West Side to Chelsea and walked through the dark apartment, past my father’s bedroom and through the living room where my brother slept. We went into my tiny bedroom and got on my single bed, and started making out again. At some point there were less clothes, and I was backed up against the wall at the head of the bed. My head was angled against the wall, I was propped up on my pillow, and suddenly his naked hips and his erect dick were in my face.

He shoved his cock in my mouth, and I bit him. Pretty hard, I think.

I was offended as hell. I was raised by hippies, and the 1950s idea that women should provide oral or manual release service to men to avoid having further intimacy was tacky as hell to me. I wasn’t there to get him off; I was there because I liked boys and I wanted to do sex with boys. He pulled away yelping in pain, rocked back on his heels, and said, “Alright, I’m gonna fuck you then, you bitch.”

I looked him in the eye in my dim bedroom, and I said, “See if I care”. And he pulled me down onto the bed and did it.

It hurt quite a lot. I blacked out again at some point, and of course I was very intoxicated, so luckily I missed some of it.

All my life ever since I have drawn strength from that moment, the moment when my brave-hearted fourteen-year-old self met ugliness with brio and courage. I have always been proud that I stood up to him in a spirit of sarcasm and New Yorker sass.

And I have always grieved that I didn’t wait just two months longer, til the sunny summer day when Teo and I made love in my new West Village bedroom together. But I might not have had the courage to boldly seduce Teo – which I certainly did- if I hadn’t had the confidence of being devirginized. And he was a bit of a geek, he would never have made a pass. So it goes.

In the morning Evan was odd and awkward; only now do I realize he might have been a bit of an Aspie. He demonstrated his most impressive physical skill, the lighting of a match from a book with his toes. Probably to light my cigarette; I smoked Marlboro 100s in the gold pack back then.

He got dressed and picked up my white Princess phone and wrote down the number written on the metal place. “That’s not my number”, I said. It was the number of a very bad boy I had loved in 8th grade.

He asked me for my actual number and I gave it to him. I walked him out, past my brother and my father, and locked the door. There was blood on my sheets, not too much, and I was still pretty drunk.

I did not want to discuss the matter with my father, though he gave me an inquiring leer.

The first time a boy had spent the night with me was on March 16. That boy, Gerardo, had not had the resolve or perhaps the ability to wait, and it had ended in his messy ejaculation, though I would certainly have had sex with him. After I walked him out my father had wanted to know if I was finally having sex, and did i need birth control; I had been able to evade him and say no, which at least was a good thing.

I could not wait to get to school and tell Jenny. I had beaten her by a couple months; she was almost fifteen when she lost it.

When my mom drove me to school I told her I needed birth control, and she made an appointment for me with Dr. Wolff on the Upper East Side. The camaraderie with Jenny was glorious; we sat on 15th st. in the Spring sun giggling together.

Evan sorta stuck around for the next couple weeks, in a weird,  embarrassing and embarrassed way. He would come out of school and sit with me at lunch ( I had long since stopped actually going into the school building, and went straight to the park with my friends each day.) He would sit near me but not really pay attention to me, and Billy would kiss me hello but Evan never did.

I felt like he was ashamed of me, which made me furious. Then he invited me to dinner.

Spring 1981 journal back cover Rachel Ketchum - EditedI was still on crutches, so we took a taxi. I wrote about the evening in my journal (seen below) for my beloved English professor Roger Baronat, who adored my writing and treated it with great respect while never cutting me slack for skipping class, finals and homework.

I have transcribed it here. You can see I was not in any way a normal fourteen-year-old. And also that Norman Mailer and Hunter Thompson were bad, run-on sentence influences on my early writing style.

Well. Evan said he wanted to cook dinner for me, so after school (after his– eighth – school) ( I didn’t go) it was a beautiful sunny day and we stayed, in the park, for a bit – so many people! – mmm – then found a cab (takes a while – going downtown? – they yell over their yellow doors – ) and directed it to Brooklyn. Wide-eyed, enchanted and happy I looked over the bridge – ships! ships! Look, look, see the masts? see the dock? See the sailboats? Oh! Look! This is Brooklyn? How come? Suburbs? My god, you live in the suburbs?

