Books for March

Book Club Thursday

Digital Photography, Copyright
© 2017 SuZan Alexander


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.


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.

Pictorial Souvenirs from Texas Big Bend Area

Travel Blog Post Series

Exploring Near and Far

I have been fortunate to say that I have visited the Big Bend area of Texas for many years now. I have been fascinated by the history of the area. I have watched the changes accumulate over the years. I have enjoyed the wide open spaces, learned a few of the landmarks, delighted in watching the wildlife, and, I have marveled at the sunrises and sunsets that are second to none. But, most of all, I love to visit this rugged, sparsely populated area of Texas to make new memories, and perhaps a few good images, as souvenirs until the next visit.

I recently created a photo book that included images from my many visits to the Big Bend area. Since I just worked on curating the images for the book, it is fresh on my mind and I thought it would be fun to “explore” the area with you all today. As for the visual part of our Wednesday Wandering, I thought I would share an image I included in the book, as well as a link to the preview of the book.

Texas Big Bend Windmill

Digital Photography, Copyright
© 2015 SuZan Alexander

This image of a rather battered and bruised windmill is one of my favorite images from the region. Some days, don’t you just feel like how this windmill looks? For those days that you feel battered, broken, about to fall… you get yourself all patched up and lean into the wind. Buck up buttercup, because the sunset view is coming.

If you are interested in seeing a few more images from the book I mentioned; HERE is the link. I hope you enjoy the “virtual” trip. If you have any tips for favorite places to stay, hike, and/or take photos, I would love to hear from you. Be sure to leave me a comment before you strap on your virtual hiking boots.

Book Club Thursday: Edward Curtis Plus A Bonus

Book Club Thursday

Digital Photography, Copyright
© 2017 SuZan Alexander

Welcome to the February book party! Did you read Short Night of The Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan? What did you think? Is that a story or what? I wrote a blog post last year that you can read HERE and a recent “birthday” post HERE. I really enjoyed this book. I found the whole story heartbreaking from the treatment of the Native Americans to a man who was so focused on his mission that he lost everything… his marriage, his business, his income, his health… And yet, I was fascinated, not only with the resulting photographs but Curtis’s knowledge and determination that this was his purpose, his mission, no matter the cost. He may be the poster-boy of living your authentic life. Then, there is the irony that no one was really interested in his documentary project and now, in some cases, (from what I have read) his images, notes, and recordings are the only remaining, non-verbal record of a few tribes.

I also read the “Bonus” book, The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero, also by Timothy Egan. The book follows Thomas Meagher from Ireland’s Potato Famine to exile in Australia to the United States. I have a great fondness for Ireland and I remember visiting an art museum in Dublin where I felt completely lost because I (shamefully) did not know the history. I wish I had read this book before I visited Ireland, but, of course, the book did not exist when I visited. So, there’s that. But, after reading this book I am ready to return to Ireland with a little more information and a new appreciation.

So, now it is your turn. If you read along, what were your thoughts? And, if you did not read these books, tell us what are you reading that we might find interesting?

Book Club Thursday 2018 Reading Kickoff

Book Club Thursday Banner

Digital Photography, Copyright
© 2017 SuZan Alexander

I am a confessed bibliophile. I love to read and I love to share books, and suggested reads, with fellow readers.  After relocating to Central Texas a few years ago, well… I miss being a member of an active book club that discusses books.   This is where you come into the picture. If you enjoy reading, have I got an idea for us.

As a way to encourage each other to read more books in 2018, let’s meet here on the last Thursday of each month to discuss books we’ve read and books we are reading. I will put together a list of books to read to get us started but feel free to make some suggestions. Most of all, add your comments and join the conversation.

Since this is the last Thursday of January, and I did not prepare you for our 2018 reading adventure (i.e., publishing a reading list in December), I decided to recommend a quick read written by Austin Kleon, Show Your Work!. I really enjoyed this book and I selected it to remind me that I set a goal to show more of my work in 2018. As an added “Bonus”, check out Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. AND, a second bonus, Austin Kleon’s weekly newsletter is full of information, so consider signing up if you enjoy reading his books.

Let’s start reading (and discussing) together next month. Here is a list of book suggestions for the next three months:



So, now it’s your turn. What are you reading?

Happy Birthday John Singer Sargent!

By unidentified photographer (Archives of American Art, Smithsonian) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

American artist, John Singer Sargent, was born 162 years ago today (January 12, 1856). John Singer Sargent was apparently THE portrait artists back in the day. The photograph captures the artist in his studio. However, if you look closely at the painting behind him, you will get a glimpse at the portrait that probably brought him the most notoriety. Why this portrait? Well, the subject of the portrait was Virginie Gautreau. Madame Gautreau happened to be the “it girl” of Paris in the late 1800s. But the subject herself was not the reason the painting was famous.

