Matthew Northridge, "Welcome Back to the Nuclear Age," 2011. Collage on paper. 23" x 27 1/2". Black lines culled from books and pieced together into a continuous tangled loop. (On View at KANSAS through 1.7.12)
If you haven’t seen Matthew Northridge’s solo show Pictures by Wire and Wireless at KANSAS, the newest gallery on Tribeca’s up-and-coming gallery row, you’re in luck. The show has just been extended until Saturday, January 7th. Art Forum magazine has placed Pictures by Wire and Wireless on their “Critic’s Pick” list. I had the pleasure of seeing the show in New York this November and can assure you that the distinction is well deserved.
Northridge is one of the few contemporary artists I can think of pushing the boundaries of collage as an art form. Equally playful and orderly, his obsessive, detailed work, composed of cultural ephemera, is never marred by irksome cleverness or a hollow cataloging impulse. This is art that improves upon closer examination–art that reveals itself slowly without ever relinquishing all of its mysteries.
“Welcome Back to the Nuclear Age” is a good case in point. This colorful, tangled loop immediately grabbed my attention when I saw it in the gallery. But only when I approached the piece did I realize that it was a collage composed of hundreds of carefully arranged black lines from various found magazines, ads, books, and maps. (You can click on the “detail” image below to get a closer look).
Matthew Northridge, "Welcome Back to the Nuclear Age," Detail, 2011. Collage on paper. 23" x 27 1/2". Black lines culled from books and pieced together into a continuous tangled loop.
Northridge’s art work sings in KANSAS’s spacious galleries. While it’s easy to become overly focused on the intricate construction of these pieces, landscape is really the central theme that ties all of the work in Pictures by Wire and Wireless together. Viewing the show as a whole allowed me to better appreciate the artist’s talent for creating highly original, imaginary scenes.
Whether looking at a rolled map of Washington D.C. encased in steel bars, the haunting skies on raffle tickets in “How to Know (and Predict) the Weather,” the layered collages of found nature images, or the miniature structures in “Barns and Other Outbuildings,” Northridge’s invented landscapes always have a humorous, otherworldly quality. His marvelous piece, Northeast, reminds me simultaneously of an aerial view of a city, children’s blocks, windows in a skyscraper, and colorful beds from a dollhouse.
Matthew Northridge, "The Northeast," 2011. Wood, paper, and printed material, 12" x 12" x 4". (On View at KANSAS through 1.7.12)
Matthew Northridge, "The Northeast," Detail, 2011. Wood, paper, and printed material, 12" x 12" x 4". (On View at KANSAS through 1.7.12)
Matthew Northridge, "Map of Washington D.C.", Detail, 2010. Wood, steel rods, & map, 37" x 2 1/2" diameter. Suspended from ceiling. (On view at KANSAS through 1.7.12)
Artist Matthew Northridge and his piece "Barns and Other Outbuildings" on view at KANSAS Gallery in Tribeca through 1.7.11 (Photo by Michelle Aldredge)
Detail view of Matthew Northridge's "Barns and Other Outbuildings," 2009. Wood & chipboard. 15" diameter. Projecting from wall (On view at KANSAS through 1.7.12))
An installation view of Matthew Northridge's "Barns and Other Outbuildings," 2009. Wood & chipboard. 15" diameter. Projecting from wall (Photo by Michelle Aldredge)
Matthew Northridge. "How to Know (and Predict) the Weather," 2006. Found printed material & raffle tickets. 26" high x 47" wide (On View at KANSAS through 1.7.12)
Matthew Northridge. "How to Know (and Predict) the Weather," Detail, 2006. Found printed material & raffle tickets. 26" high x 47" wide (On View at KANSAS through 1.7.12)
Great Great Aunt Aida
trained her lapdog
to attack dark-skinned men.
A shake of her high-yaller head
and a suck on her ivory teeth,
and the Scottish terrier slipped
through the fence pickets
to nip at a tar baby’s ankles.
Somewhere in her heaven,
Aunt Aida fusses today:
the lightest Haley yet,
naked to the waist
in a plastic lawn chair,
I’m a line cook browning
limbs in a skillet’s thick oil,
a tanner of calf hide
curing skin in the sun.
Aida dreamed the family
would fade into a whiteness
of table manners and book learning,
and with me she came close.
