First event of 2020 – a private party at Maze for Kay’s T-Birthday!

My pov at Kays birthday party Jan 9 2020 by Suzanne ForbesMy friend Sadie’s co-parent Kay invited me to his T-Birthday party.

It was my first time at a t-birthday! And I got to see someone get their first testosterone shot too, isn’t that cool? Lots of Berlin queer legends were in effect, that’s Laura Méritt of the PorYes Awards dancing above.

I asked the guy sitting next to me if he knew Kay and was there for the party. No, he said, he was here with his friend to talk to the club about hiring the space, and they decided to have a beer. “This is the third beer…” he said. Everyone in Berlin is wearing berets lately!

Kay at his 11th T birthday party Jan 9 2020 by Suzanne ForbesHere is the birthday boy, in his first outfit!

He wore multiple looks during the event of course.

Kaey performs at Kays birthday party Jan 9 2020 by Suzanne ForbesThe MC was lovely Kaey, in the most incredible Space Invaders graphic houndstooth dress.

She sang a tender version of “Creep” for all us weirdoes 🙂

Ceven performs at Kay birthday party Jan 9 2020 by Suzanne ForbesI saw Ceven perform for the first time since he began his drag journey.

He slipped out of a bunny onesie (he’s in the drawing below), then a flight suit!Crowd at Kays birthday party Jan 9 2020 by Suzanne Forbes

I was drawing loose and sketchy, because the light was mostly red light and fog machine.

And I was squished up with the beret guy and his friend on a squishy low couch. My pens kept falling between us and then I had to fish them out from under his butt.

The underground brick vault of a club, Maze, used to be BangBang, and before that it was legendary Queer Berlin homespace Schwuz. Schwuz is now a huge fancy place, but Kay and Sadie remember the basement days 🙂 and I was mistaken for Nina Hagen in the courtyard.

Kay P Rinha performs at Kays birthday party Jan 9 2020 by Suzanne ForbesThis is performer Kay P. Rinha, shaking it tough!

There were many Kays last night, and they were all amazing.

I was able to be there and document them because of my Patrons. As a queer, disabled artist, crowdfunded support is the only way I can make this work and release it for free. 

You can join my Patreon Patrons, for as little as a dollar/euro a month, to keep me working and releasing my documentary art of Queer Berlin as Free Art.

 

 

For the archives: My queer gaze, as expressed in pinups.

Pinup of flapper Spring 1982 or 3 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesI was always drawing pretty women, as a teen.

I was inspired by the great illustrators, like Alphonse Mucha and Maxfield Parrish, then by SF artists – by sixteen my bedroom was wallpapered with Boris Vallejo- and then by the comic artists who were known for their “Good Girl Art”, which does not mean art of good girls.

I believe the golfing flapper above dates from Spring 1983, when I had dropped out of Stuyvesant and was taking fashion illustration classes at The Art Student’s League of New York, waiting to be old enough to matriculate at Parsons. Before I discovered comics in Fall 1984, I wanted to be a newspaper fashion illustrator, which was a total real job then!

This drawing of a futuristic sex worker, in an imagined 2001, is probably from late 1982 or early 1983.

I can date most of my old drawings pretty well by what I had learned of my craft at that point! This drawing shows the street-hustling sex worker (although that term didn’t exist then) checking in with her boss via a little Bluetooth type headset, and dosing herself with drugs via a push-button in her hand that goes to her arm. Not a judgment – I just knew a lot of sex workers who were junkies in my teens, and I thought it would be nice if it was convenient for them. It looks like I designed it to be safe and prevent overdoses.

This bondage girl is from later 1984.

I think it may have been one of the portfolio drawings I used to get into Parsons – you were supposed to do an illustration from a book and I did The Story of O. Yup, I got into Parsons School of Design with a GED and a bunch of smutty pinups.

Fetish pinup drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes Oct 29 1986This one, from 1986, was probably drawn as a present for my friend Chris Claremont.

Because it’s signed. I didn’t sign most work until the 90s, except when giving it as a gift. Why didn’t I sign my art? Because it wasn’t good enough to meet my own standards yet most of the time. It didn’t look like what I saw in my head yet.