‘Don’t look now’ (where?) ‘but my dad’s right behind us’, said Evan, and I turned with my chin on his shoulder to peer out the back window of the checkercab. Green car. Hee. hee. heeheeheehee…’Don’t wave.’ ‘No?’…Looks like my dad…– beard-brained, ponderous, charming and soulless — trees and crowded houses, quiet streets, wonderful Victorian turrets and formica ranches – driveways and cars and bikes — oh Evan, the air smells good! – the country!! Taxi-cab driver don’t know where he’s going so we walked a sleepy lawny block, down a path — a patio, no less, fancy me going in through a screen door after fourteen years of bolts and locks? Kitchen a tribute to TV commercials and floor wax America over, but Evan’s room is just like every teenage dope fiends’ and cluttered, postered and unmade. Jimi Hendrix Experience poster on the ceiling above his bed – now I couldn’t cope with black medusa orpheus snakes above my head every night, but that’s me. I won’t go near a lay-up either.

Anyhow – we went and sat outside, sun going down, by the garden, huddled close for warmth, and then went back inside so Evan could cook. Well I did the best I could to help, and now and then his dad harassed us, and his mom came home, as sweet and soft-smiling as you could possibly imagine, soft brown pageboy hair falling over her cheeks, tall and still graceful though in a weary way; laid her head on Evan’s shoulder, for a moment aglow with creator’s awe at this tall lovely creature who was yes, her son and was now cooking dinner —

She was a little bit drunk from champagne at her office, (to celebrate an account or somewhat) and as she fixed her scotch-and-water and sat back she told us how they’d had a beastie, a chameleon, named Camile, at the party. I never quite understood why but it was enough that it had been there, crawling among the vino-damp cocktail napkins on the desks pressed into bar service, and that she’d taken pleasure in its glowy, gentle eyes and soft tummy, iridescent tail and little feet.

May 8, 1981 journal page

May 8, 1981 journal page

Since the journal was for Mr. Baronat, who knew that I was a drug user and graffiti criminal but had perfectly good boundaries about sexuality with his students, I did not mention the sex.

After dinner we went into Evan’s bedroom and he had sex with me again. I told him I had an appointment soon to get birth control, but he didn’t care one way or the other. I looked up at the Jimi Hendrix poster as he pushed into me. “Lie there and think about pizza”, Jenny said, about sex that wasn’t fun.

It hurt again, and I rocked my hips, trying to get comfortable; he hissed, “Up and down, not side to side!” I was mortified; not a good start to my career as a femme fatale. Later his dad drove me home to Manhattan. For one night it seemed like maybe he was going to be my boyfriend. But things went back to the weird not-quite-hanging out at school.

And my mom and I moved in together, to our own place, where I had a nice bedroom and a double bed and was safe from my father.

Evan came over one last time after I had my cast off and my diaphragm (Dr. Wolff, who had delivered me, said I was too young for the pill, too young for tubal ligation and he was terrified of IUDs).

We had sex in my grown-up bed, actually naked, and he actually went down on me and acted like a lover. But it was not thrilling.

There was no intimacy, it was just awkward, and I was really pissed about every single way he was an asshole.

I knew he wasn’t what I wanted, and a week later I was with Teo. And with a half dozen other boys and men by October.

A quote from Gilly, written in my Fall 1981 journal.

A quote from Gilly, written in my Fall 1981 journal.

Me age 15, with Paul, winter 1982

Me age 15, with Paul, winter 1982

Evan stopped by six months later, after my live-in boyfriend Paul had slashed his throat with a razor and been hauled off, after I’d embarked on a course of self-prescribed compassionate leave involving bottles and bottles of Valium obtained with forged prescriptions. He yelled at me about not going to school, about my drug use, and gave me a beautiful airbrushed piece of art with my name graffiti-style.

He seemed to be trying to tell me he was sorry without ever saying the words, in the 80s.

In the later half of the 80s I learned he was dating a very vulnerable and fragile sixteen-year-old friend of mine, doing Dead tour selling t-shirts with her. Figures, I said to myself. In 2008 or so he tracked me down on Facebook. Said he was glad I was doing ok, since I wasn’t in such good shape the last time he saw me. In a sober spirit of full accountability for my own sexual predation, my decades of rage at men and the time I might have had sex with a boy below the New York age of consent at 20, I did not judge him. But I could be pissed that that was the tack he’d choose to take, and I blocked his ass.

And then yesterday, checking my comment queue for the Planned Parenthood donation raffle, I saw his comment.

“Hi Rachael, your blog is incredible, and very powerful. Glad to see you are doing well.

