Tag Archives: feminist art

Finishing my big new portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux!

Portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux before bifurcation by Suzanne Forbes Oct 17 2017

Portrait of Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux before bifurcation by Suzanne Forbes, Oct 17 2017

I finished my biggest painting in like twelve years!

At 30″ by 80″ (76cm by 204cm), these conjoined canvases form a fine large surface. I could have gone the traditional route, setting my sitters deep within the pictorial space with plenty of air around them. But I wanted something more demanding of my abilities and more interrogative of the viewer, a compressed space with an exploded perspective that tips the viewer into the painting’s world.

Portrait Sadie Lune cu by Suzanne Forbes Oct 17 2017Into the dangerous, powerful air breathed by artists Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux.

Portrait of Sadie Lune by Suzanne Forbes Oct 18 2017I set up the perspective of the picture with the idea that Sadie and Jo should take up as much space in it as possible.

At some point in the 90s I read a quote from Roseanne Barr, where she advised young actresses to “take up as much space as you possibly can.”

I think this is a great idea for women, to just occupy space with our presence and authority and strength and certainty, and in Sadie’s case, coiled professional menace.

I had done a painting that utilized an exploded perspective in 2005, the portrait of Khris Brown that is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever done (below right).

I approached the portrait I did of Rah Hell this summer the same way, opening and flattening the pictorial space to force the viewer to acknowledge her carelessly confident drummer’s body (below left). Our Art Nouveau herringbone wood floors work even better for distorting the perspective than the floors in my Berkeley Craftsman did.Portraits by Suzanne Forbes 2005 and 2017

To get the exaggerated foreshortening of my model’s forms, I simply alternate between sitting and standing with the easel very close to the model.

Then I make decisions about scale and positioning, as described in the previous post, and position one foot to break the frame, my signature! This is a straightforward way of suggesting that the power of the woman in the portrait can’t be contained by the picture plane. And it also references my career in comics and my love for comic panel design.

You can see here how close I was to the model chair.After the third sitting Sadie and Jo WIP by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017

During the long third sitting, Sadie and Jo and I talked about art and sex and power.

Sadie and I reminisced about the wonderful Oughts’-era climate for sex-positive kinky art in San Francisco. We talked about the many performances and shows we did for Madison Young’s queer art gallery Femina Potens and the events, like Sadie’s birthday party, at the Center For Sex and Culture. For a while the background of the painting looked like the Leather Pride Flag!After the third sitting Sadie and Jo WIP by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017

Jo, who is a photographer, told us an amazing story of when she met Nan Goldin.

The whole process of making the painting has been nourishing and strengthening, a collaborative meeting of minds and talents. Sadie and Jo both brought their A game to the work, serving tremendous presence and face and great physical stamina.

Portrait of Sadie and Jo detail by Suzanne Forbes Oct 2017After the final sitting I dug in and sorted out the background and details. As much as I liked the Leather Pride colors, I wanted to paint the realistic space of my salon, to ground the figures in a real world and place the viewer in it with them.

I adjusted the perspective of the floor over and over, to give the immanence I wanted to Sadie and Jo.

And I repainted Jo’s hands like a million times, so they would only be substantial artist’s hands, not disorientingly large! I had fun painting the Autumn goddess head-dresses of leaves and rosehips Jo and Sadie wore to Folsom Europe for a performance this year.

I very carefully composed the shadows at Sadie’s feet to guide the eye to the vicious tip of her singletail, which actually is the dark blue and black colors I painted it.

I gave Jo a branch to hold because I was like, “Needs moar witch!” Once the details were done, it was time to separate the two canvases for transport to Ludwig, where they will be shown. I didn’t know what would happen once they were separated; the painting looked finished and resolved with them conjoined but….

With the canvases separated, the blue background wall panel behind Jo (left side) became a dead space!Portrait of Jo Pollux by Suzanne Forbes before and after Oct 18 2017I had to activate it visually with shadows.

Which was good, really, as it made the unused pink velvet boudoir chair more significant. I like to include pink velvet furniture, like my sadly lost dusty rose velvet model’s armchair, in my paintings. Not only is pink velvet a great visual reference to pussy, it references a powerful moment in my experience as an artist.

In 1993 I went to Philadelphia with my first husband. We went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where we saw the Cornells, Duchamp’s Étant donnés and the Degas known as both “Interior” and “The Rape”. I can’t begin to describe the impact that group of works had on me, but I can tell you the most important thing I carried away: that women need to make paintings of women.

Jo Pollux detail by Suzanne Forbes Oct 18 2017For decades I have been both inspired by the great male painters and furious that men have made most of the great paintings of women.

My spiritual master as an artist, John Singer Sargent, was not sexually involved with women. He made pictures of them as beings. Numinous, sensual, prickly, elegant, fearless beings. I am hoping in the next few years to really move into my abilities as a painter, and to begin painting women with all the strength I see in them.

It really helps to make big paintings, when you want to depict strength and grace, and I hope this diptych is a step towards that.

This work was made possible by the generosity of my Patrons on Patreon, who contribute monthly support to enable me to make art. I am so, so grateful.

