PEOPLE: various Feed


A tweet from the Monroe gallery in Santa Fe alerted me to the sad fact that Mary Morris  Lawrence  died earlier this month. Here's a link to a story in The San Fransisco Chronicle:

"In 1937 she became the first female photojournalist hired by New York's Associated Press. She was photographer and Hollywood columnist for New York's progressive tabloid PM, shot photo stories for Look Magazine, and produced a variety of award-winning projects in a world-roving career. "I was good in the newspaper business," she said, "because I had this way of wanting to get the dope. I had an aggressive nature, a creative spirit." Her trail-blazing career is chronicled in books and periodicals, one describing "a 23-year-old wisp of a girl, with a thick mass of tousled brown hair and dancing blue eyes, Miss Mary Louise Morris ... daily faring forth with camera slung over her shoulder to cover every variety of news and feature story." SF Chronicle, Aug 23, 2009

Ralph Steiner, Mary Morris, Mary Mary morris steiner, mary morris lawrence, Polly Cowan, Lou cowan, Max Lerner, Edna Lerner, elegant dinner party, man bites woman on shoulder,

L to R: Max Lerner, Lou Cowan, Mary Morris Steiner, Polly Cowan, Ralph Steiner (biting my mom's shoulder,) photo set up by Mary or Ralph, shot by Edna Lerner.

The SF Chronicle article omits the fact that Mary was married to Ralph Steiner,  iconic American photographer. Mary told me in a phone conversation last year that when she and Ralph were partners in their New York City photography studio, they split the shooting equally, but he got all the credit. They didn't really pay attention to who was shooting, who was setting up the shots, who was climbing the ladder. It was all in a day's work.  She didn't care. The paycheck came in and that was pretty much what mattered at the time. I don't think either one of them realized at the time how famous he would become and how relatively, but not completely, obscure she would become. So those Ralph Steiner photographs that are now highly collectible, the ones done in the NY studio might be by Mary.

Mary Morris Steiner photo, Liza Cowan, Polly Cowan, mother and child in mirror, reflections mother and child, smocking dress,  

Photo by Mary Morris Steiner (Mary Morris Lawrence, for google's sake) Polly Cowan and baby Liza Cowan circa 1950

Another obit, somewhat more substantial,  from The Oakland Tribune: "In his 1938 book, "Get That Picture!" cameraman A.J. Ezickson described her as a hard worker and a cunning "scout," gaining access with her small RolleiFlex camera to scenes her less enterprising colleagues (the same ones who made "sly jibes" about Morris Lawrence) were barred from by using her wits but never "feminine wiles."

Last year Mary and I discussed the possibility of her having a retrospective exhibit here at PSAW, but there were more technical difficulties than I could  overcome from 3,000 miles away. The 95 year old Morrie lived in San Francisco and had only original prints of her work, which she did not want to ship to Vermont. I'd have been happy with scans but we never worked out the logistics of having them made and printed. Alas.

Morrie only published one book in her lifetime, Bringing Up Puppies, A Child's Book of Dog Breeding And Care, written by Jane Whitbread Levin, who was a lifelong friend of Morrie's. Jane's son tells me that they first met at camp, and then became friends again later at PM newspaper.

Bringing up puppies front

Bringing up puppies back

Bringing Up Puppies, by Jane Whitbread Levin and Mary Morris Steiner (Lawrence)

So here 's to you Morrie, talented, brave and wise. You will be missed.


If Charles and Raye Eames had designed for pets this is what they'd have made.

pet furniture, modern pet furniture, hepper, jed crystal, burlington vt designer, black pug
Dog bed by Hepper.

I had the pleasure of spending some time recently with industrial designer and fellow Burlingtonian Jed Crystal who I met through Paige Russell when she and he had a show at PSAW a few years ago . Now Jed's  up to something new: modern pet furniture. His company is called Hepper. They sell online and in select locations around the country.

My own pug, Saki,  has a habit of chewing the furniture - she's already destroyed a couch - so there's no way I'm buying her this gorgeous ensemble. But if I could, you know I would.


 It's probably a good omen when a car trip starts out with seeing a truck with your name on it.

Cowan truck
Cowan truck. Vermont Rt. 89.

