Reggie Aqui of ABC7 News Discusses “I AM A BARN” Exhibit with Don Hershman

San Francisco, CA – In a special segment on ABC7 News, anchor Reggie Aqui sat down with acclaimed artist Don Hershman to discuss his latest exhibit, “I AM A BARN.” The exhibit, which has been captivating audiences since its opening, explores themes of identity, resilience, and transformation through the unique metaphor of barns.

ABC7 News – Usually when someone’s leading a double life, it’s not a good thing, but that is not the case for Don Hershman. He is a San Francisco-based podiatric surgeon and also an accomplished fine art painter. Don joined Reggie Aqui to talk about his first-ever solo art exhibition.

Reggie: I’m really interested in the subject matter of this work because you’ve done work that was based on code switching which got a lot of attention. It was especially relevant to LGBTQ+ community. You also have done work with sexuality. And now this exhibit is about barns. And I thought, wait a second. Is there anything less sexy than barns? And then I read about it and it made a lot of sense. So sell us on barns.

Don: Well, the title of the show is “I AM A BARN.” The beginning of this project was when we were really on lockdown during the pandemic, and I had a week off from work before I found that I was an essential provider. So that ended pretty quickly.

But my partner and I went on road trips up to Mendocino, and I just started noticing all these barns that I would say, “Stop the car. I want to take photos of some of these barns.” The barns kind of made me reflect on the survival and stoicism of these structures that endured weather and the years, some more abandoned than others. 

The whole juxtaposition of the pandemic and the silence we were going through and these barns that would just stay inspired me to start painting them. And that was the beginning. That was 2020. So this show is an accumulation of work over several years. 

Reggie: So step into my office, lay on this couch, and pay me $250. I wanna know about you saying that they’re showing wear and tear on the outside but they’re still stoic and standing strong. So why do you identify with that?

Don: Well, I’ll be turning 70 this year.

Reggie: All right, congratulations.

Don: So you know I’ve endured two pandemics, the ups and downs, and triumphs and tribulations of life.

Reggie: And we were talking about two pandemics, the first being the AIDS crisis.

Don: Correct. During that time, I was just starting in private practice and was thrown into an incredible time in history where I was a provider. I was being referred to many patients who were dying. I was part of the Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights at the time, and they were channeling all these very sick patients to me.

I was immediately busy in practice even though I was just starting out. To have lived through that and then a second pandemic, which affected everyone, is remarkable. So the barns symbolize a sort of steadiness and willingness to endure, and here I am, still standing and thriving. I thought it was time to paint something that represented my perseverance and ability to survive. And they’re also beautiful. The paint is peeling, the windows are either missing or have broken glass, but yet the way I painted them, it exemplifies beauty to me.

Reggie: Well, no one paints a brand new barn. For a reason. There’s no character there.

Don: That’s correct.

Reggie: There’s no story.

Don: That’s correct.

Reggie: It’s brand new. It would be like painting an infant. And who cares? It’s much more interesting to paint someone who has seen and lived through things.

Don: Exactly.

Reggie: And you know, sorry to the parents of infants. I’m not insulting your children. I’m just not sure it’s a great art subject. We’re really controversial on this show.

Don: But the barns are almost like portraits of barns as you would paint portraits of old people. The lines show a life of experience. Weather is a metaphor for life experience for the barns: tornadoes, snowstorms, heat, and all the things they endure while still standing.

Reggie: Yeah, so now that barns are in your artistic past, what’s in your artistic future? What’s the next subject?

Don: That’s a good question. Usually, once I complete a series of paintings that reflect what I’m going through or what’s inspiring me, the answer is I don’t know. Once this show is over, I will probably go through a period of meditation and figure out the next project.
don hershman on abc7 Podiatric surgeon and fine art painter Dr. Don Hershman’s solo exhibition features weathered barns, a symbol of resiliency inspired by his experiences as a front-line medical provider during two pandemics.
“I AM A BARN” is open to the public in San Francisco at the Radian Gallery until July 13, 2024. For more information, visit