Archive for September, 2009

Food, Glorious Fair Food


food alley rs

What is it about the Kern County Fair?  Or any fair, for that matter.  Basically, I dislike the fair – especially today, when the temperature hit triple digits, but the afternoon sun reflecting off the pavement added at least 10 degrees.  Yet – I went today anyhow because it was Senior Day and I got in free.

I went because I wanted a wooden sign.  Some things, you just get at the fair.  We needed a couple of signs for our cabin, Kamala, in addition to the sign Wendy and Gene gave us last year.  Which – Wendy got at the fair!

signs rs

Now, I had several hours to fill up while waiting for the signs.  Several hot, blazing hours.  But there is something else I buy at the fair – folding scissors – so I headed off for the big tent full of booths.  Besides scissors, I acquired a bag of Christmas gifts and it wasn’t heavy, but it wasn’t light either.

fair st. resized

Gotta say, never been to senior day before.  But if this is any indication, not a lot of folks come out.  I’m sure the temp had lots to do with it.  The blazing white bench in the blazing midday sun did not look very inviting.

So here I was with time on my hands, bags over my arms, wanting to take photos but in the harshest lighting conditions of the day.  Mostly, I had to use one hand to hold the camera (Canon EOS 30D), also, since I’d already purchased those Christmas gifts.

The thing with photography is sometimes you have to make do.  And I had to make do.  I’m telling myself I’ll go back if some cooler temps push in, but I probably won’t.  Amazing how we can fool ourselves when we know already what we will or won’t do.  It’s the same thing with fair food.  Food, fabulous fair food.

Fair food.  Gosh, I love the idea of fair food.  Every year I think, This’ll be the year I eat a funnel cake!  This year I’m going for deep-fried anything (Twinkies, anyone?).  I get all excited, start with a corn dog, eat half, and find I really don’t like fried food anymore.

smore rs

I mean, how pathetic!  Even for the Boy Scouts, I can’t eat fried food.  I think the problem is the smell of all that oil and fat in the fryers permeates the air.  Maybe if it were 70 degrees instead of 110, I’d be able to eat.  Every year, it’s the same story.  I live in Bakersfield, CA, in the San Joaquin valley, and it’s always hot during the fair.  The fair weather is not fair.

pizza rs

So, what to eat. Look at the gooey, melting cheese!  But I’m a melting senior – why do I want hot, melting cheese?

orange chilk rs

At the fair, you can get almost anything on a stick.  Anything American that is.  And believe me, egg rolls and orange chicken are American.  When we were in China, we could buy scorpion-on-a-stick, starfish-on-a-stick, snake-on-a-stick, testicles-on-a-stick – the list goes on and on.  Here – I’ll prove it.

rs beijing night market

So I won’t get anything on a stick. But – I love whipped cream.  To me, any food item is a whipped-cream-delivery vehicle.  And funnel cakes have whipped cream!

funnel cakes rs

But I got to thinking about the nutrition information.  Now that it’s available in restaurants with over 15 locations, it’s hard to eat anything at all!  We eat crummy stuff when we go out to eat! (Of course, when you go to Valentiens, like we did last night, you say calories be damned because at Valentiens you don’t eat, you dine.)

But the whipped cream was calling me.

cake pic rs

It didn’t call loud enough.  And with Big Bubba’s Bad Bbq next door, all of a sudden the idea of food was – well, take a look.

big bubba rs

Too hot for Big Bubba.  Needed something totally cool.  And this did look good:

fresh lemon rs

But what is freckled lemonade?  Strawberry freckled lemonade?  The freckles must be the seeds.  All of a sudden, I didn’t want that either.