I took some time off last weekend with my parenting partner, Laurie Essig, and our two kids to visit our old house in Greenport, NY. We sold the house about five years ago and none of us had been back since then.

Naturally, we visited the carousel.

I hadn't remembered that there are several Charles Dare horses on the Greenport Carousel, which was a wonderful surprise for me.

Charles dare horse carousel greenport
Charles Dare horse, Greenport Carousel. Liza Cowan photo.

I got to spend a little time at the Greenport Shipyards, site of my Shipyard Archeology photo series. I only had my point and shoot camera with me, and I just can't get the same quality I got from my trusty Nikon F100 and a roll of film, but still it was nostalgic just walking around.

Siding and Rudder. Greenport Shipyard. 2008. Liza Cowan photo.

On our way home we stopped for a few hours in New York City so Laurie could tape a TV Show about Gay Marriage. (No, we're not. Families have all kinds of shapes and configurations.) The show was the Laura Flanders show on GRITtv, and although the kids wanted to go shopping during the taping, we did manage to catch the last few minutes and hang out in the control room to see the backstage operations. You can watch the segment here

Control room laura flanders show
Control Room - taping the Laura Flanders Show.

And then a quick hello to the panel and Laura.

Laura flanders show
Laura Flanders, left.  Laurie and kids, right. Not in this picture is panelist Kenyon Farrow, whose excellent blog is worth taking a look at.

So if you watch the show and Laurie briefly mentions her kids and parenting partner, that's us. I'm in the Vermont media fairly often, usually about art, so it was fun to be on the sidelines and out of the spotlight.

The best part about travel, when you know things are going really right, is when you are happy to get home. We were all glad to cross Lake Champlain and be back in Vermont again.

Lake champlain, ferry, charlotte vermont, essex ny
Charlotte, VT and Lake Champlain from the Lake Champlain Essex/Charlotte Ferry.


Yay! School's out, and that's always a good thing. But today was also an emotional last day at Champlain Elementary School in Burlington, VT, where my kids have gone for the last five years. Today was the last day for the visionary school leader, principal Nancy Zahniser, who will be retiring after many years as a teacher and administrator.

Waiting for ms z
Parents and students at Champlain Elementary wait for the final bell to ring to say goodbye to Ms. Z.

Robert resnick

Local celebrity musician/radio host/librarian and alumni dad Robert Resnick came to seranade the crowd and Ms. Z with his accordian in a rousing version of a school favorite, The Chicken Dance . And trust me, you are very sorry that you never got to do this dance with Tammy Charbenau and Ms. Z leading it.

Champlain Elementary is always a joyous place. The wonderful, inspired teachers stay year after year, the halls ring with laughter and the kids enjoy learning. What makes a great school? Great leadership. And that we had.

Ms Z
Nancy Zahniser on the right,  greeting the crowd  with a typically enthusiastic gesture. On the left, beloved teachers Tammy Charbeneau and Coleen Cowell.

Ms. Z is the principal who knows every kid's name, who is out on the steps to greet each child and parent every morning with inspired music mix cds which she makes and then and plays on the steps of the school so the kids can dance - and you should see some of the inspired line dances the kids do on that makeshift step/stage.  Even the kids who play 4 Square or chat while waiting for the school bell  are enfolded into a  rhythm for the day.

Ms. Z  lead her faculty and administration into creating an environment where education flourishes. I don't usually wax enthusiastic about our educational system. (Don't even get me started talking about Edmunds Middle school.)  So it is with great and rare pleasure that I can say these wonderful things about Ms. Z and Champlain Elementary.

Click here to see a news clip from local channel WCAX TV about a Burlington history project that the fourth / fifth grades did this year.

Goodbye ms z
Everyone gathers around at the top of the steps for a final hug.

So thank you Ms. Z. We love you.


In a recent comment about Jello ads,  David Apatoff wrote:

It's funny... this week on Leif Peng's Today's Inspriation blog he showed illustrations for U.S. Steel which used a highly attractive spokeswoman standing around construction sites talking about all of the important applications for steel. She obviously had no connection whatsoever to the product, and everyone had a big laugh about what dopes men are, and how easy they are to manipulate.