Evan”

He left it on this post! About making amends! Where i state quite clearly that:

“The people I knew and who knew me, well, that’s up to them, and they haven’t made much progress to date.”

Jesus! Just say you’re sorry! The statute of limitations has expired!

I did horrible things in the 80s. I cheated like crazy on my sweetest boyfriends. I hit them. I froze them out emotionally when they just wanted to love me. I seduced boy virgins endlessly, thirteen in all, avenging my trauma by giving them the consent and attention and gentleness and passion I didn’t get, a night they would never forget. And then breaking up with them.

In the 80s, if you wanted to be a sexual adventurer, you paid a high price. The ratio of sexual trauma to adventure was very high, a friend my age once told one of our young women friends. Dark magic was all we had. Our desire was dangerous as hell to us.

We swung the cannons of our young bodies, firing broadsides. I suffered great harm, and I did terrible harm. Let there be healing for all who can heal.

Me and Daria at KaDeWe, November 2016

Me and Daria at KaDeWe, November 2016. She said today, 

“As for the guy, take it as they neither can live free from what they’ve done. They are evil in this story although they caused this evil not just to you but to themselves, if it’s still haunting them.”

 

Horrific insect Gothic Rococo mirror project for the Salon!

By Suzanne Forbes Gothic Rococo insect mirror 2017I made this hideous pastel nightmare of a rococo mirror over last weekend.

bug bricolage art and sculpture by Suzanne Forbes 2017I documented the process extensively for the folks who enjoy DIY how-ya-dos and the backstory to my bricolage projects!

First, I washed the lightweight plastic mirror frame I got at our local Woolworth’s for 2,99. Then I used a glue gun to attach a selection of plastic bugs, also thoroughly washed with hot water and soap.

Always wash plastic items well before attempting to paint!

There may be mold release still on them, there could be skin oils, cooking grease, anything. And any foreign substance will reduce primer adhesion.

A glue gun is really my favorite medium for attaching plastic bugs. It makes a nice solid bond to most plastics, which many adhesives of vaunted power cannot do. There is none of the risk of frosting your surfaces which cyanoacrylates like Super Glue and Zap present. Of course, I would never use only glue gun glue, because – it melts when it gets too hot! How hot?

Many glue stick glues will soften in a hot car, at least on the dash.

By Suzanne Forbes Gothic Rococo insect mirror 2017Plus, I wanted the bugs to look they were sculpted out of or onto the surface of the frame, like a bas relief. I added a bunch of plastic flowers left over from my various jewelry projects, and then I used my beloved epoxy clay, in my favored Apoxie Sculpt White (which is gray), to further secure and incorporate the bugs.

I did a rough pass with the clay, filling in gaps, and then hit the whole thing with primer. I was tormented about choosing spray primers here, because I had a good system going in the US but this is the Land of No Krylon.

It’s VERY hard to find a primer for plastic that will really bond to hard plastic items like bugs and action figures and allow you paint over it with acrylics, glue things to it and spray paint shiny finishes on it.

I’ve spent many hours reading action figure customizing sites, model car boards and model magazines, puzzling over primer and paint and plastic.

Here, I finally found and bought the Primer for Plastic by the ubiquitous (and excellent) German spraypaint company Dupli-Color. I also bought a can of Dupli-Color plain white primer. Good thing, because imagine my surprise at learning the primer was CLEAR! I shouldn’t have been surprised, because the cap was clear. Oh well.

Reading some full-size car detailing sites, I gathered it is a chemical scuff or so-called chemical sander, a surfacing agent that creates “tooth” for the paint to adhere to. People raved about the performance, but noted it’s hard to see if you’re getting good coverage with a clear primer. And since I wanted a white base, I needed to spray the whole mirror white next. Then I added color!Suzanne Forbes Gothic Rococo Insect frame 2017 collage WIP

The last picture is after the second color pass, with initial detail cleanup and color unification by means of dry brushing, washes and scumbling.

By Suzanne Forbes Gothic Rococo insect mirror 2017Here’s a detail shot of the frame after the pearl pass, made with a sheer pearl finish acrylic from the craft company Plaid’s FolkArt line. After the pearl coat, I added black glitter in clear acrylic varnish, “Extreme Glitter“. I used the pearl on the highlights and the black glitter on the midtone transitions into dark areas, but not the dark areas themselves.

I like these crafts paints for final coatings because they have a tough finish and will go on over most surfaces.