And I was really IN the process of learning to get better, and really just working the process. Some days I still am!

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

Until today, no modern media record of these drawings existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

 

 

Last drawings of the year – fabulous drag performers of course!

Adele Computer performs at Bushwig Berlin Dec 30 2019 by Suzanne ForbesHere are some more glamorous folx from Bushwig Berlin, where I drew the most performers in a single day ever!

Seriously, I still have a couple left to finish, and there are THREE other Bushwig Berlin posts! Above is the marvelous Adele Computer, so sassy and so spectacular.

Sasha Kills at Bushwig Berlin Dec 30 2019 by Suzanne ForbesAbove with the swan and the shark, Sasha Kills, whose performance “MALIBU” included both inflatable beach gear and blood.Performer at Bushwig Berlin Dec 30 2019 by Suzanne ForbesPerformer 2 at Bushwig Berlin Dec 30 2019 by Suzanne Forbes

Performer at Bushwig Berlin Dec 30 2019 by Suzanne ForbesTrying to get ahold of credits and links for the other four performers, so if anybody knows, let me know!

As usual these drawings are licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) for all to share and enjoy!

In addition, I release the copyright on each drawing to the performer shown and they may use the drawings for their own profit and pleeeasssure in any way they choose. Thanks to the chill-as-heck venue Festsaal Kreuzberg. And to Bushwig for having me!

As a fat, queer, disabled artist, crowdfunded support is the only way I can make this work and release it for free. 

You can join my Patreon Patrons, for as little as a dollar/euro a month, to keep me working and releasing my documentary art of Queer Berlin as Free Art.

More Carnivorous Plant Art!

Carnivorous flowering alien plant in glass dome by Suzanne Forbes Dec 2019Still rolling on the creative high of this theme!

This large flowering alien carnivorous alien plant is made of marbled shades of green Sculpey, mixed with 40% translucent Sculpey to let some light through, and the teeth are made of translucent Sculpey mixed with white Sculpey Bake-and-Bend. I ran the floral wire stems of the Audreiis through ready-made plastic succulents, added “silk” flowers leaves, and wrapped everything together with floral tape.

Then I drilled a hole into the wood base to hold the stem. You can see a little bit of not-yet-painted Apoxie Sculpt where I filled in the gap in the base intended for fairy light wire. I’m quite happy with this creature and I’m keeping it for our house. Creepalicious right???Carnivorous plant fascinators by Suzanne Forbes Dec 2019 set of four

I also made four fascinator hats, using the sculpted Venus Flytraps, “silk” leaves, velvet, fleece, felt and trims.

I stuck everything together with my favorite textile glue, UHU Alleskleber (which is similar to Quick Grab/Quick Grip in the States).

They have little satin garter tabs at the back, to put a bobby pin through for extra stability.

The wires at the bases of the plants go through a hole pierced in the fascinator base and are spiraled, glued down and covered with felt. I hate the idea of something I make not holding up to wear!

I put two up for sale, one goes in my birthday party art giveaway, and I’m keeping one. 25€ from each sale went to Give Something Back to Berlin, an organization supporting refugees.

Carnivorous plant fascinator by Suzanne Forbes Dec 2019 burgundyThe one above sold to a lovely collector of my work who is giving it as a gift – it makes me so happy, as did making the donation to GSBTB!

Carnivorous alien plants by Suzanne Forbes Dec 2019And I made potted Alien Carnivorous Plants!

I used ceramic pots, tinfoil as filler/stabilizer, spackle/glue on top and some very, very old ground cover from the “California Missions” kits sold in CA craft stores.

One of these was sold to a friend who collects my work, for a Christmas gift for his hubby! The other is going in the art giveaway I’m having on my birthday.

Carnivorous alien plant by Suzanne Forbes Dec 2019I also wanted to donate art to the charity raffle for Jews!Jews!Jews!, a wonderful burlesque show created by Lolita Vavoom and Nana Schewitz, which celebrates Jews and Jew-adjacent performers.

I thought a fascinator might not be as universal an item as a freestanding plant that wants to eat your face. And I was a little worried about the fragility of a plant in a pot during a club night.