You can help for as little as a buck a month!

In Berlin and wanna see it in person and hear me and Sadie talk about art, gender, portraiture as service and more? Come to Ludwig this Sunday, Oct 22, at 8pm for an artist’s talk and vernissage!

Sadie and Jo are both brand-new on Patreon, you can help them make feminist art!

 

 

Snow Queen/White Witch OOAK Doll with sledge and reindeer, finished!

Snow Queen Jadis with carriage and reindeer by Suzanne Forbes May 2017I finally finished her!

I am amazing, and amazed by myself! Jadis, The White Witch, The Snow Queen, the Ice Queen, as I always imagined her.

I’d been wanting to make a doll like this since the early 90s in St. Paul. At a fancy shop in Summit Hill I saw a teacup fairy by Stephanie Blythe and Susan Snodgrass.

The delicacy, the precision, the tiny, tiny crystals- there was something about it that moved me deeply.

I had no idea you could get such tiny materials. The thought of handling such tiny things was exhilarating to me. I imagined I could make tiny dolls of characters I loved. I could make a tiny world.

Snow Queen OOAK doll by Suzanne Forbes May 2017I was still waiting to start my dollhouse then, still holding a space for that project open in my future.

Snow Queen by Suzanne Forbes May 2017I didn’t want to open the door to even more collecting and supply hoarding madness, I didn’t dare try such things myself, but I bought some porcelain doll parts and kept them.

I held my love for the teacup fairy in my heart, held the space for those tiny crystals dotting her bodice in my mind, setting the image gently in my mental room for miniature art.

Every time I moved, I packed my craft materials. My porcelain doll heads and limbs, my ever-growing collection of wired ribbon and metallic organza and silver cord and microbeads and glitter, travelled from St. Paul to Hartford to DC to Arlington to Alameda to Albany to Berkeley to North Berkeley to Albany to Glenview to West O to Oakland.

In Berkeley in 2000 I began building my dollhouse at last and collecting 1/12th scale action figures.

Miniature sex toys by Suzanne Forbes 2007

I subscribed to miniature magazines and went to miniature shows.

my first polymer clay OOAK doll by Suzanne Forbes 2011

my first polymer clay OOAK doll by Suzanne Forbes 2011

I met Monique Motil, dollmaker extraordinaire. I started sculpting little things with polymer clay for the dollhouse and reading about action figure customizing techniques.

I scoured the internet for methods, materials and supplies. And at our little Craftsman flat in Oakland in 2011, I finished my dollhouse and started making dolls.

I started my Snow Queen project in 2013.

I had been home to New York for holidays with my husband’s family and I had just seen snow for the first time in fifteen years. On a magical Christmas Eve we went to church in Freehold, New Jersey and when we came out delicate flakes were falling.

The night before In the city I’d stood at the rail of the skating rink in Bryant Park; a tween wiped out and came up laughing, clapping his cold hands over mine.Snow Queen in carriage with reindeer by Suzanne Forbes May 2017

I fell in love with the cold again, the way the stars get lean in a winter sky and the way everything is so sharp.

I remembered the way I loved the cold in WInter’s Tale, the way it muffled my footsteps when I walked through a silent Chinatown to buy heroin on New Year’s Day in 1989, the sparkling lavender twilight of April snow at the treatment center in St. Paul.

iridescent microbeads from MorezmoreIn the dark California January I drove to Michael’s and JoAnn Fabrics and Beverlys and bought bags full of 90% off Christmas decor. Icicles and glitter snow and white fur and pale iridescent sequins.

I ordered Swarovski crystals in colors like Silver Shadow, Moonlight and Opal. I discovered the amazing doll supplier MorezMore. I ordered nail decals of flocked snowflakes from China and Ball-jointed Doll clothing buckles from Taiwan. I bought pearlescent microbeads and fusible fairy films.

Snow Queen OOAK Doll by Suzanne ForbesI learned the sizes Swarovski crystals come in, and where to get the very tiniest.

tiniest-swarovski-crystalsI made the sledge first. The sledge is made of three different plastic Christmas ornament sleighs, some pvc holiday ornament pieces, polystyrene sheets and strips, clear polythene sheeting, crazy glue and balsa wood.

It’s all stuck together with epoxy clay, polished and sanded smooth. The shafts are the bow pieces of dollar sunglasses!

I got so many materials in the basement of Ace Hardware in Berkeley, in the huge model and railroad hobby section. I’d lean on the counter and talk techniques with the guys there for hours.

I primed the sledge with Krylon Primer for Plastics. You can read about my adventures with priming mixed plastics here and here. Then I spray-painted it with four shades of Tamiya pearl and flake model car paints, one of the most fascinating rabbit holes of materials I went down.

I spent a lot of time on model car boards, reading about how to avoid the dread “orange peel effect” and how to clear coat.

Our back steps were my spray room, and the California drought of those years was a huge asset, I gotta admit.

Snow Queen OOAK Doll by Suzanne ForbesI used crazy glue and Zap-A-Gap to bond the styrene, plastic and balsa elements.

