ALBANY — The group that attended the first meeting of the Art Lovers Book Club at the Albany Museum of Art on Tuesday night was a small but lively bunch.
The group, led by Executive Director of the AMA Paula Williams, discussed the novel “I Am Madame X” by Gioia Diliberto.
The novel is based on the painting of the same name by John Singer Sargent and looks at the life of the painting’s subject, Virginie Amelie Avegnon Gautreau.
Williams thought the book would be a good way to start the club, and while the story on which the book is based takes place in the late 1800s, she said she believes the book is still relevant to modern day.
“While this really takes place around 1886, maybe 1884, it really almost seems like it could take place now,” Williams said. “There are so many similarities.”
And many of those similarities, like the human interest in scandal, the quest for beauty, conspicuous consumption, and the connection between portraits and modern-day selfies, were some of the discussion topics on Tuesday night.
Williams said the idea of having a book club that discussed books about art and artists is something she and others at the museum have been discussing for around two years.
“There are so many good art books out there and books about artists and art museums,” Williams said. “Book clubs are just a really fun way to talk about those books and share ideas and thoughts.
“We really wanted to be a part of that and thought it would be an interesting program for us to present and give Albany residents a chance to participate in a vehicle that will help them learn more about art and interact with other book lovers.”
Initially, organizers weren’t sure how they would manage the book club on top of their other programs, but they decided to meet bimonthly and with different moderators so the same person would not be responsible for reading each book.
“We came up with a list of books we thought might be interesting, and then the moderators got their choice of which ones they wanted to read and lead a discussion (on),” Williams said. “That’s another thing that’s good about this program; it’s not always one perspective. You’ll hear lots of different perspectives. My biggest hope is that we’ll hear different perspectives from the people in the group who have read the book who want to talk about their ideas, what they’re seeing, reading, thinking.”
Williams said she hopes the club will offer community members a new way of looking and thinking about art while also offering a way to socialize.
“I think this gives (community members) an opportunity to think about art and artists in a different way and maybe get other viewpoints from other readers, share ideas, learn more, have that camaraderie that you can find in a group setting,” Williams said.
The next meeting of the book club will take place July 15 with a discussion led by K.K. Snyder on the historical novel “Girl With a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier. The book was inspired by a painting of the same name by Johannes Vermeer. The event is free and open to the public, and attendees are encouraged to bring a beverage of their choosing.