Happiness Erie Photography Entries and Backstory

Recently, I had the opportunity to share three of my fine art photographs during Erie PA’s April 26th, 2019 Gallery Night. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing my entries and their descriptions. I’m quite proud of these babies!

These ‘babies’ are the first art photos I’ve shared publically since my good ole’ college days (2012). Since that time, it’s been mainly my traditional paintings and oil pastel drawings that have received attention. And I am grateful to have been well received! A fellow photographer (and lover of analog photography) described the prints as similar to Edward Weston and Minor White’s style. And as I had been given Edward Weston’s Daybooks by my high school computer graphics teacher, Mr. Hanson (alumni of Edinboro University, which is how I first heard about the school where I would then obtain my own BFA) this really resonated as a high compliment to receive.

So let me take a second to thank a dude who made a big difference in my life! Mr. Hanson was one of my biggest academic and artistic cheerleaders. He noticed my flare (and love!) for photography in computer class and encouraged me to immensely develop it. I have a bit of morbid curiosity and an interest in darker subjects– which he also allowed me to explore. Once, he brought in a meathook for me to photograph. That was the epitome of happiness for me. I was grateful at the time because I could not fit an art class into my busy high school schedule (what with being in choir, taking a language, and Hanon’s computer graphics class!) so he found me opportunities to share my photographic gift, including helping me apply for nation-wide contests, selling my artwork locally, and more.

A memory I’d like to share– less to brag and more to remember the moment I realized I was better than I thought I was…

When I had entered the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards as a Junior in High School and forgot I had done so until a few months later, I was pleasantly surprised upon hearing that  not 1, but 2 (out of 3) of the photographs I had entered had been selected to move on to the Region-at-Large division. When this happened, an art teacher at my high school, who I had never had before (or spoken to prior to this moment) saw me passing by on my way to class and asked me to step inside his art room. There, I stood I was met by his entire art class and a bit stunned– I listened as one of the most beloved art teachers at CMHS (Mr. Watz) gushed about my recent achievement to everyone. He said in all of his 30+ years of teaching he had never heard of a student getting 2 artworks to move on.

Dang. It really hit me then! It was a big deal.

So, when one of my photographs continued on and won a Gold Key at Nationals, securing gallery space in NYC… you might say I didn’t know how to digest that at a young age! I was actually very timid during that time, despite my “lion voice” when it came to leading large groups of people around, owning a stage as a comedic host, or dancing in between lapses in conversations with others. Truth be told, dancing was my coping mechanism for the awkwardness I felt, and instead of talking and outing that anxiety through words, I often relied on moving constantly to stem. Being larger than life on stage was simply a wish to be able to do so in my daily life! And leading a large group of people to work on a project? I guess one could say I have since gotten scared of the responsibility and reverted to a wallflower position– unless I find myself surrounded by similarly creative folks.

Pardon my self-consciousness for a second! I’m not actually here to express how I miss my ‘younger days’. In fact, I’m attempting to acknowledge my more recent reawakening. Having these recent three prints displayed for the first time in a long time brought me back to my high school days when I first felt proud of the work I was doing. Seeing others still resonate with that kind of photography and how it can bring joy to them as well… and getting feedback like my style reminds others of the GREATS like Edward Weston and Ansel Adams… makes me feel oh-so-grateful. Sharing these photos was a step towards feeling like myself again. I was never lost, not at all– but simply taking a hiatus to explore other avenues. And now that I’m back…. well, I don’t think I’m going to stop any time soon. 🙂

So wowza. This show really WAS about Happiness in Erie!

And now on to the prints and their stories!

