[Women in Art] First Snow by Robert Koehler (Circa 1895)

It is snowing here for the second time in three days; definitely not our first snow of the season, then, but this image speaks to me on multiple levels. Our house dates to the time of this painting. I love her beautiful blue dressing gown and the wistful intimacy of the setting. The colors, the composition, the mood that so readily crosses the centuries–all are things that I find very relatable.

First Snow by Robert Koehler (circa 1895)

May her serenity rub off on me.

ISSUE THIRTEEN [R]evolving Research: Scrapbook, Endless

I’ve spent most of the past week+ methodically recording the contents of J’s main scrapbook. I’m only about 25 percent finished. This is going to take awhile. Fortunately, it’s easy for me to get a rhythm going if I do it while watching T20 cricket. Whatever works, right? This might sound tedious to you, but I’m a weirdo who finds this kind of thing to be ridiculous amounts of fun. Every day that I work on this mini-project, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be the caretaker of J’s legacy. Who knows how many impulsive decisions were made over the years to ensure that her scrapbooks and photos were not tossed in the trash? I’m well aware that this path was a fragile one. One false step could have resulted in an unknowable tragedy.

RESEARCH NOTES: WEEK 15

  • VICTORY: I’m feeling gratitude this week. My victory is that this project fell in my lap.
  • HAPPY DISCOVERY: I am learning so, so much from the contents of J’s scrapbook. Too many amazing things to decide between.
  • FRUSTRATION: My writing hand hurts.
  • CURRENTLY READING: Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors by Sarah Stodola (for some personal inspiration)
  • HOURS SPENT ON RESEARCH: 15

Until next time!

ISSUE TWELVE [R]evolving Research: Newspaper Clippings and Eye Strain

Sorry for posting this two days late. I had internet problems on Tuesday and was too busy to fit this bit of writing into Wednesday’s schedule. Let’s get started!

And I thought that endlessly staring at online copies of census records was hard.

It turns out that poring over century-old newspaper clippings (I’m talking physical copies) is even worse on the eyes. Who knew, haha? I finally forced myself to start cataloging the contents of J’s small but mighty scrapbook. It’s tedious only from the standpoint that it is going to take weeks (I’m on page 8) to finish. Other than the necessarily slow nature of the process, it is really damn exciting. I’ve already learned a great deal more about J and her early career in Memphis. This has also, of course, opened up many, many, and I do mean many, new avenues to explore. Dozens. All by page 8. Researching a biography is hard, y’all. That’s mostly a good thing, so I won’t complain.

RESEARCH NOTES: WEEK 14

  • VICTORY: Making it to page 8 of the scrapbook in about an hour. It’s not that impressive (the early pages aren’t very dense), but it’s a nice start.
  • HAPPY DISCOVERY: I’ve been able to add a few songs and engagements to J’s timeline.
  • FRUSTRATION: Being unable to work at this full-time.
  • CURRENTLY READING: I’m tying up loose ends with a couple of previously-mentioned books.
  • HOURS SPENT ON RESEARCH: 11

Until next time!

ISSUE ELEVEN [R]evolving Research: Getting Organized (Again)

Happy New Year! 2021 will be the first full year of my research. (I only started this project about three months ago.) I’m excited to find out where things take me. I’ve already learned a significant amount of information about J, yet I know it’s a drop in the ocean of what I’ll need in order to write this biography.

RESEARCH NOTES: WEEK 13

  • VICTORY: Cleaning and organizing my studio. It’s much easier to get absorbed in work when my surroundings are neat.
  • HAPPY DISCOVERY: I wasn’t as behind on my organization of research sources as I thought.
  • FRUSTRATION: I’m working more hours at my day job(s). It’s great being able to pay bills, but I am constantly busy…and tired.
  • CURRENTLY READING: A Brief History of Memphis by G. Wayne Dowdy
  • HOURS SPENT ON RESEARCH: 11

ISSUE TEN [R]evolving Research: The 100-Year-Old Musical Instrument

Last week was extra busy because of Christmas. We didn’t go anywhere, of course, because of the pandemic. There was a lot of baking and some last-minute decorating, though. I still fit in a fair amount of reading amidst the chaos. I also learned a new fact about J, courtesy of a nearly 101-year-old source. Yay!

RESEARCH NOTES: WEEK 12

  • VICTORY: I feel as if this is something I frequently mention, but continuing my research, every day, no matter how busy I am is definitely a victory.
  • HAPPY DISCOVERY: A small newspaper blurb from January 1920, when J was 19, describes her as a “uke-banjoist.” This is the first indication I’ve had that she was also a musician. Another course of research to follow up on in the future.
  • FRUSTRATION: Sometimes I feel as if three-plus years is not enough time to research the life and career of J.
  • CURRENTLY READING: A Guide to Historic Downtown Memphis by William Patton
  • HOURS SPENT ON RESEARCH: 13

Ad from 17 July 1919.

Until next time!