Books for March

Book Club Thursday

Digital Photography, Copyright
© 2017 SuZan Alexander

BOOK FOR MARCH:

Did you read Artful Lives: Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather, and the Bohemians of Los Angeles by Beth Gates Warren? I have to admit, I was expecting a small book and a quick read. I am still amazed that the postal employee CRAMMED the tome into my small mailbox – with damage, of course. I am sure my neighbors got a laugh if they happened to watch me pry my latest read from the confinement of the mailbox. But I digress…

While it was no small book, it was a pretty quick read for me because (i) I was interested, AND (ii) I was traveling. Yes. It WAS a heavy book to be carrying around in airports. I am considering it my strength training exercise program for March, but I was grateful I brought it along because my travels include some flights that were delayed which allowed for more reading time. As a bonus, my travels and layovers were somewhat tracking the places I was reading about in the book. I love when that happens. It seems to make the pages come to life.

The author, Beth Gates Warren did a masterful job at cobbling together the story of Weston and Mather. It must have been quite a task because Mather… well, she re-invented herself so there was no direct line to her history, and Weston destroyed his “daybooks” prior to 1923. Weston’s destruction of these daybooks/journals, in effect, erased personal records concerning his early career from 1906 until his departure for Mexico in 1923. In so doing, he eliminated any insight into his relationship with Mather and her influence on his work. If you are interested, I found a video of Warren’s lecture at Santa Barbara Museum of Art where she discusses her research and the resulting book, click HERE.

I admit that I have long admired Edward Weston’s images, but I knew very little about Weston beyond the images that were introduced to me in a college art history course. I am sorry to say that I had never heard of Margrethe Mather, nor had I seen her work before reading this book. This read provided quite an education of both artists and illustrates how we have an influence on each other in the creative process.

BONUS BOOK:

Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland has become a regularly referenced and suggested book for all creatives.  I read this book many years ago and decided I should also invest in the audio version so I can listen to the words while working in my studio. As I revisited the book this month, I was surprised at how much information the book still imparts to me and my work. I decided that I need to put a reminder on my calendar to listen/read the book at least once per year. (As an aside, did you notice the many referenced to Edward Weston in the book?)

Did you read either or both books? If so, I would love to hear what you thought.

Two Amazing Edward Weston Photographs

Today is the birthday of photographer Edward Weston. Weston is considered one of the most innovative and influential photographers of the 20th Century, so I thought it might be interesting to explore a couple of his images. Why only two images when there are so many important images to choose from? Well, these are two images that are considered Fair Use for discussing his work without violating copyright. Having said that, please search on your own and enjoy looking at his work on web pages, like THIS one, that are authorized to show his art.

As a teen, Edward Weston was gifted a camera, which, in essence, began his photographic journey. Over the years, his photography style included soft focus pictorialism to pictorial realism. According to most accounts, his transition from the soft focus style to sharper resolution was the result of photographing the American Rolling Mill Company (ARMCO) in Ohio during the 1920’s. These photographic images were praised by Alfred Steiglitz and are credited as photography that emerged into the Modern era. Among Weston’s many contributions to photography were his designation of being the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim fellowship. He was also instrumental in photography’s designation as an art form, was an avid writer documenting and sharing the photographic process, as well as being the photographic artist that developed the concept of previsualization.

In my opinion, Weston’s strongest images are the common, everyday subjects like the two images below. Can’t you just feel your stress level dropping while looking at these beauties?

NAUTILUS, 1927 (aka Shell, 1927)

Edward Weston's Photograph of Nautilus

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30370190

Apparently, Weston was inspired by Henrietta Shore’s large paintings of sea shells. He even borrowed some of the shells Shore had been painting so he might further explore a still-life series. After a few weeks of exploring different kinds of shell, backgrounds, and I’m guessing lighting, compositions, etc., well, this image titled Nautilus is one of the results of that exploration and discovery. It’s a good thing, because this photograph has been credited as one of the most famous photos ever.

(As an aside, if you are unfamiliar with Henrietta Shore or her work, I would be remiss if I did not encourage you to seek out some of her work. Consider it a BONUS to this blog post. I got you started with a link. Just click her name above to take a look.)

 

 

 

PEPPER No.30

Edward Weston's Pepper No. 30

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27863857

In the 1930’s, Weston began creating close-up images of fruits and vegetables. During his exploration of fruits and vegetables as subjects, Weston photographed green peppers for several days.

The peppers series is probably his most iconic set of images from this body of work, and due to their almost modern sculptural quality, these images have been likened to the sculpture of Hans Arp. Oh the lighting! Give me a moment to swoon a bit. Okay. I’m back. This beautiful, dramatic lighting  certainly lends itself to focusing on the form of the pepper. I think the light is what makes the photograph sculptural. And, can I say, Oh, la, la.

 

 

 

Happy birthday Edward Weston! Thank you for all your contributions to photography as an art form, as well as the eye candy we are still enjoying today.

 

Happy Birthday Michelangelo!

By Daniele da Volterra – The Collection Online, The Metropolitan Museum of Art., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50572617

Since we discussed Michelangelo’s David in our Museum Monday yesterday, it would just be wrong not to recognize his birthday today. If you are interested in a little Michelangelo trivia, you might be interested in this POST I shared last year on his birthday.

 

Museum: David’s Ankles

Museum Monday Header

As if you need another reason to visit Italy, today, let’s talk about the Galleria dell’ Accademia that is home to Michelangelo’s David. We have all seen Michelangelo’s sculpture of David in photos, replicas, or the original, right? This 17-foot marble statue of the Biblical hero has become one of the most recognizable sculptures from the Renaissance period. The sculpture was originally commissioned as one of twelve Old Testament sculptures to be installed on the roof of the Florence Cathedral. However, did you know that the marble had been quarried, brought to Florence (no small undertaking in the 1400’s),  and was worked on by two other artists before Michelangelo was commissioned to transform it into the David we know today?