Here was the bio I shared for the AWE Gallery:

Susie Hosterman (Photographer, Designer) has been collecting stones from the places she travels since she was a young girl. It has been her way of remembering the solace and quiet serenity nature gifts her each time she steps outside. Often in return, this artist-with-a-purpose (who likes to tell others that her “art” is “heart!”) leaves an inspiring message to give a gift back. By arranging sticks, stones, leaves and other resources present on location, she spreads messages of love and inspiration for others to “just happen across”. Susie’s most recent personal project is a set of photographic prints, which share some of the gifts (stones, leaves, and driftwood) Erie’s nature has shared. Each photograph contains a message of hope, geared toward those going through hardships and to those who want support. Her own experience healing from eating disorders, anxiety and depression in the past, while also presently managing chronic illnesses has shaped her perspective and motivated her purpose: to uplift communities through art and other expressive therapies. Beyond photography, Susie is a trained fine artist and musician (Singer/songwriter, Ukulele) and actress with a knack for physical comedy. She’s a firm believer in the tried-and-true healing method: “Love.” (*Also, ask her about her new German shepherd puppy.)

“Support” Photograph by Susie Hosterman

About Support:

“I’m not a native of Erie. In fact, my family lives hundreds of miles away. At times, this fact felt isolating… and at other times– now feels entirely invigorating. When I needed a mother– I found not just my own on the phone, but others in physical form, all around me. Sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts… they are not just blood – I have learned…and Erie was the catalyst in realizing that life lesson. And what a lesson to learn! A world is now–officially– my oyster, made possible by the lads and ladies who live by this fruitful Lake. Personalities are shaped with timeyes, but it is the relationships and support in our lives that run smooth our stony-edges. I had pretty gnarly, nervous edges when I arrived in the area at age 18, and now I sense the ‘flow’ I have mastered so far– all made possible by the support of Erie’s fine people.”


“Diversity” Photography by Susie Hosterman

About Diversity:

“Full of vibrant souls, varying in shade and culture– bursting with brand new perspectives and experiences to be heard….  I have found happiness around me now, here in Erie, PA.  This diversity has taught me just how universal a theme it is to want to connect and share. And ignoring the stories all around me results in more in the banishment of my own desire to thrive– I have found. To deny another person’s experience (shielding myself, afraid of the effect or impact it may have on my life), is to deny the light within myself and belief in my own presence and worth in society. Honoring the amazing differences around me (by listening) can instill confidence within me– inspiring me to live a braver life: adorned with my own vibrancy, inspiration, and ideas. So– in essence- I can develop the fine art of “knowing myself” because you were brave enough to love your own style. And together, Erie’s diverse cast creates a ‘new’ Erie– always. Each of us acts as a drop of water (evolving even stones), a gust of wind (moving even mountains), and a footstep (eroding even ground)– changing all things in our own style. And because each of us is both a teacher and a student in life– we ultimately shape each other. So the diversity here in Erie is the heartbeat that fuels our individual growth, as much as it is the heartbeat that evolves a whole community. Rich experiences and constant flowing ideas… what’s not to love, Erie?”

“Growth” Photography by Susie Hosterman

About Growth:

“We start off small, perhaps falsely identifying ourselves as weak. We then face a winter or two, and many winters (often bitter, insanely cold) one right after another. We learn how to make it through each one, told to:  “Hold your cover closer to protect that warm heart of yours” and “Find others who have traveled the path more times before you.”  And through that guidance, we learn to stand taller– using local tall ships and lighthouses as physical metaphors representing that innate strength. Guided always North ( do you see the Lake yet?) we learn to move forward– always growing, always committed to a path that is most likely unknown… because we aren’t weak. We are expansive and spacious– like a Lake we often visit here. And because there is proof of our growth, we know we are stronger than we once were, even just before this past winter. So Thank you Winter for shaping us, and Thank you Lake for soothing us… and Thank you Erie, for guiding us North.”

Stay tuned for another update, complete with photos taken of the event. If you are included in any of the photographs, feel free to use them for your own promotion.

And a big shout out to Art for Well-Being Everywhere for allowing me this opportunity to share my art! I wish you continued abundance and success in your future gallery events!