Blog: Berlin

Tacheles – Mixed Media Painting

Tacheles” is a painting that is also in my book “Artful Adventures in Mixed Media”  . I used acrylic paint, acrylic ink, spray paint, and marker on canvas. It was inspired by Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin, a former department store built in 1907, owned by different groups and parties during WWII and East Germany, and finally from 1990 to 2012, rescued from being demolished by artists and turned into a gallery. The artists were forced to move out and the building remains empty at this time, but the histories and stories of this old building live on. My painting asks many questions: Who lived here? What happened in those building? What stories do they tell us?

It is now available for sale here.

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Der Himmel über Berlin (Sky over Berlin)

This painting which also appears in my book Artful Adventures in Mixed Media was inspired by the city of Berlin and also a Wim Wenders Movie (Wings of Desire). Berlin is just a 1 1/2 hour train  ride from my home city Hamburg and I always love going there. If you do not know Wings of Desire- I highly recommend it. The movie is about invisible, immortal angels who populate densely populated Berlin and listen to the thoughts of the human inhabitants and comfort those who are in distress that feel alone and isolated.

Throughout the history of Berlin there are many thoughts angels could have heard and many that needed comfort – that is what I had in mind when I made this painting.

It is 9×12″  in size and I used acrylic paint, acrylic ink, spray paint, marker and charcoal on canvas. It is available for purchase- like some of my other paintings- so if you are interested, send me an email

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The Whole Truth or…A Day in The Jewish Museum in Berlin

Disclaimer: This post is a very deep post. It contains my personal emotional and thought provoking experiences of visiting The Jewish Museum in Berlin. I write about this because this visit has impacted me a lot and I would love to share this because this blog is about my art work and my life as an artist. My art is often very emotional and a lot of my art work is influenced by experiences like this one. I would like to ask to keep any comments respectful – this is a very sensitive topic and I must say I am a bit scared to write about it.

I will not tolerate any hate-related comments. If you feel the need to do so- you are welcome to go to a far remote place in blog land and never ever return back to this website – because then this blog is clearly not written with you in mind!



A couple months ago when Julie and I had already scheduled her visit to me, I heard about the Exhibition “The Whole Truth…Everything you always wanted to know about Jews” in The Jewish Museum Berlin. Many controversial newspaper articles can be found about this exhibition especially the part of the exhibition which became known as the “Jew in a Box”. In the exhibition a Jewish Person sits in a kind of a clear box and can be asked questions about Jews and Judaism. When Julie and I heard about it and read the articles we started discussing this a bit. It started as a discussion between an American and a German, a Jew and a non-Jew, two friends striving to understand cultural, historical and religious differences. We decided we would have to go ourselves to Berlin in order to have an opinion about this exhibition. And so we went.


The building itself is very impressive – there is an old part of the building as well as a new one built by architect Daniel Libeskind. I cannot remember when an architectural building had such a strong emotional impact on me.

Throughout the building Libeskind has created so called voids, empty spaces which represent the absence of Jews from German society.



One void is called “Holocaust Tower” . It is very oppressive and moving. It’s a 24 meter/78.7 foot high shaft of concrete illuminated by a single source of light.

The other void which left an unbelievable emotional and physical impact on me was a Memory Void containing an installation titled Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) by Menashe Kadishman. “Over 10,000 open-mouthed faces coarsely cut from heavy, circular iron plates cover the floor”.



Upon nearing this void Julie and I heard this incredible loud noise which from a far away distance sounded first as a remote noise in a very busy cafe where dishes were clanking together but once we came closer and closer the sound was getting painful and shrill. Visitors are encouraged to walk into the void which turns darker and darker in the end.



I started stepping on the first faces and I stopped right away, I felt sick to the stomach and could not walk a single step further. I think I have never had this kind of reaction to any art I have ever seen and experienced before.



The first time we went through the Special Exhibition the clear box was unattended. So we decided to come back later again. At the end of the exhibition we found this huge wall full with post-its where visitors were asked to leave their comments and questions about the exhibition. It was another deep emotional moment to read some of them – in all languages, by all kinds of different people , age groups, countries and faiths. Some post-its were rude and  made me swallow – like one in German that said: “None of my answers were answered by this exhibition and I will continue to have my prejudices” ,- many were written in a very narrow minded religious way – but there were also some like these:





Later we came back and talked to the woman sitting in the clear box. Julie and I started talking to her and my first question was “How do you feel sitting in this box” and “What was your motivation of volunteering for this” . The answers and stories about her experiences were very touching. From outraged Germans that have ties to Nazi-perpetrators to outraged Jewish people being hurt that she would sit in a box like in a zoo, from Jewish women from the U.S. starting to cry because they could not grasp that a jewish woman would live in Germany to young people asking basic questions about the religion. She told us she had wanted to do this to get to know how people in Germany feel about it because she always felt being asked many a questions anyway when she told her friends she was jewish. What she didn’t expect was how emotionally draining this whole experience would be.