Now I am looking at your ads for Jello and I see wedding gowns and handsome husbands, which again have no connection whatsoever to the product. I would hate to think that women are as easy to manipulate as men...

First of all, you should all check out David's blog, Illustration Art, and Leif's blog. Today's Inspriation.  I read them both daily and highly recommend them. But on to an answer, as relevent here about refrigerators as it is about Jello.

Of course women are as easy to manipulate as men. Otherwise advertising wouldn't work. Because what they are really selling isn't product, but values. Advertisers sell products by selling values. For men, the value is masculinity: the appeal to masculinity is through heteronormative sex, i.e. pretty girls, or other forms of masculinized behaviour, such as beer drinking, or driving cars. Or supporting a family, being a protector, provider etc.

Advertising appeals to women through values like family, home, frailty and beauty. Not that these need to be values associated with women, (or with men)  but advertising is one of the most effective venues for creating femininity and masculinity. In short, advertising works to sell product, but more important, it works to sell culturally shaped masculinity and femininity. And until we learn how to read advertising critically, we are all suceptible to it. Even then, it's hard to resist.

Frigidaire 1925 blog
Frigidaire 1925. Showing off the new fridge. Notice how little food is actually in it. This looks more like the inside of my fridge. My children often accuse me of only having condiments, which isn't exactly true, but they'd be happy if I'd always stock up on puddings, ice cream and cake. Real foods like vegetables, fruit and yoghurt don't count.

Refridge gurney 1925 blog  
Gurney, 1925. Still not much food in the fridge. Enough, but not crammed.

Frigidairedr storage 1940 sat ev e post blog
frigidaire 1940. Why would you put canned food in the fridge? Isn't the point of canning that it doesn't need refrigeration? After it's open, don't you put it in another container that has a lid? I guess it doesn't matter to the folks who live in ad land, since they put slabs of unwrapped meat right on the fridge shelf.

Frigidaire 1948 H&G blog
 Another stuffed fridge. Meats, puddings, cake, milk, frozen food, salads. The milk is still in glass bottles.

Refrigerator norge grandma 1946 good housekeeping blog
Norge 1946. An abundance of unwrapped food, including what looks like a ham and a roast.

Fridge GE wall 1948 blog
GE 1948. Even more food, including the ham, a whole turkey, puddings, fruit, frozen foods, milk in cartons.What is is about the hams that seem to be in every fridge? They must be fun to draw, or they are thought to be very recognizable. I suppose they didn't consider the market segment that kept kosher.

Frige H&G femineered 1954
international harvester 1954. "Femineered" I love that. She gets to decorate the outside.

Frigidaire guy 1933 blog

Frigidaire 1933. This is one of the very few fridge ads I've seen featuring a man, but notice that he's not going to prepare a meal, he's just grabbing a few beers. That's better than yelling, "Hey hon, get me a brew" but still...


My older daughter has wanted a pug for years. I finally gave in, after she kept her promise of taking care of the daily needs of #1 dog for six months.

Stella and liza blog
This is #1 dog, Stella. She's a mini long haired doxie.

Saki blog
Backup auxilliery dog (kidding) Saki. She's just eight weeks old.

Her full name is Sakura, which the kids picked, but I'd wanted to name her Saki after the only pug I ever knew, who was the pet of my childhood friend Susu. The kids are doing a great job with her, but guess who is getting up at 4:30 in the morning to take her out in the yard? Right. I have a vested interest in not washing piles of soiled sheets every day.

Anybody out there have a pug? Do you worry about them playing with other dogs? Advise? The eye issue. Those adorable bulgy eyes are very prone to injury.


I had the great pleasure of visiting the Ralph Pucci headquarters in New York City the other day. Pucci makes mannequins - and sells limited edition home furnishings - and I have five of their creations. Those of you who know my work know that I love to photograph my mannequins, and I've always kept the Pucci people aware of what I'm doing. Wade Willams at Pucci has always been gracious and fun to talk to, and when I had a trip planned to the city, I made an appointment with Wade to get a tour.

ralph pucci showroom-Wade in mirror, liiza cowan photo
Photo by Liza Cowan. This is Wade, reflected in a fabulous mirror by Philippe Hiquily in the Pucci foyer.

