• BOARD CONSULTANT

    Suzanne Stroh delivers creative insights to owners, directors and trustees on building brand legacies across platforms built to last by enterprising individuals and families.

  • AFFILIATIONS

    Founder and CEO, Legion Group Arts, an international arts and entertainment group. The Legion family of companies is based in Washington, DC. with offices in London and Athens. The Legion Foundation, based in Zurich, meets the needs of Greek children and unaccompanied minor refugees living in Greece.

  • COORDINATES

    Suzanne hails from Michigan, where her family brewed Stroh’s beer for five generations. She lives with her family in the Virginia countryside.

  • Interview with Dan Savage

    Author, activist and “Savage Love” advice columnist chats with Suzanne in the January 2016 issue of Gay & Lesbian Review

    Read Interview

  • Interview with Christina Schlesinger

    Code name Romaine Brooks, Guerrilla Girl artist Christina Schlesinger has never exhibited her Peter Paintings. Until now.

    Learn More

  • More Laurels!

    In May SCOTCH VERDICT picked up its eighth international award in the south of France.
    SCOTCH VERDICT Wins St. Tropez 2015

    Learn More

  • New Laurels!

    SCOTCH VERDICT won the Jury Prize for best screenplay at the NOVA Film Festival in April, 2015.
    NOVA: Jury Award Winner | SCOTCH VERDICT

    Learn More

Rénee Vivien Turns 139

Jun 11

41ImR8wEIPL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Renee vivien turns 139

June 11 is the birthday of France’s best dressed Symbolist poet, Renée Vivien. Never mind that she was Anglo-American. Never mind that her real name was Pauline Tarn. She was all the rage on both sides of the Atlantic.
Her fictions of Sappho fired up le tout Paris where she settled with her inheritance in 1898. She was such a big deal at the turn of the 20th century that they named an era after her: Sapho 1900.

To avoid the swooning frenzies that accompanied her poetry readings, the retiring Vivien hired a male stand-in. Would you have taken her for a girl?

 

UnknownShe was as shy and awkward in conversation as she was confident in her written expression. It was, apparently, a heady mixture. If you asked for one of her books, she always gave it to you hidden in a nosegay. [Note to self!]

You can learn a bit more about two of Pauline’s many illustrious lovers, music patron Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac (1865-1943) and painter Romaine Brooks (1874-1970), at the first exhibition of Brooks’s work in many years. It opens June 17th at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The symposium program, running 4-7:00 pm, includes talks by Singer’s biographer Sylvia Kahan (Music’s Modern Muse) and Brooks’s biographer Cassandra Langer (Romaine Brooks: A Life, interviewed here by James Conway in Strange Flowers). See you there!

RGB 2016 SAAM calendar coverRomaine drawings 1890s044

 

Many happy returns of your 139th, Mademoiselle. Do tell what you did with the pretty blonde I Fedexed to your Parnassian heights in that coffin packed with lilies…

 

 

Interview with Dan Savage

Jan 6

Dan Savage

Dan Savage“We got stuck with the Puritans.”

Post-gay with Seattle’s “Savage Love” guru

Dan Savage published The Kid in 1999, when I was trying to conceive Wee Sprite. His page-turning memoir tells “What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant.” I was listening to my local NPR affiliate, WAMU, driving to the doctor’s office the day Kojo Nnamdi hosted Dan on his book tour. I got pregnant, devoured the memoir and have looked forward to this chat with my favorite sex guru ever since. This interview with Dan Savage was published January 1, 2016 in The Gay & Lesbian Review edited by Richard Schneider. The issue explores “the future of gay” and also contains a review of the book I edited, Romaine Brooks: A Life by Cassandra Langer.

DAN SAVAGE has been a fixture of LGBT culture and politics for over two decades—as journalist, author, media pundit, and founder of the sex advice column “Savage Love,” which is syndicated in several dozen U.S. newspapers. His media work includes recurring appearances on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, The Colbert Report, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, and various gigs on MSNBC, among many others.

Savage’s most recent project to gain worldwide renown was the “It Gets Better” campaign, which targets LGBT youths who face bullying or isolation and may be at risk of suicide. The campaign generated a vast number of videos affirming gay lives, many from celebrities and many more that went viral. His more recent books include The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family (2005) and a collection of essays titled American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Flights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics (2014).

Something readers may not know is that Savage was part of a satirical theater group in Seattle starting in the ’90s. His interest in guerilla theater has made several appearances since, notably: his contest to redefine the word “santorum” in a way befitting the “man on dog” former senator; closely covering the Bruce Bauer campaign and even trying to give the candidate the flu; and his annual Hump Pornography festival, which features short video clips from
contestants.

Born and raised in Chicago, now a resident of Seattle, Savage married his partner Terry Miller in Canada in 2005 and in Washington in 2012, one of the first gay couples to do so in that state. He and Miller have an adopted son named D.J., who’s the title character in Savage’s 2000 memoir The Kid.

This interview was conducted by telephone in early November.

Interview with Christina Schlesinger

Oct 1
"Tomboy with Peter" (1994, oil and fabric on canvas, 16" x 20")

Christina Schlesinger, “Tomboy with Peter in the Sky,” 1994. Oil and fabric on canvas, 30″ x 40″.