Carnivorous alien plants in domes by Suzanne Forbes Dec 2019So, Alien Venus Flytrap in a tube!

The domes are plastic, but they look quite nice and cause me much less stress than using glass. Some lucky raffle winner will take one of these creepers home tonight. Sleep well, raffle winner!!

This has been such a fun and refreshing little Alien Plant Party, and I hope you have enjoyed it as well. The previous posts are here and here!

 

December 2019 Unterwegs: Buff Gay Lovebirds and Cannibal Kids!

Child eats dads head unterwegs by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2019I saw this sweet family on the bus one night recently.

Apparently, when you have a child, they sometimes try to eat your head. And the child’s mother thinks it’s funny, so there’s no help there.

Buff lovebirds on the U Bahn by uzanne Forbes Dec 2 2019I saw these buff sweethearts on the subway this summer, then the drawing languished unfinished til December!

They were happy to pose and I gave them my card, I hope they‘re not disappointed it took a while to get posted!

I am so grateful that the monthly financial support of my Patreon Patrons makes it possible for me to document Berlin people like this.

I believe these people and their stories matter, and I’m able to make these drawings and share them because I’m crowdfunded and can be flexible in managing my limited resources. Click here to help, for as little as a dollar/euro per month.

Beetle tiara, beetle necklace and finished insect corset!

Bead embroidered insect corset tiara and necklace by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019Good heavens. The insect outfit project got a little out of hand.

Typical for me!  Bead embroidered insect corset tiara and necklace by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019

beetle bricolage tiara by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019I made a tiara, using my usual method of embellishing an existing metal flora tiara with decorative elements. This time, beetle brooches and wired loops of iridescent beads and crystals. The beads were left over from the corset.

The beetle brooches are inexpensive enameled pot metal, bought on eBay. They are the last of my cheap art materials bought by mail, as I’m taking a consumer break and eliminating non-local purchases as much as I can. I have enough 3D art supplies to make bricolage stuff for years anyway!

I always wire everything on, for strength.

I had some copper wire that matched the tiara, but I also used gold to split the difference between the base color of the beetles. My design/decorating motto is always, add more stuff til it all goes together/the mistakes are hidden/it has so many colors it will match anything.

I use E6000 on top of the wire to cover any scratchy sharp wire ends and stabilize the knots and connections.

Halfway through, I ran out of regular E6000 and had to order the new “odorless” E6000 Plus. My Beloved Friend, Muse and Patron Monique Motil, master costumier, often said of E6000, “The bad smell is how you know it’s gonna work!” and I would laugh.

Of course, I’ve always been a person who was totally cavalier about chemicals and fumes, because of my misspent youth, but now that I have overlapping autoimmune diseases I’m rethinking that.

So I was willing to try the new version, but I was initially disappointed. E6000 Plus is described as self-leveling, and tbh the old kind was too, but I find the Plus a bit runnier.

Regarding adhesion, I tested the bond a few hours on, when the glue was dry to the touch, and the glue blobs peeled right off!

However, I love to research adhesives, and I read on a forum that the bond isn’t strong til the glue is fully cured. And behold, after 24 hours the bonds seem pretty good.

So, making the switch to E6000Plus until I can get some nontoxic GemTak, which my Beloved Friend and Muse Noéline la Bouche swears by, as does master headdress maker Sylva of Bubbles and Frown.

For the necklace I prised off the pinback parts of some beetle brooches. The brooches are made of fairly soft pot metal and the pinback portions are generally soldered on; they can usually be broken off with jewelry pliers.

Suz’s most serious crafting and bricolage tip: have a set of jewelry tools at your elbow at your worktable.

You will use them every day, although rarely for actual jewelry. The broken solder left sharp, ragged edges, but rather than file them down (I’m working on the dust exposure problem too!) I just covered them with the Apoxie Sculpt I used to attach the eye pins.

The stems of the eye pins were quickly formed into loops to give the epoxy clay something to secure – even though Apoxie Sculpt adheres well to metal, a straight pin could pull out. Once the Apoxie Sculpt was cured, I used jump rings to attach the beetles to a cheap pot metal necklace. The jump rings give the bugs a little movement which is fun, and keep them from fouling the links of the necklace.