Pucci- heads on shelf
A shelf of heads in the sculpting room. On the upper right is the head of my beloved Maira Kalman girl. Liza Cowan photo.

Pucci-three wave mannequins
Ralph Pucci workrooms, Photo by Liza Cowan. Three finished mannequins in front of a shelf of  casting forms.

Pucci head molds
Photo by Liza Cowan. Ralph Pucci mannequin head molds.

These things look to me like ancient treasures recovered from a sunken ship. Maybe Greek amphora. But they're not. They are workaday artifacts, which, in my opinion, only makes them more valuable.


Pucci hands
Photo by Liza Cowan. An assortment of Ralph Pucci mannequin hands.

Pucci - sanding manniquins
Photo by Liza Cowan. Sanding down the cast fiberglass mannequins at the Ralph Pucci factory.

Kalman willy mannequin in psaw window
One of my Maira Kalman mannequins in my show window at Pine Street Art Works, photo Liza Cowan


After_the_rain_parisPaint By Number, After The Rain. Anon. Sold.

 Well it was and exciting evening around the TV on Wednesday. That's when Art Express from Mountain Lake PBS broadcast the episode about Pine Street Art Works exhbit of Paint By Number.

Harry_bliss_on_camera Harry Bliss, on camera.

Paul Larson, producer, and Jared Stanley, DP, came over last August to tape the exhibit. Also on hand to speak and demonstrate were Harry Bliss, Mark Waskow and Christy Mitchell. Harry is an illustrator and New Yorker cover artist. He spoke elequently about how PBN paintings break down colors for shadows and volume, and other wonderfully erudite stuff.

Christy Mitchell on camera. Paul Larson directing.

Paul wanted someone painting a PBN on camera, so Christy Mitchell agreed to do one, using an unpainted kit we had. Paul is in the foreground directing.

Mark Waskow and his Mona Lisa

Mark Waskow, collector (or end user, as he likes to say) talked about collecting PBN. He bought the Mona Lisa, and talked about how charmingly not good the painting is.

Jared Stanley, Paul Larson and Liza

My commentary runs throughout the episode. Here's a picture we took on my iMac photobooth. The version that aired was a rough cut, and when they have the final edit, they will rebroadcast and I will have it available on quicktime here and on my website.

Meanwhile, if you get Mountain Lake PBS in your area (northern Vermont, Montreal, or the Plattsburgh NY region) you can catch it on rebroadcast Saturday March 29th at 6:30 pm.


Phrancpaper_play_postcard_small Ok, this is too cool. I've become a cameo.

For any of you interested in reading about Pine Street Art Works, Art Hop, Liza Cowan, Alison Bechdel and Phranc in an amazing novel-in-progress, I urge you to check out Maggie's Meta Watershed.

Maggie Jochild writes a blog that not only has some of the most astute political commentary available in the blogosphere, but she also regularly posts chapters of her two novels-in-progress: Ginny Bates, and Skene. This is a blog to bookmark! And read seriously, because we all have a lot to learn from Maggie.

In the novel, Ginny Bates, the main characters visit Pine Street Art Works during Art Hop in 2006. That was the year Alison Bechdel and Phranc teamed up for a show called Paper Play. And what a show it was! Ginny and Myra travel from Seattle to see it, and then go on to visit Emily Dickinson's home in Amherst. Oh, and in the novel they actually buy some art, and I agree to ship it the next week, which is how you can know it's fiction. In real life it takes weeks for me to pack and ship big pieces like that. And nobody has ever bought more than one piece from a show. But, hey, I'm not complaining. Bring on the art buyers, the more the merrier.

Fictional characters can pay with fictional money. Everyone else, I take checks, plastic or cash.


Many lifetimes ago, in the 1970's, I used to design, publish and distribute buttons. Not sewing buttons, but the kind you pin onto your coat, or shirt, or backpack. Badges, they call them in England. I'd collected political buttons as a teenager and had quite an impressive bunch of them. I loved the smooth roundness of them, the graphics, and how they had to deliver their message in an instant. Like little billboards for your clothing.