Mother of all Tomboys

artist Christina Schlesinger on Romaine Brooks

October 2 is D-day for Cassandra Langer’s new biography of Romaine Brooks (you can buy it here), for which I furnished translations. Readers will soon take a fresh look at the Thief of Souls.

Christina Schlesinger started incorporating Brooks into her self portraits in the mid-1990s. To find out why, I caught up with the East Hampton based artist and activist after a late September swim.

Suzanne Stroh: “Lesbian Artist” is a strong piece. Tell me about it.

Christina Schlesinger, "Lesbian Artist," 1994. Monoprint.

Christina Schlesinger, “Lesbian Artist,” 1994. Monoprint, 12″ x 16″.

Christina Schlesinger: It was based on a photograph I saw of Romaine Brooks. There she is in her smoking jacket wearing a bow tie with a kind of wild expression on her face. There’s so much spirit in her. In her gesture. It’s like my idea of the tomboy—defiant, intrepid, brave.

The photograph was black and white. Romaine’s own palette was famously subdued. Here, yours is bold.

I wanted her to stand out. Primary colors—red, yellow and Navy blue. The lesbian artist who’s out for a night on the town, ready to party, looking hot and jaunty. Making the scene.

Iconic really.

It’s a statement about being a lesbian artist. Romaine is the ultimate lesbian icon. She identified as a lesbian, she painted as a lesbian and she painted lesbians. I wanted to get across the idea of her as the model, the emblem, the forerunner.

“Romaine Brooks and Me” will be exhibited through mid October at New York’s Westbeth Gallery. It’s one in a series of portraits and self portraits. Have they ever been shown together?

As a matter of fact, no, they haven’t. I made several Romaine pieces, a total of about fifteen, several monoprints and other small paintings using images from Romaine Brooks. [Read more about the Peter Paintings here.] I painted them in my early 40s during a period of self-doubt.

In graduate school at Rutgers?

Around 1994. My thesis was on Romaine Brooks.

Why Brooks?

I just love her work. I read that first biography, Between Me and Life, and I was so intrigued to find that somebody was painting lesbians. People didn’t know – I didn’t know — about her work. I made a special trip to to DC to the National Portrait Gallery to see her work. I’ll never forget it.

She became an exemplar, a model. She was like an ancestress. A foremother. Somebody that I could look back to and draw inspiration from.

Unknown-2You know I’m a Guerilla Girl, right? Guerilla Girls take on the names of dead women artists. Mine is Romaine Brooks; I was the only lesbian at the time we founded the group. I identified with Romaine Brooks for a long time. So my “anonymous” Guerrilla Girl identity is Romaine Brooks.

 

Wait, that’s anonymous?

[Laughs]

So how did Brooks get into your self portraits?

I took her on as somebody whose work I admired and just decided to riff on it. In one, I took the palette from the seaside self portrait of Romaine Brooks. The one on the cover of Sandy’s new book.

51tAjIqgCUL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

Romaine Brooks, “Au Bord de la mer (At the Edge of the Sea),” 1914. Oil on canvas, 41-3/8″ x 26-3/4″. Musée de la Coopération Franco-Américane, Blérancourt, France.

That’s the lesser known of the two. What do you like about it?

I like how melancholy and strong it is. There is a sadness and strength that I like. That’s what I tried to put in my own painting.

I liked the very androgynous women that she was painting. So I used Peter as Romaine even though she’s not really Romaine. It’s Peter, but it’s by Romaine. I like the androgynous quality of the Peter figure. The name even. Peter.

Let’s take a look at “Self Portrait as Romaine Brooks.” The central figure is an artist. Clothed. Dressed in black and grey, she stands in profile holding a paintbrush with a dab of red paint at the tip of the brush.

It’s a clitoris. Men paint with their penises, right?

She stands between two female nudes.

Either she’s dreaming about the two women having sex, or…. She’s being sexual in her own creativity.

selfportraitasromainebrooks

Christina Schlesinger, “Self Portrait as Romaine Brooks,” 1994. Oil and fabric on canvas, 52″ x 40″.

We gaze at their torsos. One nude figure wears a realistic-looking strap-on dildo. The other has the same thick dark bush that you like to paint.

Yes, I guess that dates this work! Young lesbians now don’t have bushes. They shave. But I think it’s sexy.

Their torsos are all we get of this pair, since both heads are obscured by a black-and-white checked waistcoat. You cloaked or draped the painted image in the fabric. Tell me about that garment.

It was one of my flannel shirts — only the front shirt panels, with the flannel arms missing. I use a lot of my own clothes in my work.

I saw those in the Tomboys series you exhibited in 2014 at the Leslie-Lohman Museum. The show was called “All True Tomboys.” You write of your quest for “that bright and sturdy tomboy spirit.”

I found myself wondering, “When did I feel good? When did I feel confident?” That’s when I started the series. Whenever I can get that feeling inside of me, it’s so important.

Where do you find it these days?

Hopefully, I only need to look inside.

Who first called you a tomboy?

I always called myself a tomboy. I loved being a tomboy. It’s who I was. I had a younger brother, and there was another younger boy living next door, and I was the leader of our little gang. It was two little boys and me. We built a fort, played marbles, wore Davy Crockett hats, stole comic books from the corner drugstore, and did all these tomboy things together.