By Suzanne Forbes Gothic Rococo insect mirror 2017The last thing I added was a scattering of Swarovski crystals and iridescent crystal eyes.

By Suzanne Forbes Gothic Rococo insect mirror 2017I’m really happy with how the whole thing came out!

This piece is a hilarious mix of my BFA in Fine Arts/Painting, and thousands of hours studying action figure customizing and model making techniques.

I made an earlier version of this, a round bug mirror in blue and green shades, but I finished it right before we left for Germany.

I was terrified about leaving it in a hot storage locker in San Leandro for months, because there were so many coats of primer and different solvents involved in making it- not all of which might be fully off-gassed!

So I gave it to my friend Molly, instead.  And now I have my own.

A tribute piece to two women artists I admire, Judy Chicago and Annie Sprinkle, and a charity raffle.

By Suzanne Forbes March 8 2017 tribute JudyChicagoxAnnieSprinkleBy Suzanne Forbes March 8 2017 tribute JudyChicagoxAnnieSprinkleAfter last week’s feminist art salon, I was thinking about Pussy Power and the history of making vagina icon art.

By Suzanne Forbes March 2017 tribute JudyChicagoxAnnieSprinkle WIP

I went home last Friday and started a pussy piece, and of course I was thinking of The Dinner Party. You can’t think about pussy art and embroidery without it.

It was sometime in the 80s that I first saw Judy Chicago‘s Dinner Party. It was as a black and white photo in the Village Voice, and I remember it so clearly. It was still shocking then; it’s still revolutionary now.

By Suzanne Forbes March 8 2017 tribute JudyChicagoxAnnieSprinkle CUI have a lot of green materials around for the Green Woman project I’m working on. I had a sudden flash of inspiration for an image that would honor Annie Sprinkle and her Ecosexual work.

I became acquainted with Annie while I lived in the Bay Area and was exhibiting and drawing at Madison Young’s queer art gallery, Femina Potens.

We talked about my painting a portrait of Annie, but could never organize the timing. I still hope to, as Annie will be in Germany this summer!

I am going to raffle off this piece to raise money for Planned Parenthood.

Anyone who sends me a copy of their March $20 or more donation to Planned Parenthood (with your name, but personal details obscured of course!) will be entered to win the piece. As embroidery works take me a minimum of twenty hours, and this one took about twenty-five, it’s a chance to win a piece I would have to charge a lot for!

Calendar of Annie’s many world-wide feminist and ecosexual art activities here.

Teaching resources for The Dinner Party.

The Dinner Party long-term installation at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum.

A feminist art salon in Berlin.

dr laura by Suzanne Forbes March 3 2017A friend of mine, Miss Natasha Enquist, invited me to come along to see a movie her friend Gia Balestra has directed and produced.

The movie is called Clitorissima. It was being shown at a long-running sex-positive feminist salon. I arrived a bit late, but luckily there was a fellow outside who spoke English and told me which buzzer to press and what floor, and I went up in the lift. With my asthma, the usual Berlin staircase marathon is a no-go.

On the landing there were dozens of pairs of shoes, as you often see; it is customary to take your shoes off outside the home in Germany. I was nervous about leaving mine, because I was wearing my precious bottle-green granny boots that are a homage to proto-genderqueer YA novel Nightbirds on Nantucket. It took me almost two years of daily eBay search alerts to find a pair. And I am a New Yorker, and assume anything not nailed down will be stolen and anything nailed down defaced or set on fire.

But this is Berlin, and my shoes would be fine, and I entered a room packed with all kinds of women and a few cismen, and someone made space for me on the floor and gave me a pillow to sit on.

Sexclusivitaeten‘s house sexpert Dr. Laura Méritt was displaying a beautiful vagina hand puppet, with detailed anatomical features, wonderful for therapy and education.

Gia Balestra by Suzanne Forbes March 3 2017 BerlinAnd then the film was introduced; I had arrived just in time. Here’s Gia introducing the film.

It is a mixture of documentary and animation. As she talked about interviewing the women she made this beautiful, graceful gesture with her hands, describing the shape of the vulva and clitoral arms. Inscribing it in space, a reiterative dance, so lovely.