The choices continued.

sno shack rs

Cooling, but I never liked shaved ice.

polish rs

I like polish sausage.  But it’s hot.

hot dog rs

More food-on-a-stick.  But I already tried the DeMolay corn dog and ate less than half.

finger steaks rs

I like eating with my fingers – when we lived in Morocco from 1971-73, we ate without utensils and it worked just fine.  Often, we used bread to scoop up food from the common dish in the middle of the table.  But at the fair, juggling packages and my camera, finger steaks didn’t sound like the answer.

udder dlite cropped

So once, again, although the fair food seemed like an udder d-lite, it was a no-go.  Time after time.  Time after time.  I can’t wait to get to the fair and eat, but I never learn and I never eat.  Yet hope springs eternal, so until next year…which is sure to be The Year of the Funnel Cake.  Or the Cinnamon Bun.  Or the Teen Challenge Apple Fritter.  Or the…hmmm, I can dream, but who am I fooling?

Collage and Jacques de la Villegle



Today, thanks to a friend, I discovered an exciting artist who works in collage.  Jacques de la Villegle, a Frenchman who moved to Paris in 1949, started to collect posters from fences, street sign posts, anywhere on the streets where posters were plastered.  Often a newer poster would be placed on an older one, and then a newer one yet, until there were many layers of posters weathered, ripped, or torn.  Villegle took these posters and mounted them on canvas, mostly as he found them, sometimes rearranged I expect, and created stunning art.  A particularly insightful analysis by Josh Clark  is worth reading.

As a seventh-grade writing teacher, I often had my students create found poetry.  In a found poem, you take words or phrases from someone else’s work and arrange them into a poem of your own.  It ‘s quite amazing – I liked using Ray Bradbury’s The Veldt and, using his words, 35 students came up with 35 entirely different poems.


I had never considered found art, however.  I’ve been thinking about some “recycled” art I’d like to do, but to “lift” an entire piece as is, well – it’s brilliant.   Villegle took work that had already been created for him by the layers of posters and the weathering, put it on canvas, and called it a day.  It’s got my mind spinning.  Villegle said, “I like to save myself the creative agony. The whole world makes work for me. I only have to collect it.”

He “only” has to collect it – I don’t think it’s quite so simple.   He had to “see” it and understand the possibilities.  Besides stunning images, it’s a bit of a history lesson if you can decipher the layers.

Jaques_de_la_Villegle 2

My collages are composed mostly of my own photographs, but I’m going to be seeing the world with slightly different eyes right now, thanks to Villegle.

If you are in the Bakersfield, CA environs, my work will be on display at the Metro Gallery through the month of October.  I’m excited about this show but also what new turns I may take in future work – thanks to sifting ideas like found art and turning them into something different.




Altered Landscapes: Photo Collages by Susan Reep

Opening First Friday, Oct. 2 at the Metro Gallery downtown Bakersfield.

Open 5 – 9 – refreshments, music, art – plus other galleries will be open.

EVERYONE is invited!


Yes, NOW is the time to put this date on your calendar to visit beautiful downtown Bakersfield (really, it’s getting pretty cool now) and see my show.

Artist’s Statement:  Susan Reep

I come from a family of artists.  My father, Edward Reep, is a nationally-renowned watercolorist with paintings hanging in museums across the country, as well as a World War II combat artist, with works in the Pentagon and the Smithsonian.  My mother, Pat Reep, is a well-known quilter.  I knew from the time I got my first Brownie Kodak camera that photography was the vehicle for my artistic expression, and I have been taking pictures ever since.  My photography has evolved into photo collage in which I use my own photos as the base images as well as the collage material, with limited exceptions.

The Altered Landscapes series depicts familiar settings in ways we haven’t seen them before.  They challenge us to reevaluate how we see our surroundings and remind us to see, not just look.  The familiar becomes strange, somewhat fanciful, juxtaposing like with unlike, becoming metaphors.

In the Chinese Lantern Series, I use photos of lanterns that I took in China, and as the collage material I use not only my photos but images from vintage fruit and vegetable crate labels.  The collages make subtle political statements, forcing us to confront this magnificent yet complex country in which nothing makes sense while everything makes sense.

In the Muse series, I examine roles of women all over the world and how they are the foundation of society.  We admire the famous and well-known, but all women are worthy of our admiration if only because they get up every day and do what they need to do for the family and for survival.