Of course my mother was always trying to put me in dresses. So there were constant fights over that. My mother (who’s 103 years old, by the way, and still totally with it) is a painter. She used to paint portraits. She had a Rollieflex and took pictures of her subjects. And me. So I have a lot of photographs of my being a tomboy. I used them as a source for my art. There are also some photos of me in dresses where I’m looking really squirmy. The emotion is totally different. You can see the conflict with my mother. Whereas when I was photographed as a tomboy, I was completely at ease and self-confident.

So back to the flannel shirt draped over the painting of Brooks and her clitoris. What’s its function?

It frames her. It is almost like a pair of wings, surrounding and protecting her. It is also a sign, the flannel signifying lesbian.

Unifying all the figures is the color red—rouging an aroused clit, the lips of a sensitive mouth, the erect nipples on a pair of compact breasts.

It is a circle. Your eye jumps from one little pink dot to another in a kind of circle. The colors pop out against the dark gray and black palette of the painting.

All true tomboys are defiant, confident in their bodies, intrepid, tender and brave.

Christina Schlesinger

"Romaine Brooks and Me" (1994, oil on canvas)

Christina Schlesinger, “Romaine Brooks and Me,” 1994.  Oil on canvas, 24″ x 30″.

And then there’s “Romaine Brooks and Me,” a self portrait reproducing the Peter figure as a plinthless bust. Or maybe a poster child. What’s that pattern at the top?

The pattern is the blue scalloped edge of an actual bed sheet. Bed – sex!

There are two figures in the painting. The scale of the two figures is different. On the left you have a large profile of the Peter/Romaine; opposite and smaller stands the figure of a woman, arms crossed over a white T-shirt. She’s strong, lean, muscled. Fit. She stands confidently in mirrored blue shades with tousled hair and gazes straight at us. She’s cool. No hint that she’s an outsider. Except she’s nude from the waist down. It’s an unsettling effect similar to what I feel looking at the dildo paintings in the Tomboys series. I want to return her gaze but I can’t take my eyes off her crotch.

That’s me. The arms crossed in front—most of the tomboy paintings have that posture. Defiance and confidence.

Complete the sentence: “All true tomboys _________________.”

All true tomboys are defiant, confident in their bodies, intrepid, tender and brave.

What do you hope to learn from the new biography of Brooks?

Anything new that can illuminate her life will be very interesting. I’ve never really understood her drawings that well. I’m kind of curious about those.

I’m hungry for information. You know, “All True Tomboys” was exhibited in New York’s Gay and Lesbian Museum that hardly ever shows lesbians. I’m interested in writing something on lesbian sensibility and lesbian aesthetics. You have to begin with Romaine Brooks. Unless you go back to the Fontainebleau sisters.

Unknown artist, "Gabrielle d'Etrées et une de ses soeurs," c. 1594. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.

Unknown artist, “Gabrielle d’Etrées et une de ses soeurs, duchesse de Villars” c. 1594. Oil on canvas, 37.7″ x 49.2″. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.

That naughty picture of Gabrielle d’Estrées and her sister? With like the Heat Miser and Snow Miser hairdos? Big in the 16th century I guess. I know that one. They’re playing in the bath. And I know just what they’re playing in the bath. Anonymous artist. Fontainebleau school.

So: lesbian aesthetics and the history of lesbian sensibility in Western art. Apart from antiquity. Would you include Courbet?

I suppose you could put Courbet in there, of course. And Toulouse-Lautrec. But those are men.

For lesbian aesthetics do you need a lesbian artist?

I think so. Certainly there are men who can appreciate lesbians and make art about them but they are really only observers, even if very gifted ones. A lesbian paints from her experience as a woman and a lover of women.

What about Gluck? British painter Hanna Gluckstein. Great biography by Diana Souhami. Gluck is Peter.

Gluck is Peter? I had no idea.

I’ve always wanted to see Gluck’s portrait of Romaine. The one she never finished, after Romaine quit sitting. What do you think it looked like?

I would be very intrigued to see Gluck’s portrait of Romaine. I understand that it was not finished because Romaine didn’t like it, which makes the story even more intriguing. What didn’t she like about it? Did Gluck see something in Romaine that Romaine didn’t want seen? Was there an issue of privacy? Of being invaded in some way? Maybe it was too revealing. Romaine’s self portraits have veiled qualities. She’s kind of masked and enigmatic. I see Romaine as a very private, almost hidden person. Maybe she was being revealed in a way she found to be uncomfortable.

Up to now, I’ve been completely entranced with the Peter figure. I was so attracted to this image. I had no idea of the back story. This is a whole new avenue for me to go down. This is more hidden history. You just want to keep filling it in. I’m totally inspired. Entranced.

Romaine Brooks, "Peter, a Young English Girl," 1923-24. Oil on canvas, 36 1/8" x 24 1/2".

Romaine Brooks, “Peter, a Young English Girl,” 1923-24. Oil on canvas, 36-1/8″ x 24-1/2″.

 

 

Christina Schlesinger’s new work will hang in the group show “Figuring Abstraction.” It runs September 26-October 11 at Westbeth Gallery, 55 Bethune Street, New York. More about the show at www.westbeth.org
More about the artist at WWW.CHRISTINASCHLESINGER.COM.