White mare buttons ©liza cowan

White Mare Buttons. Image made on Mita 500D copier circa 1978. Liza Cowan

I liked to use symbols from Greek and Celtic antiquity, probably because they were accessible in books, and because the education we got in the nineteen fifties and sixties presented Mesopotamia and Greece and Egypt as the only places that existed in ancient times. Africa didn't exist- except for Egypt - in our racially biased educational system, even in the private progressive school I went to. Robert Graves' highly annotated book The Greek Myths led me to his book The White Goddess, A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, and those were my two most insprational sources.

The first button I made was "A You're An Amazon" based on the song by Alix Dobkin (which was, in turn, a riff on "A You're Adorable" by Buddy Kaye and Sid Lippman) The moon and stars connected it to imaginary Amazon space. At the time, Amazons occupied a huge portion of Lesbian imaginary space until the other Amazon (.com) colonized the name and the pretty much corrupted the powerful symbolic association to an all woman civilization.

The triangle with a little groove etched in it that I found in pictures of carved rocks in Greece became the basis of my second design, "I like older women". I was twenty four  at the time, but the message seemed really important, surrounded as we were, even then, by media images of the perpetual child/woman.

The Labyris, double headed ax, was the ubiquitous symbol of matriarchy, which feminist Lesbians worldwide had chosen as their symbol,  I chose to pair it with the Star Of David, to connect my two identities. If you look closely, the Star of David is in the circle which tops the Labyris, turning the whole affair into a women's symbol. I thought it was quite clever. When jewelers started making pendants with the same design, I took it as a compliment. Several jewelers, when I told them I'd actually made up the design, said they thought it was ancient.

I asked a friend to design "Mother Nature Is a Lesbian" for my company. It was a huge seller, but truth be told, I never liked the design. The trees were nice but too much of a couple. The colors, light green, dark green and light blue, were pleasing, so that was good. But the typeface drove me nuts. There, I've said it.


mother nature is a Lesbian ©White Mare Buttons, 1976
Mother Nature Is A Lesbian, White Mare Buttons 1976


Medusa, the Gorgon who could turn men to stone if they looked at her, was another ubiquitous symbol of women's rage and power. Greek Goddess Athena featured the head of Medusa on her shield. Greek bakers put Medusa on the oven door to keep people from stealing the bread. I thought it would be nifty if we in the modern world could also wear Medusa as our aegis. I hired cartoonist Roberta Gregory to design this one.

And last is the White Mare, Celtic symbol of The Great Goddess. She was etched large on cliffs in England, I named my company after her. White Mare, Inc. If only I'd started an internet bookselling company we'd be ordering from and I'd be rich.

And I'd share it with you.


Charles and Ray Eames are so famous - so iconic - that an entire era has been named after them, at least on eBay. And now there's a new postage stamp collection honoring them.
Eames stamp, charles eames, raye eames
Eames US Postage Stamp- due to be issued next summer

I had the pleasure of meeting Charles, but not Ray, Eames in the late sixties at a  conference at the Aspen Institute in Aspen, Colorado.  My parents dragged me along that summer, hoping, I suppose, to enjoy some time with their still somewhat rebellious teenager.  One evening Charles screened a film he and Ray had made  -The Powers Of Ten. This was the first version. Nine years later they released a second version.

You can see the second version on youTube.


That evening, Eames took questions from the audience. I had sat spellbound throughout the film. It probably wasn't too easy to capture my imagination that summer, but this film took my breath away. Apparently I managed to ask an intelligent question, because he sought me out after the film. I was with my parents - it was all on the up and up.

After Aspen, my parents and I traveled to Los Angeles where we met up once again with Charles -but not Ray - Eames, to discuss schools, and the design of schools, with someone else who had been at the Aspen Conference. I apologize for my hazy memory here, I don't remember who this other guy was or anything that was said.

Charles eames, raye eames, george platt lynes

Ray and Charles Eames, photo by George Platt Lynes

Later that year I  started working full time at the Pacifica Radio station WBAI-FM in New York City, and was producing their live performance series, The Free Music Store. I scheduled a screening of The Powers of Ten to coincide with an Eames visit to NYC. He was designing a huge exhibit at the time, I think at IBM.