I have set myself several constraints in my collages.  I do not photograph anything with the intent of using the image in a collage, nor do I purchase a crate label with the intent of use.  Narrowing the field to making something from what I already have limits my choice, which forces me to think more creatively.  After all, if I have already taken a photo, whether on family occasions or travel, I’ve done so because the image is meaningful to me.  Then, upon further examination, the possibilities for altering the landscape emerge.  And that is exactly what I want to do – expand the field of vision for both myself and the viewer to possibilities that didn’t exist before.  I’ve chosen to do real cut and paste rather than manipulate images digitally.  I think the result is less perfect and more personal.

When I begin work on a piece, I have an image of what I want to create and I print the photographs I think I will use.  Sometimes what I conceive of comes out as planned, other times, the photos take over and the image is altered, and still other times, I may have to trash the entire work and start again after several days work.

So what do they all mean? I may have intent, but as always, the message is in the eye of the beholder, and it fluctuates as the knowledge, awareness, and mood of the beholder changes.  There’s no right or wrong interpretation – according to Chinese artist Liu Chun-Hau, “Artistic creation is not mere decoration. The artist has to convey his inspiration to others while allowing them freedom of interpretation.”

Burn the Witch: Get Creative with your Photos


Burn the Witch is an all-woman art show held every year in Bakersfield. Whoever wants to enter works can (women, anyhow), and it’s free. The witches have two viewing dates, complete with buffet.

Last year I exhibited the Chinese Lantern Series.  This year, I’m going to exhibit six works, some new, some not, but none previously exhibited (that’s one of the rules – works cannot have been shown before).

These works use photography – but the pictures are torn, painted on, or cut up to make the statement I was going for.  You don’t just have to take a photo at face value – it’s fun to try some creativity – to mix the media, hence the name mixed media for works that use more than one component.  For those of us – like me – that really can’t draw or paint, getting creative with photography is a way to venture beyond photography into the art world.

I don’t mind showing what I’m exhibiting here because it’s not really the same as seeing them in person.  I know some of my readers are in other states, cities and countries so I really doubt you’re going to make a beeline for Bakersfield!

Inauguration SunriseThis is Inauguration Sunrise.  The pinkish strips of paper are from a photo I took from my balcony on the morning President Obama was inaugurated.  The golden strips are sunset off of Big Sur on the California coastline.  Sort of “from sea to shining sea.” I tore the photos into strips, as in the stripes on our flag. Taken together, this mixed media piece is an abstract flag.

Into the Maelstrom

Into the Maelstrom. There is nothing calm about this piece.  The photo, which is something I put together on photoshop, is a shattered branch of a giant Sequoia tree.  I cut it apart and added some paint and the glass fish.  The edges of the photo are lifting from the canvas – metaphorically, nothing is secure. The fish are heading into the maelstrom – and so is the general condition of the fish in our seas.  We’re running out.  Will all viewers take this complicated analysis away from seeing this?  Maybe no one will, but that’s ok.  We all make meaningful messages for ourselves based on our experience.

Catch Me if You Can

Catch Me if You Can.  I adore this photo of two of my grandchildren.  It’s a great example of what can happen when you inspect your photos closely.  Obviously, pictures of kids running and playing aren’t easy to get and I had no idea I would have such great symmetry – left arms out, right legs bent.  And Annabelle’s little pony tail blowing forward, the direction she is running.  I printing the photo in black and white, added a bit of blue in the sea and put red dots in the bathing suit.  Don’t be surprised if the sea gets a little more attention however! I got two small drops of red paint on the ocean, so I had to cover them up somehow.  I’m not completely happy with my splashes of blue, but I have an idea.   Sometimes, if you have a problem, feature it!

Roots and Wings

Roots and Wings.  The background leaves as well as the flowers are from Butchart Gardens in Victoria.  We were there just about a year ago for our 40th anniversary.  The kindergartners are from a classroom in FengDu, China, that we visited in May 2008.  I have no explanation for why the one little boy has a shirt that says Chocolate Jesus.  I’ll let the viewer figure out what this means, if anything, based on the title.

Carry Me Home

Carry Me Home.  I talked about this on a previous blog.  You can click here for the discussion of this as well as the next collage, All the King’s Horses.