All images copyright © Christina Schlesinger and reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. It is unlawful to reproduce or store these images on electronic media without the written permission of Christina Schlesinger.

Artist’s Statement by Christina Schlesinger

Oct 1
ARTIST’S STATEMENT

UnknownThe Peter Paintings

On a cool late summer evening when I was young, the taste of fall in the air, my mother took me and my best friend, Marylyn, to Provincetown for an evening out at the Fine Art Cinema to see “Expresso Bongo.”

It was an occasion to go to Provincetown from our small house deep in the Wellfleet woods. The streets of Provincetown were empty, the summer crowds already gone. After the movie, walking back to the pier where our car was parked, in the dim light I saw two women, short-hair, dressed like men, rough-housing in an amorous way. I stood transfixed, electrified. Somewhere I recognized these women. Somehow they felt familiar. Somehow they were me.

“Tomboys at the Pier” is my memory of that evening. I am the little girl in the upper right hand corner of the painting recalling that event. I used the Peter figure because she so exactly recalled what I remember seeing.

“Blue Little Girl” shows me as a tomboy holding a Davy Crockett comic book with the Peter figure hidden off to the left, protective and forecasting the future.

“Romaine’s Peter” is a lonelier version of Peter, off in the woods, and “Tomboy with Peter in the Sky,” shows a confident tomboy with Peter flashing overhead.

“Romaine Brooks and Me” reveals Peter in a sexy mood, and “Self-Portrait as Romaine Brooks” uses Peter as a vehicle to paint myself.

Other Peters show up in lesbian bars. And Romaine herself shows up in a monoprint as the “Lesbian Artist.”

Christina Schlesinger

Christina Schlesinger, “Tomboys at the Pier,” 1994. Oil and fabric on canvas, 16″ x 20″.

 

Christina Schlesinger, "Blue Little Girl," 1994. Oil and fabric on canvas.

Christina Schlesinger, “Blue Little Girl,” 1994. Oil, photo transfer and mixed media  on canvas, 16″ x 20″.

 

"Tomboy with Peter in the Sky" (1994, oil and fabric on canvas, 16" x 20")

Christina Schlesinger, “Tomboys with Peter in the Sky,” 1994. Oil and fabric on canvas, 30″ x 40″.

 

Christina Schlesinger, "Romaine's Peter," 1994, oil on canvas.

Christina Schlesinger, “Romaine’s Peter,” 1994, oil on canvas, 24″ x 30″.

 

"Romaine Brooks and Me" (1994, oil on canvas)

Christina Schlesinger, “Romaine Brooks and Me,” 1994. Oil on canvas, 24″ x 30″.

 

Christina Schlesinger, "Self Portrait as Romaine Brooks," 1994. Oil and fabric on canvas, 52" x 40".

Christina Schlesinger, “Self Portrait as Romaine Brooks,” 1994. Oil and fabric on canvas, 52″ x 40″.

 

Christina Schlesinger, "Lesbian Artist," 1994. Monoprint.

Christina Schlesinger, “Lesbian Artist,” 1994. Monoprint, 12″ x 16″.

 

Read Suzanne’s interview with Christina HERE. More about the artist at www.christinaschlesinger.com.

All images copyright (c) Christina Schlesinger and used with permission. All rights reserved. It is unlawful to reproduce or store these images on electronic media without the written permission of Christina Schlesinger.

Family Spirit published by Chronicle Books

May 16

Suzanne Stroh is lead researcher for book about multigenerational success in family business

Family Spirit by William Grant  & Sons

Family Spirit by William Grant & Sons available at Amazon

Here’s a review in The New York Times of my handsome new book, Family Spirit. It grew out of the year-long research project I worked on with John Davis and Florence Tsai of Cambridge Institute for Family Enterprise in partnership with the makers of Glenfiddich single malt whiskey.

You can buy the book on Amazon.

Red Duchess Turns 140

Apr 23

The Red Duchess Turns 140

It’s always refreshing to meet a lesbian without complexes. April 23 is the birthday of the pleasure-loving French memoirist and music patron Elisabeth de Gramont, born in 1875. Today she turns 140.

I was in Paris last week gallivanting around with her biographer, Francesco Rapazzini. We did what Elisabeth would have done on the hunt for a perfect birthday gift: paid a visit to a Left Bank bookseller.

Fabulous. Chantal Bigot.

Chantal Bigot.

Rare books expert Chantal Bigot runs the tiny bookshop Librairie les Amazones in a courtyard off the rue Bonaparte. It’s open only by appointment. Here you can browse memoirs, letters and biographies by and about female iconoclasts like Lily de Gramont—provided you read French. Lily would have been over the moon there. One of her friends famously commented that when Madame looked you over, she was trying to see if you were edible. Chantal’s bookshop is a wonderland where every volume, whether a collectible or a contemporary small edition, is a world of sensuous pleasure in itself.

Correspondance: Elisabeth de Gramont & Liane de Pougy (Paris: L’Amazone retrouvée 2006, 193 pp).

