Whose Autobiography?

Back in March we may have had other things on our mind, so somehow I missed the pairing of two of my favorites in a new book–Maira Kalman’s illustrated version of Gertrude Stein’s “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.”

I have written more about Kalman, below, but here’s Maria Popova’s excellent review in her Brain Pickings blog (another one of my favorite things).

Not to be missed as well is this short video, made by Kalman and her son, Alex.

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American Utopia

It is during bleak times like these that we dream of better worlds. My interest in utopias is what drew me to Roosevelt, New Jersey: to make a documentary about generations of artists in the central New Jersey hamlet that was home to Ben and Bernarda Bryson Shahn, Gregorio Prestopino, Jacob Landau, Sol Libsohn, and a host of others, and to ultimately serve as guest curator for the exhibition Dreaming of Utopia: Roosevelt, New Jersey, at Morven Museum & Garden.

That exhibition runs through January 24, 2021 and Morven recently streamed a related program with Perdita Buchan, author of Utopia, New Jersey: Travels in the Nearest Eden, a journey through cooperative living communities that experiment with forms of education, taxes, and physical culture.

What better way to end 2020 with the new book by David Byrne, American Utopia, illustrated by one of my all-time favorites: Maira Kalman.

Here’s a story I wrote about her exhibition a few years ago on her mother’s closet and the meaning of everyday objects.

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Seated Behind Roz

It was mayhem in French class at Brooklyn’s Ditmas Junior High School. It was the late 1960s and Mr. V. had passed out the exam, then retreated to the hallway — the echo of his nail clippers made it difficult to concentrate. Students held their noses at the thought that he’d taken off his shoes and began passing around answer sheets. This was material for a budding cartoonist. (Read more at Hyperallergic…)

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Essential Impressionist

Berthe Morisot, “Self-Portrait” (1885), oil on canvas (Musée Marmottan Monet, Denis and Annie Rouart Foundationm, photo courtesy Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, France / Bridgeman Images)

PHILADELPHIA — French painter Berthe Morisot made her marks more than a century ago. Celebrated as an Impressionist in her time — she exhibited in seven of the eight impressionist shows between 1874 and 1886 — Morisot is not nearly recognized enough, often lumped together with her American contemporary Mary Cassatt.

A major exhibition on view at the Barnes Foundation through January presents a chance to understand the qualities that made Morisot’s success possible. (Read more at Hyperallergic.)

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Self-Confessed: Alison Bechdel


Both hardcore Bechdel fans and newcomers alike will find fresh insights into her creative process, her cultural influence, and her understanding of queerness and feminism in Self-Confessed! The Inappropriately Intimate Comics of Alison Bechdel at the Zimmerli Art Museum. “The secret subversive goal of my work is to show that women, not just lesbians, are regular human beings,” Bechdel said in an interview. (Read the full story at Hyperallergic.)

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The Earth is Calling

Maya Lin at work

The Earth undulates in wave-lake craters. Like quirky hillocks with straight edges, they beckon a visitor of any age to climb to the top and roll down sideways, just as a child might. And I can’t help thinking that’s just what the earthwork’s artist, Maya Lin, hopes we’ll take away — not her name and bio as one of the most important artists working today, but rather a place to honor and connect with earth and grass. (Read full story at Princeton Magazine.)

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Laden with Emotion

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Sculptor Ursula von Rydinsvard has many reasons for making art.

“Because there’s pleasure in it.”

“Because there’s pain in it.”

“Because I see life as being full of abominations.”

“Because life is full of marvels close to miracles.”

And, mostly, “to survive.”

Philadelphia’s Fabric Workshop and Museum is hosting a major exhibition, Ursula von Rydingsvard: The Contour of Feeling, through August 26, with 32 sculptures and 10 works on paper. The title comes from a line from Rainer Maria Rilke, von Rydingsvard’s favorite poet: “We don’t know the contour of feeling; we only know what molds it from Continue reading

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Old in Art School (review)


Nell Painter photograph by John Emerson (image courtesy of Nell Painter)

After retiring as a professor of American history from Princeton University, Nell Painter embarked on a new chapter of her life: to become a practicing artist. Her Ph.D. from Harvard wouldn’t be enough to get her into a good MFA program, so at the age of 64, the author of four books including the New York Times bestseller The History of White People, enrolled as an undergraduate at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers. And while others her age may have been satisfied with taking painting classes through the local community college or continuing ed program (or even at the senior center) Painter applied the earnestness that had driven her through her scholarly career all the way through completion of a BFA at Mason Gross and then an M.F.A. at the Rhode Island School of Design. No little old lady painting flowers in vases is she. (Full story at HYPERALLERGIC)

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Joyce Scott was an Artist in Vitro

KEK4257Sculptor, printmaker, installation artist, performer, quilt maker, storyteller, and jeweler Joyce J. Scott affirms the femininity of her forebears, giving them the finery they deserve,  in Harriet Tubman and Other Truths at Grounds for Sculpture. She describers the installation “Harriet’s Closet” as a “dream boudoir” for Harriet Tubman, the “inner sanctum of a great lady,” with such items as quilts, shawls, hats, beads and a rifle. (Full story at HYPERALLERGIC.)

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Telling the story of Paul Robeson’s Home


Photographer Wendel White shot artifacts unearthed in the Princeton, NJ house where Paul Robeson was born and projects these images against the façade of the house as part of the exhibition Reconstructed History.  Story at HYPERALLERGIC.

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