During our conversation many other people joined our group from all countries, jews and non-jews and we had a very lively and very interesting discussion. It was a wonderful experience the way how we all stood there and talked with each other. And then somehow the amazing woman was not alone in the glass box anymore. She was accompanied by a friend from South America and a man from Germany who said he never makes public to be jewish out of fear for the reaction. I know it is hard to grasp if you haven’t been there or if you are full of prejudices about this exhibition anyway- but this picture and this moment was a moment of peace and made me feel that there is hope for this world.

During and after the visit Julie and I spent many hours talking about our experiences in the museum, thoughts and feelings. It was very deep and open and honest. It also reminded me that art is something that provokes thoughts and feelings. As mentioned several times, this visit in the Jewish Museum has provoked many thoughts and feelings in very different ways in me, and sharing this with a friend is an experience I will always cherish.






Comments (44)

  • Judith Kaufman


    A very powerful article. I’m Jewish and live in America. I’m proud of you…that you posted this….We must teach the world and remind them to “never forget”.
    The Fallen Leaves…brought tears to my eyes. My grandfather was one of 8 siblings. He’d come to the US many years…some of family were able to come and yet, some went back to Germany and were lost in the Holocaust.


  • Diana


    i simply can not ….. i have not a single sentence that will make sense…. thank you both for sharing your experience with each other and with all of us. Nat you are a very brave wonderful kind brave soul for sharing this with us! thank you xoxo


  • Bonnie Rabon


    There is hope. There is!


  • Willow


    Thanks so much for sharing your emotional experience visiting the Jewish Museum with Julie. I am not sure I could get beyond those cement columns out front and if I did get myself inside, I could never walk across those faces, faces of my family, my people who perished. And as others mentioned, people are still being brutally murdered. When will we ever be able to respect each other no matter our differences…


  • Laura Strack


    Dearest Nathalie,
    I too have friends that are Jewish and I love them and their families, deeply. I thank God everyday for my friendship with them. We may never fully understand how someone could have so much hatred in their heart and could support such evil doings. Thank you to you and Julie for sharing your beautiful friendship and experiences with all the world to see. It is a true testament of how God wants us to live; love one another as I have loved you.
    In love and peace, always,


  • Cuchy


    You told me about it in june but I thought it was only the cube q&a exhibit. This has had to be impressive and so emotional. Too much “fallen leaves”
    Thank you for sharing. loves


  • SusanJane


    I cried when I was in the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem so many years ago and I’m not Jewish. It strikes me again that any group no matter what religion or race or nationality has to found museums and memorials to honor so many dead. There’s so much identity and so many memories tied up in what happened. I cry not just for the Jews who suffered and died but for our species that can’t seem to live with each other and our differences.

    Art has the capacity to say things that cannot be otherwise said. Your photos are testament to the incredible power of art and the creative spirit.


  • Cindi


    Nat, thank you so much for this post, as hard as it must have been to write. What a moving experience to share with a friend, and now we blog readers can learn through you. Most of us won’t see this exhibit in person, so thank you for sharing.


  • Helen


    Bravo Natalie for posting about the experience you shared with your friend. I admire the artists who created this stark reminder of the brutality of racism and genocide. Your words made me ask myself what I can do, here and now, to welcome immigrants and refugees into my country. Thank you for your raw and visceral post.


  • Mary Werner


    Fallen Leaves is the most perfect example of ART that I have seen. Walking down that hall would have been next to impossible but probably something I would have done to deeply instill the memory of that sacrifice of God’s people. Why Jews? They were killed only because of their belief in God! It ended with the return of a portion of Israel given back to the Jews (a land born in a day – Issaiah 66.8) and we are all blessed because of them. Thank you Natalie for posting this as I would never have experienced it without your blog.


  • Nancy Sapp


    I already knew that you & Julie were great artists & teachers (I follow your blogs & posts every day) but now I know that you’re both brave. I also wondered what the noise was at the end of the tunnel.

    Thank you for sharing your feelings throughout the post.
    Grandma Nancy


    • nathalie-kalbach


      Nancy , the noise was generated by the visitors walking on the faces…the “grinding” of the iron plates when walking on them – made them literally scream. That was the sound we heard in upon nearing the void. Nat


  • Peg


    Sounds like a profoundly moving experience, I can only imagine. So special that we have come far enough that you and Julie could experience it together with love and support for each other.
    Like Martha said, this is a story that needs to be told again and again so that it is never forgotten.
    Much love


  • Michelle


    I’ve been curious about this exhibit ever since I read an article about it in the New York Times last summer. It wasn’t even up yet and people were already frothing at the mouth. I am glad someone thought if the “Jew In A Box” exhibit. The implications are serious and can be severely misconstrued but I think many people take prejudice and hatred based on “otherness” too lightly these days. This exhibit is shocking but it’s the best kind of art because it promotes open discussion- something that is much needed in this “post race” world.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts- I’ve often wondered how you felt about your country’s past. One of the things I love most about blogs is the personal stories people tell- I wish writers opened up more often. It’s hard since we blog about a very specific subject but it’s worth it. I swear if i had seen an evil comment i would have joined you in the royal blog beat down!
    I’ve wanted to visit Berlin for so long now- this makes me want to go even more! I would love to read some of the discussion you had with Julie- I bet I would learn a whole heck of a lot.