What to buy for April in Paris? I chose Lily’s correspondence with Liane de Pougy, beautifully published in 2006 in an edition of 200 by l’Amazone retrouvée with an introduction by Rapazzini. The 29 letters trace an unlikely love affair between the 47-year-old divorced duchess (a communist at heart) and the faded courtesan-turned-princess that began in August 1922, instigated by Natalie Barney, and lasted about a year until Natalie put a stop to it.

I paid by PayPal (which you can do by ordering online) then capped the perfect morning with a visit to the florist in the Marché St. Germain nearby.

images

 

 

 

For you, Madame. Happy birthday. Here’s to a few hundred more.

 

Librairie Les Amazones
Mme Chantal Bigot

68, rue Bonaparte
75006, Paris, France
Téléphone : 33 01 40 46 08 37
E-mail : lib.lesamazones@gmail.com

RADA news

Feb 2

I’m thrilled to announce that on April 8, 2015, my screenplay SCOTCH VERDICT will be developed at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art under the artful dramaturgy of playwright and RADA graduate Deirdre Strath Clyde.

If you haven’t come across the word dramaturgy in a while, it’s the art and technique of theatrical representation. SCOTCH VERDICT has magical realism elements that make the dramaturg’s job really tricky. I can’t wait to see how Deirdre will translate my film language so it can be interpreted by actors and a director for the stage. It is always a priceless opportunity for any dramatist, anywhere in the world, to see and hear the words on paper come alive before an audience. But at RADA? One of the world’s top drama schools with a royal reputation for teaching and developing new talent? It’s a dream come true.

I owe this great honor to Helen Patton, another RADA graduate who successfully developed YOUNG PATTON at a similar event last year. Helen and her team at Uppergate Entertainment will co-produce the SCOTCH VERDICT project.

The staged reading is being produced in association with Women @ RADA, the grassroots collective created by RADA graduates. Check out Women @ RADA’s mission statement here.

For more news about cast and crew, follow events at ScotchVerdict.com.

 

BEFORE

DURING

DURING

AFTER

AFTER

Fixed Gaze to Produce Romaine Brooks Book Trailer

Jan 24

Fixed Gaze to Produce Romaine Brooks Trailer

With the relaunch of RomaineBrooks.com, the book blog of biographer Cassandra Langer, I’m pleased to announce that Fixed Gaze Films will produce the trailer for All or Nothing: Romaine Brooks (1874-1970). The biography will be published in Fall 2015 by University of Wisconsin Press.

Romaine Brooks has been in the news, on and off, ever since she got a mention in The Wall Street Journal interview of her first biographer, Meryle Secrest, who has a new book out on Schiaparelli. Brooks was also the first patron of Eileen Gray, the subject of an indie biopic starring Alanis Morissette. Now there’s a work of fiction with Romaine Brooks at the core. Read Langer’s interesting take here on Megan Mayhew Bergman’s new short story collection, just launched from Scribners.

Bergman’s book, Almost Famous Women, has been getting a lot of critical attention. A fictional Romaine Brooks shines like dark matter as the star of the central story, “Romaine Remains.”

Romaine Speaks!

Romaine Speaks!

Cassandra Langer explains how Bergman’s take on Brooks at age 93 in 1967 contradicts what Jean Loup Combemale and I discovered when he mostly transcribed (and together we translated) the only known recording of the American Modernist painter’s voice. The 90-minute recording was made that same year, composed of interviews in French conducted on several different days, and it reveals a totally different character from the one portrayed in at least six books about Brooks, Natalie Barney and their circle.

The recording appears to have been made at 20, rue Jacob in the sitting room of Natalie Barney. From time to time, we hear the door opening to a courtyard in Spring or Summer, with birds chirping loudly. Whether this records the silent footsteps and ghostly presence of Natalie or Berthe, her cook, or even Romaine’s bête noire, Janine Lahovary, we’ll never know.

Astonishingly, the source reel had been “lost” for 20 years or more, apparently misfiled, and never transcribed. Very few people alive today remember Romaine’s voice. I will never forget the day I accompanied Cassandra Langer to the Smithsonian and watched the devoted biographer put on a pair of headphones and listen to the voice of her subject for the first time. It was through Langer’s relentless quest that the recording was finally rediscovered–luckily, just in time for publication of her book.

McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa

McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa

images-1In December, I donated the transcription and translation to the Department of Special Collections and University Archives of the McFarlin Library at the University of Tulsa, which also houses the letters of Romaine Brooks and Natalie Barney. Tulsa plans to make the materials available to researchers worldwide on the Internet. A reference copy of the transcription and translation of the 1967 audio recording is also lodged with the Romaine Brooks Papers at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, DC.

Pre-production is going smoothly on the book trailer that will reintroduce the artist to a new generation of fans. Charles Blatz will direct. Jaclyn Boudreau is producing.

Jaclyn has been a managing creative since moving to Virginia in 2012. As a video producer for the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University, Jaclyn is involved in all aspects of video campaigns from conception and development to digital marketing to web design. Working with the Fixed Gaze team, Jaclyn is creating trailers, logos, and other motion graphics needed for the release of All or Nothing: Romaine Brooks (1874-1970) by Cassandra Langer. When she isn’t editing scripts or reviewing storyboards, I’m told, Jaclyn is “binge-watching animated shorts on YouTube, reading Hi-Fructose, and leaving wet towels on the floor of my fiancé’s apartment.”

