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I was at Monster Ronsons last week for a double feature of performance artist Mad Kate and my friend Dawn’s band Das Fluff.
The dance floor was full of beautiful young queer folx.
Thank you, always, to my Patrons on Patreon, who make it possible for me to make this documentary art of queer Berlin.
I was sooooo excited about the Baba Yaga session at Dr. Sketchy’s Berlin.
Berlin performer Valentina DeMonia as Baba Yaga just thrilled me!
It was so great to draw her in her cocoon of power and hair.
Thanks so very much to my Patrons on Patreon, and welcome to new Patrons S. and I. who joined this month! You make it possible for me to make this art.
I have C-PTSD and the last couple of years have been intense. The last time I flew and was strapped in next to a strange man, I had a terrible panic attack and very nearly clawed my way out over him to escape. I only stayed onboard because my beloved brother-in-law and sister-in-law were counting on me to make their wedding cake! And I take cake very seriously. I could have forgiven myself for not making their wedding, but not for failing to make their wedding cake.
Over the weekend I went to Brussels to help a woman friend redecorate her flat after a breakup.
It was the first time I have traveled in Europe since we moved here three years ago; last December I had to miss a friend’s wedding in Luxembourg because I simply couldn’t handle flying. I was so scared of this flight I asked my husband to come to the airport and help me get on the plane! Which he did VERY graciously and kindly.
I’m not afraid of the actual flying part at all; if I’m seated with women in my row I am as relaxed as a slightly claustrophobic person can be in a crowded, small metal tube.
I had checked in early to get an exit row seat, so I would have lots of room on one side at least. But when a strange man sat down next to me and his arms and thighs touched mine, I felt like I was gonna die. (Weirdly, this doesn’t happen much on public transit, where I can get away easily.)
Again, someone I loved was counting on me, so bailing out was non-negotiable. This time, when I started flipping out, I had my sketchbook handy so I quickly made these drawings of an armored corset body* for flying with PTSD. I imagine the spines to be made of vulcanized rubber, permissible for travel. The shoulder, arm and thigh pads are also rubber, so you don’t feel the flesh of the person next to you, and the mesh “NO” skirt snaps off for using the loo. I chose Mother Nature’s warning colors!
The stewards looked over my shoulder at my drawing and moved the man next to me to another row, murmuring, “more space”. My spell worked!!
The flight was relatively empty, and so it could have just been fat bias – as a US 14/UK 18 I fully and completely occupy even larger European plane seats. My friend Suzanne said stewards are sensitive to people who are a panic risk. I think they saw something in my eyes or my drawings and felt it was best for me to have the row to myself.
Gradually I calmed down and the feeling that my vagina was full of spiders receded.
Do other people get that? Like a creepy echoey crawling awareness of the vulnerability of your genitals, when you’re triggered? I feel like if they do, this could be a popular garment. Until, inch by inch, we make a better world.
*a corset body is the specific name for a true corset that includes a built-in crotch covering of the same sturdy materials. It’s a term used pretty much only in the serious corset community. What Americans call “teddies” or “bodysuits” are called just plain “bodies” in the UK/Europe, and “corset body” seems to be derivative of that.
A good C-PTSD resource.
RAINN’s resources for trauma survivors.
I hosted an art salon for female-identifying people in our flat the night before Halloween.
It was wonderful! It was incredibly special to have a group of women artists gathered in our home, feasting on veggie and vegan treats before settling into a life drawing session with a professional artist’s model. It was like Eat and Draw instead of Drink and Draw!
I made vegan pumpkin pie, which is weirdly way better and easier than the dairy version. Way pumpkinier too!
Many people had not previously had pumpkin pie, which isn’t a thing in Germany or really most of Europe, and are now very seriously into it. Suzanne Wegh helped organize and brought hardcore salty Dutch licorice, which I thought I would not be into but really enjoyed.
Thanks to my Patrons on Patreon and their financial support, I was able to hire my favorite artist’s model, electro-accordion chanteuse Miss Natasha Enquist.
I met her teaching at ESDIP Berlin, and we became friends and now I hire her when I need a terrific life model, draw at all her superb music performances and also we go to sex clubs and leather daddy cigar lounges!
Although I do love two-minute gesture poses, for the salon we went right into short poses, ten to fifteen minutes, then twenty minutes. Everyone wanted time to capture MNE’s whole lewk!
We used lots of props! Our house is so full of weird stuff and dead stuff and creepy stuff, we were spoilt for choice.
Everyone made such beautiful drawings. It was incredible, such a gleeful creative energy in our safe space!
Here are two of the many drawings made by Natascha Artworx.
She came down from Hamburg for the salon despite the storm, and she has a lovely post about it on her Patreon!
It was pretty funny having only two names to go around that time; we’ve gotten better at it now!
I adore this digital version Kelsey Bass made of one of her drawings!
Each artist brought their unique style and approach to the poses.
Crucial event support and photography provided by Suzanne Wegh; check out her Patreon!
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.
Into the dangerous, powerful air breathed by artists Sadie Lune and Jo Pollux.
I 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.
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.
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!
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.
After 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 (right side) became a dead space!I 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.
For 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!
I 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. She, her reindeer and her sledge, all done! Isn’t she lovely and evil?
I’d been wanting to make a doll like the White Witch since the early 90s in St. Paul. When I lived there I saw a teacup fairy by Stephanie Blythe and Susan Snodgrass at fancy shop in Summit Hill.
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.
I was still waiting to start my dollhouse back then, still holding a space for that project open in my future.
I 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, traveled 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.
I subscribed to miniature magazines and went to miniature shows.
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 on the ice and came up laughing, clapping his cold hands over mine.
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 fresh snow muffled my footsteps when I walked through a silent Chinatown morning to buy heroin on New Year’s Day in 1989, the sparkling lavender twilight of an April snowfall at the treatment center in St. Paul.
In 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.
I learned the sizes Swarovski crystals come in, and where to get the very tiniest.
I 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.
I 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.
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 the reindeer’s 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!
The 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!
I 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.
I 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. Daria is streets more advanced than my crazy haphazardness!
By December of this year, my Jadis was close to finished at last.
I 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?
Yes, 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?
Wigging 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.
After last week’s feminist art salon, I was thinking about Pussy Power and the history of making vagina icon art.
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.
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.