About Clitorissima:

Giancarla Balestra (Vulvah Van Klitt Productions), directed/produced the short documentary “Clitorissima” which is a series of interviews with women asking the same question: “At which age, and on which occasion, did you have clitoris awareness?”. She teamed up with the Danish Animator and Illustrator Sara Koppel (Naked Love Film & Koppel Animation) with the mission to normalize and facilitate the first mother/daughter conversation about clitoris and clitoris awareness, told through interviews with various clitoris owners, and storytelling through animation.

It was the winner of ‘Outstanding Creative Vision Award’ at the CineKink Film Festival, NYC, USA, March 2016!

CLITORISSIMA – Official Trailer (Italian subtitles) from Vulvah Van Klitt Productions on Vimeo.

Sara Koppel AnimatorThe film is so beautiful and magical. It would be wonderful for parents to show their young kids; it is elegant, cheerful and not graphic.

The artist who drew the exquisitely blooming animation sequences is Sara Koppel of Naked Love Film and Koppel Animation, left. She is so very extraordinarily talented.

Her previous sex educational work, which came out of talks with Gia in the Berlin sex-positive scene, is a short movie called “Little Vulvah and her Clitoral Awareness“. Which has won just buckets of awards and would also be a treasure to show your young child. You can watch the trailer and buy it here.

The vibe at my first Sexclusivitäten event was cozy and warm, and everyone was friendly. My drawing was enjoyed and supported. It was like the first time I went to SF Citadel and met August; I felt so at home. I got stickers!

puzz powerI am enormously excited about the upcoming event celebrating menopause; I find it is really necessary to learn more about this process as I go through it and I am thrilled to be meeting members of a community that has such an open and creative dialogue.

In the Bay being involved with Midori‘s fundraisers, supporting her performances and creating work with her was so important to me, as was working and exhibiting with Madison Young and her Femina Potens gallery. I look forward to getting to know and doing creative work with kindred spirits here.

Upcoming Sexclusivitaten salon events can be seen here! And workshops!

“For the whole month of March sex-expert Laura Meritt and her team offer an insight into the evolution of pussy power. 10 years ago the (Women’s) March was declared the month of vulvas to push its popularity forward and strengthen the sexual confidence of every vulva owner. All the events take place in the rooms of Exclusivitäten and offer a diverse program consisting of an exhibition, films and workshops around the female sexual organ. Viva la Vulva!”

 

 

 

Unterweg Drawings Nr. 4 – March!

Berlin clarinetists by Suzanne Forbes March 3 2017Lots of amazing unterweg drawing opportunities already this month!

These clarinet guys were reconstructed from a glimpse while my train was stopped at the platform they were on. I focused on details like their different styles of coat, their backpacks behind them, their hairstyles- so I not only didn’t get the specifics of the station, I don’t remember what station it was!

Accordionists at Yorckstrasse by Suzanne Forbes March 1 2017

Me and Daria went to a cafe in a cemetery, and it was the most wonderful place you could ever imagine.

I’m not telling which one, cause it’s too precious. When we left we saw these accordionists in the station, and she got on her train but I stayed to draw them. Using the set of grayscale markers I received as a 50th b-day gift from a beloved friend-muse-Patron has been so fun and rewarding.

Longboard by Suzanne Forbes March 1 2017Me and Daria went to Modulor, the legendary amazing Berlin art supply store. They have EVERYTHING. It is a terrible, evil place, just as she had warned me. We were running around saying “Bad, this is bad,  yes it is a bad place.” “Ok I just need this one more thing-” “Of course this too-”

Also the cafe there, Rock-Paper, has fantastic American style chocolate chip cookies. Better than serviceable Snap (which luckily has just opened a branch in our U-Bahn station), better than decent Scoom, even better than quite good Shakespeare and Sons. If you are in Berlin and your heart is aching for a real, American, gosh damm actual chocolate chip cookie, you should go to Rock-Paper.

On the way there and I back I drew this guy with the longest longboard I had seen since the early 80s. He said it was 1.4m.

Berlin, du bist so wunderbar!

 

Learning to sculpt: an ongoing relationship with epoxy clay.

Sculpted goat foot candleholder by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2017I finally finished this terrifying goat foot candlestick!

WIP goat foot candleholder sculpted by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2016I started it in 2015, at our first apartment in Berlin.

I had seen something similar on some luxury housewares or design website, and I was like, I can make that! Plus, it’ll be great sculpting practice!

It’s built on a tall narrow glass caper jar, the lid of the caper jar, tin foil and wooden rings from the craft store.

It was months before our stuff arrived in the shipping container, so I used what was around!