For some reason, I decided to screen early Betty Boop cartoons with The Powers of Ten. For some reason, Charles thought this was a great idea. Remember, this was way before VCRs or DVD, and Betty Boop was not seen often on TV or anywhere else.

Amy Crehore loves Betty, too. Check out her blog

Charles and I spent part of the afternoon together while he showed me the exhibit he was putting together. Later in the evening, I picked him up at his hotel and we went over to the hall we'd rented. This was before WBAI started having concerts in the renovated church we later used for studios, offices and productions.

We screened the film to a packed audience. Charles spoke and answered questions. After the screening, we parted, and I never saw him again.

Almost forty years later, it still amazes me that this design genius was kind enough, interested enough, and open enough, to appreciate the ideas of a nineteen year old just beginning to make her way in the world as an adult. He never condescended to me. On the contrary, he took me and my ideas seriously. What better way could there be for a young person to enter into the grown up world of design and information.

My deepest thanks and yes, love, to Charles Eames.

Go buy some stamps! (when they're issued, that is.)


setting up for party at PSAW. Photo by Deana O'Connor

New Years Eve- Allison Dincecco and Lisa Cadieux took over PSAW to throw a rockin' New Year's Eve Party. Allison was the first person in Burlington to show my art, at her wonderful, innovative  contemporary furniture store, Sohome, now defunct, on Flynn Avenue. Alison's mom is Lorna K. Peal, art consultant, past (and wonderful) director of SEABA - Burlington's South End Arts And Business Association.

Allison and Lisa  gathered their Salsa-loving community from Salsalina and the classes of David Larson and John Anthony. Friends, relatives, kids, parents, grandparents. Fabulous. I love how Dance, as a social art and activity,  always seems to create  community. It seems to be true, no matter what the dance tradition. And to have a fabulous party where everyone, no matter their age or dance level feels welcomed and comfortable - well that's the best.

The crew spent the afternoon transforming PSAW into a twinkly vision. DJ New York Raul spun the best music I've heard in ages. Everyone had a blast. Even me, and I'm not much of a party animal.

a brief moment of rest during the dance: Liza Cowan photo

I swear I was the only woman there not wearing high heels and a fabulous outfit. I always wear sensible shoes - I'm like that. Particularly on my unforgiving concrete floors. But how festive everyone looked.  And even in my sensible shoes I thoroughly enjoyed a spin on the floor with Lupe (above right) before I left to watch the fireworks with my children.


Dancing at PSAW. Photo by Liza Cowan

I love seeing PSAW transformed by someone else's vision. As I stood there under the twinking lights and red lanterns, my space filled with music, food, and the kindness of strangers, I wondered for a moment if I was hallucinating the whole thing.  I wasn't.

Allison and Lisa are venturing into Event Planning. Keep posted for more info on them and their business.


mary louise spoor, bye baby bunting, chromolithograph, mother and baby, baby in cradle, blue dress stars
Mary Louise Spoor, Baby Bunting, chromolithograph 1917. Liza Cowan Collections

Collecting is an adventure. The civilized version of big game hunting. You never know where the chase will  will lead, what roads you will follow. Here, we go from nursery illustrations to the early history of cinema.

A couple of years ago I was hunting at an antiques show. I was fast- walking the aisles, which is how I always do my first scan. I stopped abruptly at  a huge chromolithograph schoolroom poster published in 1917 by Congdon Publishers in Chicago. I immediately fell in love with the Japanese - or Japonism - inspired design. The dealer knew the name of the illustrator, Mary Louise Spoor, but not much about her. 

I immediately began searching for more of her work. I have subsequently found three of the school room posters. Hickory Dickory Dock, Little Bo Peep  and Baby Bunting Went A Hunting.

mary louise spoor

Mary Louise Spoor, Hickory Dickory Dock, 1917 Chromolithograph. Liza Cowan collections. Available here

Internet searches revealed scant information on Spoor.  An interesting conversation among collectors and descendants reveals that Spoor (1887-1985) worked for a brief shining moment from Chicago, publishing illustrations for Rand McNally and Lyons & Carnihan.