Bead embroidered insect corset by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019Finishing the corset was just a matter of another forty or fifty hours of beading and embroidering.

I used a lot of metallic filament at the end, to unify the machine-embroidered appliques with the beading and the crystals. I got the colored metallic filaments, which are plastic rather than thread, in a pack of ten colors at the Euro store.

Bead embroidered insect corset by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019I have used up my whole supply now and gotta find some more, as most metallic embroidery thread is simply the devil’s dingleberries.

Bead embroidered insect corset by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019(I did not make up that phrase. One of my boyfriends, astonished at my passion for capers, said that “Capers are the Devil’s dingleberries.” Not something one forgets.)

Bead embroidered insect corset by Suzanne Forbes Nov 2019I was planning to attach some beetle brooches to it, but in the end I decided they would catch everything even more than the 3D crust of beading. So I will simply pin them on to my top.

Here’s a bad video of me actually wearing it!

J, who fights to save our free expression online.

jillian by Suzanne Forbes Dec 17 2019We are blessed to have friends who do important work around freedom of speech.

One of them stopped by to pose today! You can visit onlinecensorship.org to learn about how to fight platform censorship, and join Electronic Frontier Foundation to help protect all our digital civil liberties.

Thank you, always, to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to document Berlin culture and people.

For the archives: self-portraits from the 80s.

Self portrait with Gix 1981 or 1982 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is a deep dive, my darlings.

Pretty freaky to look at and handle these drawings. They have been in storage for decades, traveling the US and the world with me. The one above is the oldest. It’s a picture of me and my friend Gix, drawn probably winter 1982. I would have been fifteen and Gix seventeen. We are both wearing clothes and jewelry we actually wore at the time, and smoking, as we did, all the time. For the Europeans reading this, the header comes from a saying attributed to P.T. Barnum:

There’s a sucker born every minute, and two to take him.

Self portrait Spring 1984 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis one is from Spring 1984; I believe it is the self-portrait I drew for my Parsons application, or the study for it.

I wore harem pants a lot in the first half of the 80s. I don’t apologize; they were the only form of pants I ever liked. My husband and I are watching the first season of “The Deuce” and last night Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character was wearing earrings exactly like the ones I am wearing in this drawing, which were silver and turquoise, with hawks on them.

Self portrait in Betsey Johnson style dress by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes circa 1985This is from around 1985, I think.

The dress here is very similar to a flowered, corseted Betsey Johnson dress I owned, although drawn much longer, and the drawing is probably a school assignment.

Self portrait Spring 1986 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is from Spring 1986.

I was a sophomore in the Illustration Program at Parsons and chipping, which means using heroin only on weekends. The still-life below, a 1986 class assignment, is also sort of a self-portrait; it’s my cigarettes and my pipe (people used to smoke heroin, no idea if they still do). Clean and sober 30 years this past January 27, babies!Pipe drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes 1986

And this one below is also from late 1986, or early 1987, I believe. Self portrait at 312 w 20th st drawing by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes probably Fall 1986 or winter 1987

You can see some painted self-portraits from when I was newly sober and first learning to paint here in another archive post.

I am incredibly grateful to my Patreon Patrons, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.

Until today, no modern media record of these drawings existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

 

Last Days of Clärchens Ballhaus? Cha-Cha in the Hall of Mirrors.

Band at Claerchens Ballhaus Dec 9 2019 by Suzanne ForbesBerlin is changing.

Places that were institutions when we arrived in 2015 are closing down, or having to move. I grew up in Manhattan, and I have seen this story unfold in Chelsea in the 80s, and in San Francisco in the 90s.

Beloved dancehall Clärchens Ballhaus is one of the institutions in transition. The building has been sold. The current operator, Christian Schulz, says his lease expires at the end of this year. The ragged old beauty of a building is going to be renovated, and more will be revealed. We can only hope for the best, a space that the community can continue to enjoy and not condos.

Dancers at Claerchens Ballhaus 2 Dec 9 2019 by Suzanne ForbesI desperately wanted to go before they close at the end of the year, to draw a dance session.

But with my health issues and endless medical appointments, making a plan to attend a dance session was very tough.