  • Deleted User


    Nat, thank you SO much for posting this. It’s such an important topic – and encompasses many topics, actually. Have you ever visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.? We went with our older teen boys years ago and it was also a very emotional experience. It’s so interesting how it’s designed. You start on an elevator that, when the doors open on the top floor, you walk out of to stunned silence as your eyes connect with larger than life photos. There were many displays that made me cry – and I wasn’t the only one. Interestingly, after the horror you’re met with upon the elevator door, as you travel down through the exhibit, it is arranged so that you become more aware of the spirit of the Jewish people, they’re hope to go on from there and the profundity of their culture. One of the most interesting – and hopeful – parts was listening to the recorded stories on a “telephone-like” device where actual Holocaust survivors are telling their stories. It was deeply moving. Don’t miss it when you get here. I’m just struck by the BEAUTY of a German Person and a Jewish Person (such as you and Julie) being able to have a heartfelt and genuinely loving conversation about all of this. There IS hope in this world despite those that would say otherwise. Thank you again for being brave enough to share! ♥♥♥


  • Nurse Ratchet


    Nat…thank you so much for sharing such a poignant and personal experience accompanied by your amazing friend with us. Your beautiful souls are such inspiration to everyone you touch whether in person or via your art. Love ya LGL!!!


  • Carrie


    Fantastic review of the exhibit and the museum space, Nat. It looks like probably the most powerful museum I’ve heard of. Even though I think almost all of us humans have some kind of prejudice whether we realize it or not, I have never understood prejudice to the point of hatred and abuse or violence. That seems to be truly the presence of evil in the world.

    The installations and the “Jew in a Box” idea are brilliant. It’s difficult for me to even look at the faces in the Fallen Leaves installation; I don’t think I could’ve walked on them.


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Julie’s July Visit…or My Belly Still Hurts from Laughing


I have not even the slightest clue how to wrap up the fun visit by my friend Julie Fei Fan Balzer as this week was packed with so much fun, laughter, art, sightseeing, discussions, inspiration, birthday celebrations, insane amount of food and girlfriend stuff.

Here are some picture overload highlights:



Arting in the Hamburger Kunsthalle after visiting a Special Exhibition with Paul Klee – Angels



Julie’s amazing “I -Do-Not-Realize-You-Are-Taking-A-Photo-of-Me”-Pose



Reichstag Building from the window of our taxi cab to the Jewish Museum, where we spent many hours of our day in Berlin, I decided I will dedicate a whole extra blogpost telling about this special time there.

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Painted Pieces of the Berlin Wall at Check Point Charlie where we had lunch and sat outside for a while.

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Goofing around in my neighborhood in Hamburg



Having a fun birthday party with lot’s of my loved ones



Many amazing birthday gifts- including this gorgeous handmade artjournal from Julie (she insanely wants me to trash it with my own artjournal art- pffff)



Wonderful hours on the deck, eating, partying, chatting…and …Julie chasing flies…she might be the only person I know who travels with a fly swatter- LOL



Eating almost every meal outside for six days …we both loved it!

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Boat tour in Hamburg – lot’s of walking and sightseeing.



Arting time on the deck

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Hanging out with friends and shopping



We took photos in a photo booth each day – gosh we were laughing so much – I cannot even walk by this booth anymore without giggling.

Girlfriend time- I tell you – so refueling ! Nowadays it is rare that you spent so much time with a friend and I think it was the best way to slide into my 40s – I felt like 20 LOL. Thanks Julie for making my birthday so special and thanks to my hubs for treating us both like princesses for a week  ;)


huge hugs



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Don’t Tear Down This Wall or…Viva Las Vegas Stamps

Pretty stoked to be the guest designer for Viva Las Vegas Stamps this month. This layout was posted last week and there is another one on next week :)


I used the Charred Wood Back Ground Stamp to create my own background for a grungy layout. The layout is about the East Side Gallery – a tiny remaining bit of the Berlin Wall that was painted by different artists in 1990 and now unfortunately is supposed to be torn down to make room for some luxury flats. Some of you might remember some of my photos from this blog post here- where I had visited Berlin with my friend Julie.
I love to create my own backgrounds using stamps to emphasize photos or the feelings and emotions that go along with photos. For this background I had stamped the background with the awesome Charred Wood Back Ground Stamp and embossing powder and then used Wow Bonding Powder and Foil on top. This created a kind of resist. So when I sprayed some Dylusion spray inks over the stamp image and texture of it got fully revealed.
Other Suppliess used: White Cardstock, WOW Bonding Powder, WOW Foil, Versamark, Ranger’s Dylusions Spray Inks, Liquitex Professional Spray Paints, Heidi Swapp Chipboard Letters, Rose Moka Journaling Cards, Posca Marker, Zig Journaling Pen

Have a wonderful day


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