I used a Japanese product called Sakura 3D Crystal Lacquer, which is used by Lolis and Harajuki girls to adhere bling, aka “decoden”, to their phones, to attach a lot of the sledge decor.

The sledge is decorated with hundreds of the very, very tiniest Swarovski crystals, some smaller than the head of a pin, laboriously applied while watching all seven (at the time) seasons of Supernatural (twice!) and tiny, tiny flocked and glittered snowflake nail art decals. And upholstered with silver velvet, button-tufted using pretty antique silver scrapbook art brads and quilt batting over cardstock. I glued the velvet to the cardstock with my beloved Quick Grip/Quick Grab, which is my absolute favorite for small textile work.

As any burner or steampunk can tell you, assemblage art lives or dies by its adhesives.

tiny-buckles-from-RIo-Rondo

The reindeer is made of a cellulose acetate reindeer from the ’50s, legs sawed off and replaced with new sculpts, and head, body and neck heavily re-sculpted.

This kind of Frankensteining is a classic action figure customizing technique; the materials and techniques for creating the miniature harness come from the model horse customizing community, and the handling of the mohair mane from the dollmaking world.

(I’m allergic to mohair, like wool, it turns out.)

I also used the 3D Crystal to get a clear dome over his eyes and a gloss of mucus in his nostrils. The flocking on his ears is nail artist’s flock- much cheaper than the art store!

Snow-Queen-by-Suzanne-Forbes-May-2017-reindeer-headshot-cu

Snow-Queen-by-Suzanne-Forbes-May-2017-reindeerThe tiny silver leather strips for the harness came mostly from a handbag making supply company in Los Angeles; I found it on etsy. I bought many different silver cords and strings at a passementarie shop in the New York Garment district during my second trip back East for the holidays. And for four years I saved every single piece of silver stuff I got, from silver elastic on dress tags to silver pvc on packaging.

Then I had to make a Snow Queen figure!

Snow queen doll WIP Suzanne ForbesI was totally ok with customizing an existing figure; my many hundred hours on action figure boards has made me very comfortable with the idea of remixing sculpture.

I would never, ever, ever copy another artist’s drawing or painting- or even their style- or use elements of someone else’s drawing or photograph in one of my drawings or paintings. I just don’t do that.

But sculpture is play to me, something I do for pleasure. I like the idea that assemblage art incorporates existing elements. And dollmakers commonly use finished porcelains from well-known sculptor to paint and dress. It’s a medium where collaboration is normal.

So ultimately I decided to use the top of a commercial resin mermaid and the legs of a resin fairy to build my Snow Queen.

Snow queen doll WIP Suzanne ForbesI sawed and sanded as needed, then fit the two halves together, and then I used epoxy clay to bulk out her body. Because I love muscle on women’s shoulders, and a big butt, aesthetically! I left her ribcage and waist slim because they would have layers of tiny fabric corseting on them.

And she needed boobs too, sculpted to fit in a square Elizabethan type bodice. Then I had to completely resculpt her face, to give her the strength and archness she needed.

And I needed to bulk up her thighs and sculpt boots on her feet. And lengthen her fingers. And sand off and resculpt her ears. I think she was resculpted, primed and sanded about ten times altogether. Her final finish was partly achieved with Mr. Surfacer priming medium, which i learned about from Daria’s dollmaking. She is streets more advanced than my crazy haphazardness!

By December of this year, my Jadis was close to finished at last.

project-kit-Snow-Queen-OOAK-Suzanne-ForbesI got the project box I brought over in the shipping container out, intending to paint and dress her.

But I got nervous about working on the project suddenly and instead I used up some of the extra materials in the project box making Fearless Pink Gay Santa and his Jolly Ally Reindeer. Which came out great! And I used the fusible fairy film and it was super cool!

Then I made a whole bunch of other dolls!  And sculptures! And mixed media stuff! And a mantis doll! Was my poor Snow Queen doll ever gonna get finished?

faceup-Snow-Queen-OOAK-by-Suzanne-Forbes-2017Yes, she was. Because even though it was now April, and she was no longer seasonal, I had just finished my leafy green beaded Swamp Thing corset (reveal soon!), the second to last of the projects I brought from Oakland.

I really wanted to knock out the last unfinished thing and get rid of the last “project box”. So I can start all my new Berlin projects!

With that thought in mind, I nerved myself up and just went for it. I used nail art brushes I bought for 1€ to paint her face because I didn’t want to buy expensive tiny brushes. I’d never painted anything tiny before and didn’t know if I’d like it. But it went great! And I love her snotty smug 80s made-up face! She looks like Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth and Mia Sara in Legend, right?

Snow Queen OOAK Doll by Suzanne ForbesWigging and dressing her was easy, after that; Daria gave me a personal doll-wigging workshop last year and I have made so many tiny corsets now it’s NBD. And then she was, done, suddenly, after four years. In the green and glowing Spring, but so what? There will always be another Winter. She will look beautiful in the dark winter nights.

I’ve learned to trust the process with making art; I finish most things when it’s time for them to be finished.

What I’m saying here is, it’s okay to have a long game as an artist. In fact, the long game is pretty much the only game in town for most of us.

 

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.