Charles Blatz graduated from Manhattanville College in 2011 and has been experimenting with video ever since. Passionate about photography and videography, Charles moved to Arlington in 2012 to pursue a career in digital media. He works as a Media Producer and Editor at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Charles is silent on his wet towel husbandry.

Helen Patton, co-producer of SCOTCH VERDICT at RADA

Helen Patton, co-producer of SCOTCH VERDICT at RADA

This year Fixed Gaze, in partnership with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and Helen Patton’s Uppergate Entertainment, will also co-produce a staged reading of SCOTCH VERDICT in London on April 8 or 9. More on that to come.

 

Happy New Year

Jan 10
New Year Twilight

2015 Marks 25th Anniversary of Appalachian Trail Odyssey

Happy New Year from the shores of the wild and woolly Great Lakes, where I spent my childhood. This picture from landscape photographer Mark Graf pretty much says it all about that six month season from the end of October all the way through April that Michiganders call winter.

Move your cursor over the image and see what you think of it in black and white. Different worlds, aren’t they? Graf’s art and what WordPress makes of it: it’s a little like what being a novelist is like, I think. Those instant shifts of perspective that trigger indelible acts of the imagination, bleeding color in and out of the life you live in.

I saw Turner sunrises over the lake just like this every morning on the way to school in Grosse Pointe. The daily choice whether to walk or ride my bike along the lake always took the biting wind into account. The least exposed way to the Grosse Point Academy (formerly the convent school where I attended Montessori) was inland a few blocks. But if I took the Lake Shore route home, I could watch the pleasure craft trying to avoid the big, thousand-foot freighters and their escorts, the tug boats and ice-cutters, that seemed endlessly fascinating as they hauled taconite down from Duluth, heading out to sea on the St. Lawrence.

images

When suppertime came the old cook came on deck Saying “Fellas, it’s too rough to feed ya.” At 7 pm the main hatchway caved in. He said, “Fellas, it’s been good to know ya.” Classic poetry from Canadian troubadour Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

“The spot I made that photograph is one that I return to frequently,” says Mark Graf. “It has become my go-to place for winter landscape photography because it changes SO much from day to day. Winds, currents, temperatures and light all play together creating a landscape like a collaborative painting. It must have been nice to witness it every day where you grew up. I live about 25 minutes away from the lake, so I am often “guessing” what conditions may be like – and I really only photograph it in the winter time. It is more barren, isolated, and in a state of transformation then. No boats or human activity except for ice fisherman when the ice thickens.”

If you’ve never really listened to “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” the 1974 classic Great Lakes ballad by Gordon Lightfoot, this is the season, and now’s the time. Don’t waste another minute of your frozen life. Listen to it in good quality and read the lyrics here on YouTube.

images-1

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
when the wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did too,
twas the witch of November come stealing.

After fifth grade, when I left the Academy to spend the next seven years at University Liggett School, I carpooled until I could drive myself. In those days you spent half an hour scraping ice off the car in the morning, unless you were among the lucky few with a heated garage, and it took the whole half-hour trip to get 30 seconds of heat from vents. I remember one carpooling mother who smoked in the car. I was always waiting for her breath to freeze the smoke she blew through her nostrils. The pre-crystalline vapors hung midair like in zero-gravity, and I wasn’t sure what was worse, the stench form the cigarette or the frost-covered vinyl seat beneath my kilt.

I spent many weekends in the Metamora hunt country fifty miles away along rutted old plank roads, so ace driving skills were key. You spent a lot of time in the ditch. You learned how to get yourself out. Usually by the skin of your teeth. Nobody repaired a dented car til summer.

Today, living in the Virginia countryside, watching the whole state shut down under an inch of snow, I’m having a hard time convincing my daughter to spend Friday nights doing donuts in empty lots. I still change my tires every winter (that means I put snow tires on my car); I still keep “emergency blankets in the boot” (that means you can always find a thermos, parka, extra boots and a snow shovel in my car this time of year); I’ll load the car with water and a stove, skis & skins or snowshoes (or at least crampons) on long trips off the blacktop if I don’t know whether a storm is coming; and Virginians love to tease me about it, even here in horse country. But two years ago, Fair Spouse found herself stuck behind an I-81 winter pileup for 18 hours. Yep, she bundled up and walked to a hotel. That’s my girl.

Photo: appalachianwoman.com

Photo: appalachianwoman.com

2015 is an important anniversary year for me as a lover of wild places. It’s the 25th anniversary of the year I spent on the Appalachian Trail. You can get an idea of what that was all about here, in the documentary I made that has been resurrected from the dead and posted on YouTube by one of my thru hiking pals, trail name “weathercarrot.” It was the best surprise Christmas present ever.

Looking back beyond that spring day 25 years ago when I started my 2,184-mile trek along the Appalachian Trail in 1991, I can remember the call of the stark landscapes I grew up in. A friend’s New Year’s greetings recalled the upland game shooting I used to do with my family under slate grey skies in the bleak winter cornfields fringing Mid-Michigan woods. An old schoolmate’s Facebook post on the day it dawned cold here (and never got above 19 degrees F) reminded me what it felt like when your nose hairs froze on a shoveled path with snow piled high above your shoulders. Mike Leigh’s new film, MR TURNER, catches my eye for bloody sunrises and sunsets that suddenly turn into abstractions, like music, and then back into untamed landscapes. Mark Graf’s photograph fills me with the call of the wild across the lake ice.