So get creative with your photography!  Since photoshop has arrived, I chose to work the old fashioned way, with scissors and glue.  It’s flawed, there are imperfections, but that’s part of the process.  To me, it’s a little more personal.


Tonight was the opening of the Art’s Council of Kern’s exhibit Food, Glorious Food.  I had entered two works, again, collages.  For these I didn’t use photos, but images I cut from vintage fruit and vegetable labels.  Here’s what I entered.


Metropolitan:  The canvas is painted and the images are cut from vintage fruit crate labels.  Same with the next one, Rayo.


AND – these were used on the show mailers and posters.  Plus, it was a juried show, which I completely forgot about, and I won a cash prize!  Wahoo!  That was very exciting – especially since I didn’t have to wonder if I was going to win or not!  Forgetting has its uses I suppose.

postcard mailer front


Ok. If anyone is still reading, these are some ideas of how photography can step out and become something else.  Give it a try – the worst that can happen is you don’t enjoy it and tear up what you did.  But nothing ventured…

The Umbrellas of Yangshao


More umbrellas, especially for second-grader Caroline from Paris,  who said that “umbrellas thinking made her laugh.”  Ideas are starting to take shape, at least as far as I ordered two prints – 20×30. I can’t print that big at home -my Epson 2200 will print up to Super B. So I ordered this, as well as the black and white, but I flipped the b&w horizontally.  What will become of them?  The ideas are germinating…rs vernazza striped

Ok, now for The Umbrellas of Yangshao (China).

rs Yangshao market b and w

Yangshao market

rs Yangshao dragon b and wrs Yangshao dragon

rs Li River b and wrs Li River

rs Yangshao colored umbrells b and wrs Yangshao colored umbrells

rs red umbrella b and wrs red umbrella

It’s Black, It’s White, and Color Too: Umbrellas


Vernazza, Italy:  Going to do something soon with umbrellas.  Idea are mushing around in my head.  Something will emerge from the muck.  Somehow, the creative process works.  Think umbrellas.

rs vernazza striped

rs vernazza striped b and wrs vernazza striped closedrs vernazza striped closed b and wrs vernazza solidrs vernazza solid b and wrs vernazza nightrs vernazza night b and w

rs vernazza oners vernazza oneb and w

Exeter – City of Murals


Once in a while I like to head up Highway 65 to Exeter.  It’s a fantastic little town with 26 outdoor murals.  The town was going the way of many small towns, especially after the citrus freeze of 1990, but they found a way to reinvent themselves: become a tourist attraction with cool restaurants and shops and outdoor art.  And the art is good.

My sister came with me and we ate lunch at the Hometown Emporium – we like it there because their homemade bread is the  best.  And Cris adores their fried bologna sandwiches.  Someone has to like bologna – Oscar Meyer sells a lot of it.

yokohl resizedThis is the view from Hometown Emporium.  The Yokohl label is one of my favorites.  We stopped at a lovely little park.  Can you tell the mural from the sky?

orange tree mural resizedVery pleasant.  And there are nice little shops and restaurants right by the park.

poppy square resized

poppies resized

Another view from this grassy area.

packer building resized

This mural depicts a packing house from when?  50s?  Earlier?  Notice the male supervisor making sure the women are doing their work correctly.

packers resized

I’m going back as soon as the weather cools off to walk the whole town and see all 26 murals (it’s a small town).  But we had a very pleasant excursion.

side of mural resized

Food Glorious Food, Saving Grace, and other cool stuff


I just found out today that the two works I submitted for the Art’s Council of Kern’s show Food Glorious Food were not only accepted, but are on the poster and postcards for the show!  That’s so cool!  Excuse me while I’m excited for myself.


Ok, I’m not so excited that my name is nowhere on the poster, but one step at a time.  The show benefits the Golden Empire Gleaners and attendees should bring food with them to donate.

The works are small, paint on canvas with images from vintage fruit crate labels.  I’m particularly fond of these two little guys – I love the labels with goofy fruit guys – Mr. Apricot and Mr. Pear.  In fact, I’m heading up to my top-secret location tomorrow to buy a new supply to work with.

