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New Books of Local Interest 

Art Books

Off the Walls: Inspired Re-Creations of Iconic Artworks

We are fortunate to have the world class Getty Center right here in the Santa Monica Mountains and two new museum publications are standouts this fall. 

At the start of the coronavirus crisis, when the museums closed their doors to the public, the Getty issued a challenge to home-bound art lovers: “pick your favorite art, find three things lying around your house, and use them to recreate the artwork.” 

The response exceeded all expectations, as people all over the world raided their closets and pantries,  gathering pots and pans, sheets and towels, and household odds and ends to recreate their favorite art. 

Pets, children, the contents of the kitchen fruit bowl, and even that hoard of toilet paper were pressed into service. A selection of the results—funny, moving and often brilliant—are now available as a book: Off the Walls: Inspired Re-Creations of Iconic Artworks. 

The book contains 246 re-creations, selected by Getty editors who combed through social media for funny, beautiful, poignant, and adorable re-creations, and grouped them into insightful themes. Getty Publications is donating all profits to the charity Artist Relief to support artists facing financial emergencies due to the coronavirus pandemic. This book is a delight.

William Blake: Visionary

Art exhibits at institutions all over the world have been postponed due to COVID, including an exhibition on British artist, poet and mystic William Blake at the Getty Center. While the show may not go on for some time, the catalogue written to accompany the exhibit is now available. 

Written by Edina Adam and Julian Brooks, with an essay by Matthew Hargraves, William Blake: Visionary features over 130 color images, including many of Blake’s most iconic works. 

Organized by theme, it explores Blake’s work as a professional printmaker, his roles as both painter-illustrator and poet-painter, his relationship to the medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque artists that preceded him, and his legacy in the United States.

Visit to learn more about both books, or to order. 

California History Books

Postcards from Mecca: The California Desert Photographs of Susie Keef Smith and Lula Mae Graves, 1916-1936.

Susie Keef Smith was seeking escape from a troubled home life and the havoc of childhood polio when she and her cousin, Lula Mae Graves, set out to photograph the last of the prospectors, burro packers and stage stops in the remote desert east of California’s Salton Sea. 

The pair of explorers were self-taught photographers. They set out to shoot images to sell as postcards at the Mecca, CA, post office. They traveled by burro, foot and in an old Ford through sandy washes and roadless canyons, armed with a .38 revolver and a large format camera. It would be a transformative journey, and the result has been described as “ an unparalleled portrait of one of the lesser-known deserts in the West.”

However, the photos were nearly lost to history. After the death of Susie Keefer Smith, the entire archive was thrown out by a county administrator. The photos were salvaged by a historian and archaeologist, who climbed into the dumpster to rescue what would turn out to be a spectacular and irreplaceable record of life in the desert in the 1920 and 30s. The book presents a selection of photos along with the story of these two remarkable women.

California Natural History Books

Carrizo Plain: Where the Mountains Meet the Grasslands by Chuck Graham

Chuck Graham is a stellar nature photographer whose work has appeared in numerous publications and commercially for clients that include Patagonia and the Channel Islands National Park. Graham has spent 15 years photographing the Carrizo Plain for his own pleasure, finding beauty in all seasons. The result:  a 116-page coffee table book showcasing a place Graham describes as “one of the most unique and last great wildernesses in the Golden State.”

“In 2006, during my first trip to the Carrizo Plain National Monument, I didn’t envision a photo book of these stunning grasslands 15 years later,” he writes. “I now have a collection of images from the last of California’s grasslands, time spent in the field chasing light, patiently waiting for wildlife to emerge and anticipating the next Super Bloom.”

Carrizo Plain: Where the Mountains Meet the Grasslands is being published ahead of the 20-year anniversary of the National Monument in January 2021. 

The Forests of California by Obi Kaufmann

Fans of naturalist Obi Kaufmann’s Atlas of California and State of Water will be delighted with his new book, The Forests of California. The first volume in a planned trilogy of field atlases that will feature California’s coast and deserts, the book features many of Kaufmann’s signature hand-drawn maps and watercolor illustrations and a wealth of information on the natural history or trees and forest. 

The book is described as, “Not just a treatise on trees, this book addresses the evolutionary and environmental context, in the field of history that has led us to this moment. And this moment is tough…the forests of California themselves, require an army of informed citizens to work on their behalf towards better stewardship.” 

“I’ve explored the forests and they have explored me,” Kaufmann writes on his website. “In all my decades walking the California backcountry, I always find the same thing and I always feel the same way — I am of these forests and they are of me.

“Kaufmann seeks to create nothing less than a new understanding of the more-than-human world,” the official description of the book states. That’s a tall order but one that Kaufman has taken on with passion, method energy, and an artist’s eye for detail. Like his Atlas of California, this book is epic—640 pages, and more than 400 maps and delicate watercolor illustrations of fauna and flora.

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