It turns out that this particular portrait was quite controversial. The controversy surrounding the portrait was due to the fact that John Singer Sargent elected to paint Madame Gautreau in a dress with one bejeweled shoulder strap that had fallen from her alabaster shoulder. (I will give you a moment to GASP! and clutch your pearls!) This state of “undress” was too intimate, and apparently crossed the line, because it created quite a scandal. The portrait could not be exhibited which is why you see it in the studio. If you look closely, the artist even re-painted the strap in its proper place, but, as the saying goes, “the horse was already out of the barn”. Once you have collected yourself and recovered from the shock, I encourage you to read the book, Strapless by Deborah Davis.

And, speaking of books… if you are a bibliophile like me, I will be starting a “virtual” book club here on the website this year. I do hope you will join me on the last Thursday of the month to discuss books, books, and more books. But, until we officially kick off our year of reading, tell me what books you are enjoying (or have enjoyed) reading. (Scroll down and use the Comment box to share the book(s) you are enjoying.)

Summer Reading: Travel Through Reading

Long May You Run: Detail Triptic, Digital Photography, SuZan Alexander, Copyright © 2016

Long May You Run: Detail Triptic, Digital Photography, Copyright © 2016

My birthday is in the latter part of May. Years ago, I was asked by my boss, very cautiously I might add, if my approaching birthday ended in a five or a zero. That has always stayed with me for some reason. He almost seemed frightened yet obligated in some way to ask. I tell you this story because, this year’s birthday did end in a five. I don’t usually let it bother me. It is just another day after all. But for some reason(s), this year has me waxing philosophical and I decided to immerse myself in reading John Steinbeck’s novel, Travels with Charley, because, well, isn’t that what every middle-age woman does for her birthday? Okay. Maybe not. But, that’s what I did.

I somehow missed reading this classic book in my youth. I think that was fortunate for me because I now have life experiences to make this book even more meaningful, or perhaps meaningful in a different way. Either way, I have to tell you that there were many times I said aloud, “Get out of my head.” And, as I was reading, I decided that I want my very own Rocinate to load down with books to read, and my very own Charley as my travel companion to accompany me on adventures. (Of course, I would have to include art supplies and photography gear which would further stress the tires of the vehicle, but that’s another story.) I also found myself laughing aloud, which I rarely do when reading books. And, by the end of the book, I was waxing philosophical again, but this time I was in good company with Mr. Steinbeck even though there is a fifty-six-year chasm of time between us. Nevertheless, by the end of the book, I wanted to return to the mundane everyday life much like I suspect Mr. Steinbeck longed for. I love my haven of home, and familiarity, and quiet, and safety to reflect. Avoidance? Maybe. But, the last few chapters returned me to my reflective status, and I don’t want it interrupted at the moment. Perhaps that is part of this season of life in which I am ensconced, this season that I now share with the author when he penned the book.

As the temperatures rise marking the start of our summers, and summer travel plans unfold, think about including this book on your summer reading list. And, if you are lucky enough to visit California, I hope you will be able to include the  National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California on your agenda. To pique your curiosity, the Center displays the real Rocinate (okay, not Don Quixote’s horse, but rather Mr. Steinbeck’s travel vehicle named after Don Quixote’s horse). If you do visit, I would love to hear all about it because I have not visited the Center… YET.

Wishing you safe summer travels. May your experiences last a life-time and, perhaps, change your life along the way.

Wednesday Words

At the invitation of a friend, I joined a Chapter of the Pulpwood Queens book club in 2005. Not only does the book club introduce me to new books and authors I would never have found on my own, it allows me the opportunity to discuss the book with fellow readers, as well as the authors who write them. As an added bonus, the Club also promotes literacy all while having great fun and good fellowship. With a win-win like that, who wouldn’t want to be included, right? However, when we relocated, I was no longer able to attend “my” Chapter meetings. I occasionally entertain thoughts of starting a chapter here, but, in the interim, I still try to read along with the good ladies of the Calvert Chapter as much as possible. I’m going to start “Wednesday Words” to pay homage to my reading friends and authors.

Like I said, I try to read along with the Chapter, but lately, I’ve gone a little rogue on the reading selection and have read some choices from my backlog since I wouldn’t be discussing them with anyone. While my selections usually include fiction and Southern Gothic ( someone once described as “grit lit”), there are a few non-fiction books that stand out. My most recent read was such a book. “All Over But the Shoutin‘”, by Rick Bragg. It is a book that captures the rural South of the 1960s and 1970s, the painful differences between the haves and the have nots, the importance of family, and the indelible mark family leaves on you long after reaching adulthood. Mr.Bragg takes you on quite the ride, from childhood to becoming a successful journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner. Most importantly, it presented situations that are somewhat unfamiliar to me and helped me see things in a different light.

Until next Wednesday – – get your nose in a book. 🙂