Instead, my hub and I used a gift from my mom-in-law to go to a fancy dinner-with-dancing for our five year wedding anniversary. It was held in the SpiegelSaal or Hall of Mirrors, with fantastic music, and lucky for me, there were some terrific dancers!

D at Claerchens Ballhaus Dec 9 2019 by Suzanne ForbesAbove, my husband enjoys the music.

His rapt expression is because he‘s listening to the amazing band play The Flight of the Bumblebee, which he says is extraordinarily difficult to play on the piano. The band was Pan Marek on Drums, Alexej Wagner on guitar and Eugen Miller on double bass and vocals, as well as the marvelous piano player whose name I gotta get. He looked like a biker Deadhead but he was superb on the keys!

Clärchens Ballhaus is, as it were, a kind of story machine, a site of conjecture. The German illustrator and photographer Heinrich Zille had his regular place at the bar, where he used to sit and draw. And Otto Dix painted the poster in 1931, which is still used today.

lovely quote from TripAdvisor of all places!

Dancers at Claerchens Ballhaus Dec 9 2019 by Suzanne ForbesHere is the suave drummer dancing with an audience member!

I can’t begin to say how grateful I am that the monthly financial support of my Patreon Patrons makes it possible for me to document Berlin history like this.

I believe these people and places and their stories matter, and I’m able to share them because I’m crowdfunded and can be flexible in managing with my limited resources. Thank you, always.

Last Days of Ludwig, part one: the people.

Folx at the Last Ludwig Night by Suzanne Forbes Dec 5 2019To become part of a community is to open the door to loss.

Community is fluid, like gender, like cities. A local business becomes a hub of connection and expression, and then economic forces make that business unsustainable. Ludwig was a bar, an art gallery, a performance space, a clubhouse for Queer Berliners. It existed from 02.06.16 to 21.09.19. And it was located in a rapidly gentrifying area where construction has overshadowed street access for the last several years.

Singer at the Last Ludwig Night by Suzanne Forbes Dec 5 2019You don’t know sad til you’ve heard a trans girl sing “Send in the Clowns” on the last night of one of the safest spaces you’ve ever known.

Everyone tried to save Ludwig, but it’s not always possible to keep things. Running a business is brutally hard on small business owners, and when we love those people, when they’re artists and part of our community, we want them to be saved too, not used up fighting economic and structural factors. It’s a story that happens every day in every city, and it breaks our hearts.

Transophonix at the Last Ludwig Night by Suzanne Forbes Dec 5 2019The last night at Ludwig was very fucking sad.

My husband came out with me, only the second time he came out in 2019, because, well, it was important. He even dressed up super spiffy. As always, Maurus Knowles brought me my favorite non-alcoholic beverage, Ostmost Apfel-Minze schorle. Ceven Knowles made a playlist that began with “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing”, so perfect it seared my heart. Dear Transophonix, above, made a processional to the stage and performed a dirge, filling the space.Shady Darling at the Last Ludwig Night by Suzanne Forbes Dec 5 2019

Shady Darling, above, charmed us all with sass.

The tables out front were packed, spilling over, with colorful queens and queers and non-binary folx. We were all heavy with loss, and yet also exuberant, because of the community we have. Dan and I left pretty early, because my heart was spilling over too.

Thank you, Maurus and Ceven, for giving me the place my life in Berlin truly began.

Here are some previous times at Ludwig:

A benefit for singer Sigrid Grajek

Olympia Bukkakis and Transophonix perform

When we had our Women’s Art Lounge at Ludwig

Young queer folx at Ludwig for Suzanne’s birthday

The book release party for “As You wish, my Lady”

My portrait of Rah Hell hanging at Ludwig, the first painting I showed in Berlin

A holiday elf at Ludwig

When Suzanne and I had a Women’s Art Lounge for Galentine’s and I made my first collage.

Citizen of the world, soul of Berlin.

Live painting during the ARTfair created by Suzanne Wegh and Natascha Artworx, and me!

Dirk Rave and Mads Elung-Jensen performing.

And the Donut Heart video release party, which was when my life in Berlin really crystallized and began.

We can’t always keep things alive in the present, but we will always have our memories and the community and connection that were built at this beautiful queer art bar.