Mary Louise Spoor, 1917, chromolithograph, children's illustration, hickory dickory dock, mice, doll
Mary Louise Spoor, Hickory Dickory Dock, 1917 Chromolithograph. Liza Cowan

By 1917 she was married and pregnant with her first child. She moved to Massachussets to raise her family. And that, as far as I can tell, ended her professional career. She continued painting and drawing private works that would end up in family collections but those works have not yet entered into public circulation. Nor may they ever. What a shame to have access to so small a piece of a life's work


Mary Louise Spoor, 1917, nursery school poster, chromolith, little bo peep, sheep
ML Spoor from schoolroom poster triptychs, 1917, Liza Cowan Collections. Each image is 15'" square.

Before she left Chicago, Mollie, as she was called, went to The Art Institute  and shared a studio with Gertrude Spaller, another young illustrator. Together they illustrated at least two children's readers. The Easy Road To Reading Primer editions one and two.


Mary Louise Spoor, Easy Road To Reading, Children pushing doll carriage
ML Spoor illustrations, The Easy Road To Reading- Cowan Ephemera Collections

Here's where the road forks:

Mollie's brother was George K Spoor. In 1907 George founded Essany Studios in Chicago. Essanay was one of the first movie production studios in the US during the blink of an eye when Chicago was the center of US movie production. A couple of years later Essanay built studios in Niles, CA, but kept offices in Chicago.  George Spoor's partner in Essanay (S&A) was Max Aronson, aka Gilbert Anderson, aka  Broncho Billy, the very first film cowboy star .

Broncho Billy, Essanay Film Company, early cowboy, jewish cowboy

Broncho Billy And The Essanay Film Company by David Kiehn. Farwell Books 2003

That's right. The first cowboy star was Jewish. Aronson/Anderson appeared in the first great narrative film ever, The Great Train Robbery, then went on to direct and star in hundreds of films for Essanay.

When it began, Essanay depended on, and discovered, local Chicago talent, many of whom went on to become some of the biggest stars and directors in the industry, including Ben Turpin, Alan Dwan, Louella Parsons, Francis X Bushman, Gloria Swanson.

They made 2,000 movies in their ten year span, out of which only about 200 survive.


Charlie Chaplin in drag in Essanay's The Woman  from 1915

Charlie Chaplin was an Essanay star too, one of the first to be hired from outside the neighborhood. He had a contentious relationship with the studio, and left after a few years. His first version of The Tramp was an Essanay production.

It seems not unlikely  that the George Spoor would have asked his illustrator sister to design movie posters for his studio. She did design the Indian Chief logo for them. So far, I haven't discovered any but the hunt is on.


conversation amongst relatives and collectors at Antiques and The Arts

essay on essanay from Chicago Magazine May 2007

Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, Niles CA



Mary louise spoor seen on see saw


Small_bag_4I cant keep these products in stock. They are my number one best seller this holiday season.

Two years ago Ali Marchildon and Laura Cheeney started making  Flashbags, handmade laminated handbags in Ali's dining room in Burlington, VT. At the same time I was getting ready to open Pine Street Art Works, right down the street. We started collaborating immediately.

Last year the bags sold steadily but slowly. But those gals have a lot of flash, as well as a fantastic product  and two years of hard work and a lot of great business sense are paying off. Their new atelier in Winooski, VT is a hive of sewing and packing activity. They have expanded their line to include checkbook covers, clutches, bins, wallets and placemats. Their new line of Red Sox items are a big thrill for many Vermonters, who consider the Sox their home town team.

This year the bags are flying off my shelves.

On the top is Liza Leger from my series, Fake! Paintings by Liza Leger, Liza Picasso and Liza Matisse.

Midnight_bag_white_bg_2 Flashbags is also now working with Cara Barer, the fantastic photographer from Houston TX, whose series of photos of soaked and shaped books  is a staple at PSAW. Cara's work is  in the Houston Museum of Fine arts as well as in a couple of  other fine galleries in the US. 

You can come here to PSAW- 404 Pine Street, Burlington VT - to shop for your Flashbags bags and accessories or go directly to their site to buy their array of images and products, or, for even more fun, order a custom bag.

Make sure to tell them that Liza sent you. And stay tuned for my new line of bags based on my ephemera collections, coming sometime this winter.