Once I had built the base, I had to cover it with fur.

Each row of fur tufts has to harden before the next one can be sculpted (unless you want to be really careful, and I never manage to be careful enough; I always wind up squishing what I just laboriously sculpted).  So each time I worked on a project that used epoxy clay, I would save a little bit at the end to add a row of fur tufts. There are roughly fourteen rows, so that’s a lot of projects!

Once I added the last row of fur last night, I started a new project.

bug bricolage art by Suzanne Forbes 2017 WIPI bought this rococo mirror* made of some weightless extruded foam plastic during my art supply mission on Saturday.

used a glue gun to quickly affix the bugs and flowers and fill in any space between them and the frame. Then I did a first pass with epoxy clay.

I used it to reinforce the attachment of little legs (it’s very strong) and sculpt new curlicues to incorporate the bug shapes.

When we get a warm sunny day I’ll hit the whole thing with white primer for plastic (which I finally found here, in the excellent DupliColor brand) so I have a uniform surface and can add detail better. Then add paint and Swarovski crystals!WIP bug bricolage art and sculpture by Suzanne Forbes 2017

Done with that, I hauled out all my other sculpture projects from 2015 and started finishing them up!

Diana bust WIP sculpture by Suzanne Forbes 2017Diana bust WIP sculpture by Suzanne Forbes 2017One of the wonderful things about epoxy clay is that you can apply it directly over practically anything, including baked polymer clay, like the mantis.

You can read about the start of the mantis here, and you can read in great detail about my experience beginning to sculpt and learning to use epoxy clay here.

It’s so much easier to work on the hair of my Diana bust now that I’ve had all this experience making fur!

I’ll keep you guys posted on the process of all these projects, unless I get derailed by some new obsession and they go back in the queue!

goat foot candlestick by Suzanne Forbes Feb 28 2017 WIPWhile I was painting the goat foot with many layers of metallic paints, I mixed up too much blackened gold-umber-bronze.

When the only tool you have is a brush full of bronze paint, everything looks like it needs to be painted bronze. I changed the zombie hand I resculpted at Halloween from glitter black to bronze and FINALLY dry-brushed highlights onto the ram’s horn mirror I bought for our hallway before we left the US. Always be finishing!

*You can see the reflection of one of Daria’s drawings in the mirror, from one of our earliest art trades.

A four-hour portrait painting of Victoria Victrola in Berlin!

Victoria Victrola by Suzanne Forbes Feb 27 2017When you live in Berlin, your friends tell you when their friends are coming to town.

victoria victrola by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2008Our latest visitor from the US is Miss Victoria Victrola, a Bay Area based musician, entertainer and event creator.

She is well known in the Bay for her music and her delightful tea parties, enjoyed at such events as the Edwardian Ball. (There’s an upcoming one with Edwardian Ball house band Rosin Coven too!)

When Whitney sent me her contact info, I thought, she looks familiar! I’ve drawn this woman at an event somewhere!

 

I looked through my hundreds of drawings on flickr and found one I’d done of Victoria doing a living statue performance in 2008, as seen above.

So I asked Victoria if she would pose for me again, and she came by on Sunday afternoon and we made this lovely painting.

Victoria Victrola by Suzanne Forbes WIP Feb 27 2017

Her attire, a true vintage suit and hat, was so charming.

Victoria Victrola by Suzanne Forbes WIP Feb 27 2017

She works one day a week at OverAttired, the exquisitely sourced and curated vintage clothing shop of my friends Sam and Monica.

Victoria Victrola by Suzanne Forbes WIP Feb 27 2017

We had a wonderful visit, catching up on news from our community in SF, Oakland and Berkeley. After we’d finished the sitting and gone downstairs to the pub for some hearty German fare, I explained that I would finish the picture the next day.

Victoria Victrola by Suzanne Forbes WIP Feb 27 2017

The final adjustments to a portrait, like tuning in on a radio station, are best made the following day with fresh eyes and hands and a clean palette. Above is the picture the way it looked when I picked it up this “morning” (around 2pm, after coffee) and below is after the final corrections.Victoria Victrola by Suzanne Forbes CU Feb 27 2017

I’ve been painting on board for the first time in decades and really enjoying it. A smooth surface is so receptive to detail. I’m very grateful to Whits for connecting me with Victoria, and to Victoria for a bright dose of gothic rococo vintage chic and charm in late winter!