Ice covered fields of Metamora, Michigan, where I also grew up. (c) AP

Ice covered fields of Metamora, Michigan, where I also grew up. (c) AP

Wondering what to read by the fireside until it’s time to hit the trail again? Michigan authors and a little Gordon Lightfoot will get you through the long nights. There’s just something about ’em. It’s hard to explain, like why the winter goes by faster with a cup of Caribou coffee, or why “Michigan” by the Milk Carton Kids always makes me cry. See a Coppola film, or something by Larry Kasdan. Or anything with Jeff Daniels in it. Try reading some Elmore Leonard. Some Kerouac. Some Joyce Carol Oates or some Jeff Eugenides, who taught my drama class in middle school. Some Caldecott-winning Chris Van Allsberg or some bitter stanzas by our former Poet Laureate Philip Levine. Howbout some Hemingway, Algren or Tom McGuane? They all go well with good whiskey. Still stumped? Here’s last year’s list of Michigan’s 20 Notable Books.

Has anybody seen this year’s list? It didn’t get used for tinder last night, did it?

Until you help me get caught up, I think I’ll start with the new collection by Jim Harrison, then move on to the natural history of the sturgeon edited by Nancy Auer and Dave Dempsey. And for a dessert that’s not too sweet, the poetry collection Birth Marks by Jim Daniels.

“I have been photographing in Michigan for close to 20 years now,” says Graf, “and it always surprises me with little known spots now and then.”

Mother of Presidents Marries Lesbians!

Dec 10

Unknown
Mother of Presidents Marries Lesbians!

Approaching the winter solstice this month, pagan rites and marriage rites are both on my mind, heeding Scott Fitzgerald who advised creative people to be passionate about reconciling opposites.

 

Cosmology has bled cinematically into these musings, in the form of INTERSTELLAR by Christopher Nolan (the love child of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and CONTACT) and THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (with that remarkable performance by Eddie Redmayne). I’ll leave the pagans for another post. That leaves marriage for now.

stroh-wedding

Bluebells in Winchester, VA does such a lovely job of cheering you up on a cold, damp midwinter’s “walk down the aisle.”

Whenever marriage is on my mind in December, so are hairdressers and florists, handmade notecards and satin ribbons, lovely papers and poetry and ink pens, good friends, good wine, firelight, decorating with teenagers, winter gardens and quotable wisdom by Kahlil Gibran and Vita Sackville-West.

I can recommend all of those things (plus Love, Death and the Changing of the Seasons, Marilyn Hacker’s novel in sonnets, which I just reread with such pleasure over Thanksgiving) as seasonal antidotes to the commercial “holiday” horrors that are falling fast upon us, darker than the long nights. They’ve seemed longer and colder so far this winter, don’t you think?

As to marriage…as the translator of Elisabeth de Gramont, who was first a chattel bride, then a battered wife, then a bigamist with an Eternal Mate, then a divorcee, and in the end, the happy head of three female households at once and for life, I have been mulling over what marriage is, civilly and spiritually; what it can be; and what it so often is not.

imagesThere is nothing more lovely in life than the union of two people whose love for one another has grown through the years from the small acorn of passion, into a great rooted tree.

–Vita Sackville-West

 

 

Unknown-1I will learn even more from Charity and Sylvia, the new history of an early American lesbian marriage by an entertaining food blogger and history professor, Rachel Hope Cleves (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, 296 pp., also available on Kindle).

Charity and Sylvia is the tale of two ordinary women who lived in an extraordinary same-sex marriage in early nineteenth-century Vermont.

What more needs be said about a book that got rave reviews from the author of Sex and the Founding Fathers?

 

 

Rachel will join me here in 2015 for virtual cooking and conversation about this book and upcoming projects, so why not read the book with along with me this holiday season?

My own marriage of 17 years got a do-over on December 8th, when Fair Spouse and I got (re)married at Belmont in the studio of my uncle Gari Melchers, the American Impressionist and portrait painter, and finally recorded our legal marriage in Stafford County, Virginia.

Got married again here, this time in the church of art.

Got married again here, this time in the church of art.

The “Mother of Presidents” is finally free to marry whom she chooses! Imagine that. Never thought we’d see the day. It was a proud and happy day for my little family as Virginians and Americans.

Back in 1997, the three Episcopal priests who married us at All Saints, Pasadena—Ed Bacon, Margaret Cunningham and Bill Doulos—risked their jobs (along with their careers and their pensions) to seal our covenant and pronounce us married in the eyes of God using the Rite I service our families had grown up with. It is hard for our teenage daughter to imagine how radical it was, “back then in the 1990s,” to merely repeat the comforting words her beloved grandmothers had memorized from attending so many weddings during their lifetimes.

Love the Unitarian seal, the winter solstice under the full moon....

Love the Unitarian seal, the winter solstice under the full moon….