Marble is best sculpted after it is freshly cut and becomes increasingly brittle with exposure to the elements. In fact, this marble was considered “dead” because it had been sitting in the sun for over 30-years before Michelangelo transformed it into David. Somehow, the young Michelangelo took a piece of low quality marble that had been badly cut and created a beautiful statue.

Upon the sculpture’s completion around 1504, the authorities acknowledged that installing the sculpture on the roof was unlikely. The sculpture was installed outdoors in the Palazzo della Signoria instead of the originally planned location. It remained in this outdoor location until it was moved into the Galleria dell’Accademia in 1873 in an effort to protect the masterpiece from further damage. Between the time the marble had been quarried, sculpted, and installed, it had been exposed to the elements for close to 400 years if I did the math correctly.

Why am I telling you this little tidbit of history? I am sharing this so you will have some background to understand why David has some weak ankles. It seems the ankles have developed micro-fractures as a result of exposure to the elements, the unusual position, and proportions (remember it was supposed to be viewed from a distance below which factored into the proportions and angle design), as well as other factors over the years. Scientists have mapped the micro-fractures and have determined that the masterpiece is in danger of collapse. Recent studies report, if David were tilted as little as 15-degrees, the ankles would no longer support the statue’s weight. Yikes!

Here are a couple of articles HERE and HERE.

Celebrating the Photographer Ansel Adams

Today is the birthday of American photographer, Ansel Adams. I know we’ve all seen his images, heard about his commitment to conservation… and photographers certainly know about the Zone System he championed. So today, on his birthday, let’s celebrate his art, as well as the contributions he made to the art of photography.

I’ve always been intrigued by Adams’s technical abilities with photographs. When I was in college, I even “pitched” the idea of receiving college credit to attend his workshop one summer. My instructor agreed to the college credit IF I wrote a proposal and a paper after the workshop. Her agreement encouraged me to work on a plan to make it happen. My next step was parental approval so I devised a proposal to travel to California via train, and my parents agreed. Hot diggity dawg! I was going to apply to study with Ansel Adams, albeit a short amount of time, but it was time with Ansel Adams. I was sure he would teach me the secret of great photography. Unfortunately, Mr. Adams passed before I got my plan off the ground so I was never his student – in person.

After a long absence from photography, I now find myself embracing digital photography which in many ways is like re-learning photography. Don’t get me wrong. Digital photography has a lot of benefits, but, if I’m truthful, there is a part of me that misses film photography too. I have a collection of Ansel Adams books and I am still learning from him. His methods still hold teachable moment even though the medium has changed. I would like to think he would have enjoyed all the new developments in this medium we call photography.

Happy birthday! This Zone System is for you Mr. Adams.

If you want to join the party, HERE is a video interview with Ansel Adams. Enjoy!

Photographer Edward Curtis

"Kikisoblu (Princess Angeline) of the Duwamish" — the eldest daughter of Chief Seattle. 1896 portrait photograph by Edward S. Curtis.

Princess Angeline

Today is Edward Curtis’s birthday. Edward Curtis was a photographer, who, in my mind, crossed lines into the territory of what I consider a historian, and perhaps even a photojournalist. Officially, however, he is referred to as an “American photographer and ethnologist”. I have written a blog about him before (HERE).

His (circa) 1895 photograph of Princess Angeline (above) is considered his first portrait of a Native American. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. What intrigues me about his story is his dedication and determination. He literally gave up everything to pursue this passion of documenting Native Americans in a time when it was illegal for Native Americans to practice their customs. Clearly, he saw an urgency in documenting as many tribes, as well as their customs, languages, and rituals, before their way of life vanished. I realize there is controversy surrounding authenticity, etc., but I feel there are some stunning images that resulted from his work. For example, I could sit quietly with Princess Angeline for quite a while. Then, there is the Vanishing Race where only one of the warriors is looking back. That small moment becomes a metaphor for the past and a vanishing way of life. There are so many images that give me pause and make me ponder the stories.

So today, on Mr. Curtis’s birthday, have a look-see at some of the images he created which are housed at the Library of Congress.

Motivational Monday: “Sales Don’t Make A Show”

Today is Joan Mitchell’s birthday. Ms. Mitchell was an Abstract Expressionist painter in the 1950’s who was known for her use of bold colors and sweeping brushstrokes to create paintings inspired by nature. So let’s celebrate the day with one of her quotes. If you want to read more quotes, ArtNet NEWS published a series of Mitchell quote on her birthday a few years ago. HERE is the link. (And, yes. I know she did not like white. She probably would not approve this graphic I created. I, however, love white. After all, white is the presence of all colors.)

"Sales Don't Make a Show"

Joan Mitchell Quote

Museum Monday: Museums Closed on Monday?

Museum Monday Header

I love to visit museums, especially when I am traveling. On some subconscious level, I kind of instinctively know that most museums are generally closed on Mondays. I don’t think I ever knew with any certainty the exact reason why they were closed. I just assumed that it was because they are open on the weekends and need a well-deserved day off.

Well, I recently discovered that, while that may be true, there are additional reasons, like cleaning, preparing and moving exhibits, etc. Why didn’t I realize that? I take for granted that museums are magic and the exhibits magically appear, cleaned, curated, labeled, and ready for my visit. Yeah, well, everyone has to grow up sometime, so give me a moment. I just discovered my version of Utopia and I share the same reality. Never fear! I still believe they are magical and I have a solution. Let’s start a “Museum Monday” each month, right here to pick up the slack. We will just be doing our part for museums everywhere.

Are there interesting exhibits at your area museum right now? Should those of us who believe in the magic of museums plan to visit?