Come to the opening reception next Friday.  Luckily, I will be there.  We go on Saturday to Santa Monica for my 45th high school reunion.  Yes, I’m that old.

So anyhow, I put a link on my links box, upper left, to a very cool website, Digital Photography School.  So many places to learn so much, but I like this one lots.

Check out this link to see not only some of my photos in the gallery, but to read about Saving Grace, the Bakersfield event to be held next Tuesday to benefit Ricky’s Retreat, a local AIDS home and hospice.  They are raising funds to purchase the house on Grace Street that they have been renting for so many years.

This page was in the Bakersfield Californian last week.  It’s a little hard to follow because they neglected to upload one of the images that is most talked about, and the other images are not in the order in which they are discussed.  It is what it is.

Finally, the next six photos were posted on the Urban Photography website out of London. You’ve probably seem at least some of them before in my photo galleries.

Shopping for birds – or just finding an excuse to be together.

My favorite traffic photo of looming disaster.

Too many people!

A sidewalk market that would never pass inspection here.

Here’s that girl at the bus stop again.  Slightly different look.

You’ve seen this one before but I love love love this photo.  Look at the reflections of the peeps.

So have a great weekend everyone!  Football tonight – Frontier High School’s very first home game, and our friend and Frontier coach Rich Cornford is gonna win!  Tomorrow the top-secret location trip, and Sunday our very own personal Harvest Festival.  My daughter is having families over who participate in our carpool for Abundant Harvest Organics.  We’re all contributing a dish from our food in this week’s box.  It’s fantastic food.

Black & White or Color: Part One


I posed a question the other day:  why is it that although the world is in color, black and white photos look more realistic?  I’ve actually thought about this for quite some time.  I have to say that I am a fan of color in my life.  For example, when my husband and I went to Costa Rica, we loved all the vibrant colors so much that we returned home and painted our entire downstairs with lime green, orange, vibrant blues, yellow-gold.  They are happy colors – we feel happy looking at them.

blue wall green plants

But in photography, black and white perversely seems more real.  I say perversely because besides the implied contradiction,  I always think of Calvin and Hobbes:

Calvin:     Dad, how come old photographs are always black and white? Didn’t they have color film back then?
Dad:        Sure they did. In fact, those old photographs are in color. It’s just the world was black and white then.
Calvin:     Really?
Dad:        Yep. The world didn’t turn color until sometime in the 1930s, and it was pretty grainy color for a while, too.
Calvin:     That’s really weird.
Dad:        Well, truth is stranger than fiction.
Calvin:     But then why are old paintings in color?! If their world was black and white, wouldn’t artists have painted it that way?
Dad:        Not necessarily. A lot of great artists were insane.
Calvin:     But… but how could they have painted in color anyway? Wouldn’t their paints have been shades of gray back then?
Dad:        Of course, but they turned colors like everything else did in the ’30s.
Calvin:     So why didn’t old black and white photos turn color too?
Dad:        Because they were color pictures of black and white, remember?

Calvin:     The world is a complicated place, Hobbes.
Hobbes:   Whenever it seems that way, I take a nap in a tree and wait for dinner.

So here’s the Costa Rica picture in black and white:

blue wall green plants b and w

We miss the vibrant colors but the picture is still interesting.  The shadows are there and the texture in the plant leaves is even more pronounced.  So maybe black and white gets rid of all the extraneous “noise” and leaves you with the bare bones of the image, although you lose the translucence of the leaves.

Maybe there is no real answer and the question is spurious, because why should one be better than another?  I do think there’s a point, however, to cutting out the “noise.”  In a complicated image, there is so much competing for your attention.  The following picture is from an exhibit of Dale Chihuly glass.  Chihuly is a master and color is essential to his art.  However –

william chihuly

without the distraction of the color, beautiful as it is…
william chihuly b and w

We can better appreciate the shape, form, the arc of the glass leaf over the boy’s head without the distraction of the colored glass in front of his body, plus, the way the photo trails off the page is more subtle but at the same time more dramatic.