This time, we developed a liturgy jointly with the local Unitarian minister, Reverend Walter Braman, sporting a really interesting Romanian stole. This time around, getting married was shorter and, yes, sweeter. It had a lot more humanism, Epicureanism, science and poetry. The offspring was present at the nuptials of the parents, proof that time flows in all directions. Sorrow was served up in roughly equal measure to joy. Reference was also made to back seat driving and lingering too long in coffees shops chatting to total strangers. That’s 17 years of marriage for you.

People often ask me how to keep happy marriages going. Oh yes, I have ideas. Happy to share them privately. Which is one way of putting it. (Hint: the way to keep marriage going is to keep it as private as possible!)

Before I sign off for 2014, I’d like to thank some of the people who made it all possible. When I call your name, would you please stand for applause. Drumroll, please, for the good company I keep here at S. Stroh & Co:

Nikki Grigsby, star assistant, somebody should play you in a movie about the world’s greatest Girl Friday. You handle my perplexity and complexity with just the right blend of blasé and aplomb. Plus your sartorial gifts make you a moving work of art. Thank you, Nikki, for all you do every day to keep me on track and (somewhat) organized.

Andrea Kuchinski, designer and lifestyle maven extraordinaire, where would I be without your workaholism? I think we probably need to go to Late Nights Anonymous together, but til then, keep it up, Chief! Your good taste infuses everything we create together, including those fabulous order of service for my wedding yesterday. Thank you.

Jason Wolf of EagerSheep, webmaster deluxe, please do not tell the world about the insanely idiotic directives you routinely have to deal with from me, such as: “What is this thingy beside that button thing on the, you know? That computer thing with the web site. Why can’t I…..?????” This year you have handled everything technical here at SuzanneStroh.com, in addition to powering beautiful ScotchVerdict.com. And you even found time to travel to Mexico and develop our film projects at OaxacaFilmFest. Thank you, Jason.

To the guests who have made things much more interesting around here: astrologists A.T. Mann and Jo Cooke; authors Geraldine Amaral, Chelsea Ray, Cassandra Langer and Artemis Leontis; researcher Giulia Napoleone, who ferreted out the only known film footage of Natalie Barney from a BBC shoot so secret they refuse to share the entire interview with researchers; and filmmaker Ben Levine.

Pippa Gerber-Stroh, budding photographer, furnished the photos for Lily de Gramont’s birthday toast.Thanks, Sprite.

Helen Patton, actress, filmmaker and chairman of The Patton Foundation, your energy is an inspiration. This year I watched you compose a dirge on a flight from Santa Fe to Dallas, setting music to a beautiful WWI poem, and perform it on something like two hours’ sleep. I look forward to working together on our individual film projects, YOUNG PATTON and SCOTCH VERDICT, in 2015 at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Daniel Hasse, you bright young thing, congratulations on the significant accomplishments you continue to rack up as creative director of Shakespeare in the Square. Thank you for your doubling expertise and casting breakdown of SCOTCH VERDICT, and here’s to more projects in store in 2015.

Ditto more to explore in 2015 with Winnaretta Singer specialist Linda Hollander, whose fictional diary of her salacious subject (the 23rd child of Isaac Singer, who invented the sewing machine…but who’s counting?) simply MUST find a publisher–or a TV miniseries, whichever comes first. Never heard of Tante Winnie? She was the first American princess. “Before there was Grace Kelly,” says Hollander, “there was Winnaretta.” And she was a major philanthropist, building Major cultural institutions in Paris and transforming those she hadn’t built. “Before there was Princess Di,” says Hollander, “there was Winnaretta.” Oh, and she built her own dungeon de luxe way before 50 Shades of Gray. Got your attention? Stay tuned for more from Linda Hollander, here, in 2015.

I was incredibly fortunate that Spanish poet and filmmaker Paloma Etienne agreed to translate the synopsis for my Mexican film project in development, “Ella.” It was well received in September at the Oaxaca FilmFest 5th Edition. Thank you, Paloma. If you read Spanish and want to read what Virginia Woolf might write in the 21st century, download Paloma’s book I’ve Loved You for So Long for your Kindle. It’s a novel written in text messages.

Multi-talented Colleen Hahn and her team at Gryphon Media Strategies supported my work this year with excellent literary services. Thanks, Colleen, and I hope we will find more ways to work together in 2015.

Last year I met reader, traveler and tech specialist Steven Schroeder through our shared love of the avant-gardistes of the Belle Epoque. Thanks, Steven, for priming me on Wikipedia and for expanding my horizons. Your interest in my work has sparked new projects of interest to us both.

And last but not least, to my esteemed colleagues, author Cassandra Langer and translator Jean-Loup Combemale, with whom I’ve explored the forgotten world of Romaine Brooks this year, thank you. I love our work together on the avant-gardes of the interwar period, what a team! After a lively presentation at the Archives of American Art in November, our transcription and translation of the only known voice recording of “The Thief of Souls” is now on its way to a permanent home at the University of Tulsa, which will make it available online to researchers all over the world. Here’s to more of same in 2015.

We lost author Diana McLellan in 2014, and the written world will never be the same without her. The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood is still the best romp I ever had between the covers of a book, and Booktrope reissued it this year. Ah, Diana. May she dish forever in the great beyond.

Unknown-2