Tag Archives: self-portrait

More self portraits from the late 80s and early 90s.

Horizontal self portrait acrylic on paper by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes 1989 or 1990The sheer quantity of self-portraits figurative artists do in art school is mind-boggling.

These were either Fall 1989 or Spring 1990, in the Minneapolis College of Art and Design Painting classes of Elizabeth Erickson or Jackie Kielkopf. It’s hard to see but the one above has collaged paper on it, bits of golden light and green shadow.

Self portrait acrylic on paper prob early 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

What’s fascinating about the one above is that it has a secret collage element – the collar of my shirt.

In those years I very often wore pale blue button-down shirts accrued from boyfriends’ fathers’ closets. The collar here is made of the inside of what I am quite sure was my paycheck envelope from the bakery where I worked. It was a hidden acknowledgement of how proud I was to have it together enough to hold a job, attached to the painting as a crisp collar.

I don’t think the two perspectives of my face were meant to represent any kind of duality, though – I just had to do two angles and one came out kinda weird!

Self portrait collage on paper prob early 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesAll these painted/collaged self-portraits on paper from this period seem to be about studying color temperature in light and shadow.

I have vague memories of setting up a strong light source in my very dark first apartment.

Vertical self portrait acrylic on paper by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes 1989 or 1990And this one I have no idea. Same period.

My hair was permed! I loved it honestly. It was great. Self portrait acrylic on paper horizontal prob early 1990 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Self portrait prob Fall 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesProbably also Fall 1989 or winter 1990, a sweet and happy self-portrait on paper.

Winter 1990, I believe, self portrait at the easel.

Self portrait summer 1990 painting apartment by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes 1989 or 1990This one is from summer 1990, in ballpoint.

I drew myself, painting my new apartment completely white. Although I really was that thin at that point, it’s not a good self-portrait – I normally draw my short, thick neck accurately!!

Below, a self portrait with thoughts of various men I was involved with, from that summer. 
Self portrait with thoughts of men summer 1991 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

But now for something completely different!

Wow, 2.5 years of intensive CSA survivor therapy, lots of sexual harassment from comic editors, some feminist art school community, two years of chosen celibacy, a haircut, Thelma and Louise, and one Take Back the Night into my recovery, I was really, really fucking angry!!!

Vertical fantastical self portrait acrylic on paper by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes 1992I actually remember the suit I am wearing in this painting, where I’m hacking at the lake of blood the patriarchy has created.

It was camel-colored, I literally had a beige suit, with those folded-to-the-elbow sleeves that were big in women’s suits in the early 90s. I wore a lot of suits for a while, when I was working as a courtroom artist and trying to finally break into comics. I had those polyester “shells” too, little sexless cami things you wore under your suit jackets.

I was interested in “passing privilege” and what it would feel like to be mistaken for a straight!

Just the ghost of my own wrath Summer 1991 Self portrait Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThese two watercolor drawings are attached together on a piece of illustration board, like a comic.

I believe they were done at the same time, Fall 1991, but the first image shows me a year younger, in 1990, and the second in Corte Madera after seeing “Terminator 2”.

I feel that way all the time July 1991 Self portrait Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

These last two drawings are from my last year of art school, ’91-’92. Self portrait with artists block prob 1992 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

They are about the struggle of artist’s block.Self portrait with dead artists prob 1992 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Look at that mournful baby Suz! Or baby Rach, as I was known at the time.

I don’t struggle a lot with self esteem around my work – I believe I’m an important artist. But we all have hard days at the easel.

Only two of these pieces have ever been photographed; no modern media record of the rest existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever. And of course, I am the only person who knows when they were made and why, the story of the pictures.

As a highly-vulnerable person with asthma and auto immune illness, it seems more important than ever to document my life’s work. Not morbid, just pragmatic!

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


A Visit to the Vault – Self-Portraits.

Self Portrait Rachel Ketchum Suzanne Forbes Fall 1989 smokingI was trained in art school to archive and document my work.

But although I am a excellent archivist and curator (and collector and hoarder), I am a terrible photographer. I took photography in the analog days, and learned how to focus a camera and develop film, both in the Illustration Program at Parsons and in the Fine Arts Program at MCAD.

I hated it. At MCAD, having slides of your paintings prepared was part of your grade, and I got my boyfriend at the time to do some of the work. I still have very nearly all the art I’ve ever made except what I’ve sold, but even with the advent of digital cameras, I haven’t photographed very much of it. Until today, no photographic record of these works existed whatsoever. If we had a fire, they would just be gone.

Self Portrait Rachel Ketchum Suzanne Forbes Fall 1989I did scan a lot of what would fit on the scanner back in 2009, and you can find it here.

I find handling a camera physically exhausting and stressful, but scanning is just tedious.

Self Portrait Rachel Ketchum Suzanne Forbes Fall 1989 smoking detail faceA couple years ago my bestie Daria gave me a proper digital camera.

She had upgraded, and brought me her Lumix from her flat in Moscow (she made sure to change all the settings to English from Russian!) I hadn’t had one for a while and it took me forever to find out what kind of cable it needed to connect to the computer (Daria couldn’t find hers) and then to order it on eBay.

But the computer I had until January was an ancient Chromebook, and it didn’t have the power to run photo editing programs or any storage.

So I had another excuse to put off documenting the archives of work I have here in our flat and in my artwork storage locker north of the city.

Even though the pressure to do it has been growing for years, as much of it is on newsprint paper or cardboard and it is not archival.

In January a friend and patron gave me a new-to-me computer, a proper ThinkPad with vast memory. (As my friends and Patrons know, I hate to buy technology and hardware and almost always get it as gifts from my tech-loving loved ones!) It’s time.

I hope my patrons will find the process interesting; I plan to do one or two archive posts a month.

Self Portrait Rachel Ketchum Suzanne Forbes Fall 1989 smoking detailThese two self-portraits were done in my earliest painting class, I believe, in Fall 1989. I was 22.

It was a class I took when I was less than a year sober, waiting to get into the full-time BFA program at MCAD, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I had gone to St. Paul, Minnesota to follow up my initial 34-day drug treatment for alcoholism and heroin addiction with four months in the Hazelden halfway house, Fellowship House.

Getting out of the halfway house, I decided to stay in Minnesota, as all the New York junkies I knew who went back to New York relapsed.

Self Portrait Rachel Ketchum Suzanne Forbes Fall 1989 2 detail braidSo I needed to finish art school in the Midwest, and there was only one: MCAD, a school much more focused on Fine and conceptual art than Illustration.

I took the painting class because it was in St. Paul rather than Minneapolis and I didn’t know how to drive or have a car yet!

I was just barely learning to handle the brush and the physicality of the paint and had done almost no work in color.

They are both on cardboard and are large, 18″ x 24″ (close to A2). I love them, honestly, for how fearless and crude they are!

One of them has another painting on its back, of Kathleen, a superb life model who did a lot of work for MCAD.

Portrait of Kathleen Rachel Ketchum Suzanne Rachel Forbes Fall 1989I am so grateful to my Patrons on Patreon for supporting my work.

I hope you find this process of documenting my history and development as an artist interesting!