What do you think?  Perhaps a question that needs no answer, but it’s still fun and instructive to look and analyze.


This is a Roman bath in Pompeii.  I was so excited to see the light coming in from the ceiling portal, focusing on the frigidarium, but I think this photo, with the dramatic lighting, looks much better and more realistic in black and white. I notice the beam from the light source in the center more quickly and the almost-parallel alignment of the beams.

roman bath b and w

So far, I think black and white is coming out pretty well.  I’ll put in one more set and do some more tomorrow.

new york taxi

Times Square at night.  The taxi speeding by – the essence of New York.  I love this picture (Remember in one of the posts we mentioned that if a photo is blurry it does not immediately discount the picture as a bad one?).

taxi.b and w

It’s still a nice photo in black and white, but for me, this is one place where color really does count.  Razzle-dazzle is important to Times Square, and since it’s already nighttime, without color we loose the effectiveness of the neon.

So this is just a little food for thought in case you’ve ever considered the conundrum of black and white seeming more realistic when representing a world that’s in color.

Part two to follow.

New Works for Burn the Witch: Carry Me Home and All the King’s Horses


I’m getting ready to exhibit a few works in Burn the Witch, an all-woman art show held in Bakersfield. I’ve had fun with these.  First is Carry Me Home.

Carry Me Home resized

I had been wanting to use this carriage image from a vintage fruit crate label, so that was the motivation to begin with.  I also wanted to use embellishments – pearls, jewel-type butterflies and stars.  I’m not sure what made me use the background photo of the aspens near Crested Butte, Colorado.  The artistic process is not entirely explicable, but as I worked I began to think of the televangelist shows, especially the one that used to have the pinkish-haired lady who wore prom dresses and lots of glitz.  At least that’s the way I thought of her.  I envisioned her in this frilly pink carriage being transported to heaven with pink pearl reins and butterflies that transformed into stars.  It was difficult to get this one right but over a period of several days I got it to where I not only was satisfied, but actually like it quite a bit!  I had fun making the feathery images with my new paintbrush also.

All the King’s Horses

All the King's Horses resized

The photo of this piece is not good – I’ll give the disclaimer right away.  This is one of the replicas of the Triumphal Quadriga – the four horses – at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.  The four original horses are in the Basilica with no photos allowed, but these replicas are on the balcony overlooking Piazza San Marco.  It was hard to get this photo – getting an image from the angle I wanted with no people around.  But I had time and I waited until I had my opportunity.  Is there a better place to wait around than the balcony of the Basilica overlooking Piazza San Marco?  Can’t think of one offhand.

Blue seemed like a good color for the canvas.  In between the nine squares is a deeper blue – can’t see it here.  The horse is fragmented to represent the many journeys it made in real life.  The origin of the horses is unclear – may be Greek or Roman.  Probably Greek from about 175 B.C.  They journeyed to Rome involuntarily, probably to adorn Trajan’s Arch (Trajan had a lot of arches build in different cities), and from Rome ended up in Constantinople.  When the Venetians sacked Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, they helped themselves to the four horses.  In about 1797 Napoleon removed the horses to Paris, but in 1815 they were returned to Venice.  Supposedly, he was just “borrowing” them. That’s six moves for four bronze horses (with a high copper content).  When it was discovered that the statues were suffering from the acidic sea air and were oxidizing, they were moved into the basilica and these replicas put on the balcony.  What an exhausting story!

So I put my photo on this nine-part canvas as a metaphor for the horses’ fractured history.  In Greek mythology, there are nine muses, so the number seemed apt – the statues started in Greece and certainly served as muses for a number of cultures, judging from their travels around the globe.

Here’s a picture of the original horses – not taken by me since photography is forbidden.


Here are a few of my images.  You’ll recognize the last one and see from the others some of the challenges of getting a photo up there.


horses two

horses three

You’ll see this one in Burn the Witch als0 – a very small mounted photo.

And finally

horse four

You can see more photos of Italy and also read my travel journal for more information.