But Mom must have eaten
a pig’s foot when she was pregnant,
or dialed up the volume on those
Aretha records. Or I took it too hard,
that time in the grocery store
when a woman confused Mom
for my nanny–I bronze in the yard
all afternoon, hoping to blind
my eyes with scales and molt
like a sidewinder, to leave behind
a trail of skin, brittle, flaking, and white,
cracking and split in the sun.
About Iain Haley Pollock
(Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths)
Iain Haley Pollock’s first collection of poems, Spit Back a Boy, won the 2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. He lives in Philadelphia and teaches at Springside Chesnut Hill Academy, where he is the Cyrus H. Nathan ’30 Distinguished Faculty Chair for English.
In the January/February 2012 issue of Poet’s and Writers, Pollock says that he finds inspiration for his work from “Stories of family, friends, and neighbors; the high murder rate in Philadelphia; the early Chicago electric blues; the Catholic Mass; the endurance of slavery; autumn; the jazz of Miles Davis and Charles Mingus; Jewish mourning rituals; the painter Barkley Hendricks; the trees on the Schuylkill River walk and at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy; Philadelphians’ eccentricities; lake-effect snow; and, of course, the beautiful woman with whom I live.”
The end of The High Line as seen from street level (Photo Courtesy Wired NY)
If you’re fed up with partisan bickering and political dysfunction in Washington, the gratifying, lavishly-illustrated book High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky, just published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, might temper your burgeoning cynicism. The book is a lesson in what can be accomplished in the face of overwhelming skepticism and bureaucracy.
The new High Line park in New York City deserves to be celebrated not only for its innovative design, but also for the grass-roots collaboration that made the improbable idea of converting a derelict elevated railway on Manhattan’s West Side into a beautiful green space a reality.
(Photo Courtesy Urban Design Review)
The High Line is one of the most important public projects in New York City in decades, and the ultimate example of how fruitful a cross-pollination among various disciplines can be. The book’s authors, Robert Hammond and Joshua David, had no prior experience in planning and development (one journalist referred to them as “a pair of nobodies”), but this didn’t stop them from collaborating with artists, elected officials, neighbors, local business owners, horticulturists, and landscape architects to realize their vision.
This is a story about two ordinary guys taking on a behemoth bureaucracy and actually winning.”I didn’t understand the complexity of what we were getting into,” Hammond says in the book. “We would need to become versed in urban planning, architecture, and City politics, raise millions of dollars, and give years of our lives to the High Line.”
Phase 2 of the High Line in 2011 (Photo by Iwan Baan Courtesy Friends of the High Line)
This industrial structure has a fascinating history. The first street-level railroad tracks were built on Manhattan’s West Side in 1847. So many accidents occurred between freight trains and street traffic that 10th Avenue became known as Death Avenue. In an effort to improve safety, men on horses, called West Side Cowboys, rode in front of trains waving red flags.
After years of public debate about the hazard, the High Line was built in the 1930s as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement. The elevated railway lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district.
The new High Line connected directly to warehouses and factories on its route, allowing the trains to deliver milk, meat, produce, and other goods right inside buildings. This innovative design also reduced theft for the Bell Laboratories Building (now the Westbeth Artists Community), and the Nabisco plant, (now Chelsea Market). The entire project was 13 miles long, eliminated 105 street-level railroad crossings, added 32 acres to Riverside Park, and cost over $150 million in 1930 dollars—more than $2 billion today.
Before the High Line was built, trains ran at street level. Conditions along 10th Avenue were so bad that it was nicknamed "Death Avenue." (Photo Courtesy Friends of the High Line)
For safety, the railroads hired men – the "West Side Cowboys" – to ride horses and wave flags in front of the trains. (Photo Courtesy Friends of the High Line)
The city’s solution was to build a 22-block long elevated railway, or High Line. (Photo Courtesy Friends of the High Line)
An archival photo showing construction of the original High Line (Photo Courtesy Friends of the High Line)
Construction of the Elevated Railway on Gansevoort Street Looking North (Photo Courtesy the NY Historical Society)
The elevated railroad on the West Side of Manhattan is it appeared in 1934 (Photographer unknown)
By the 1950s, the popularity of interstate trucking reduced rail traffic nationwide. The southern section of the High Line was demolished in the 60s. In 1980 the last train ran on the High Line pulling three carloads of frozen turkeys.
In the mid-1980s, a group of property owners with land under the line lobbied for the demolition of the entire structure. Peter Obletz, a Chelsea resident, activist, and railroad enthusiast, challenged the demolition efforts in court and tried to re-establish rail service on the Line.
As the line sat unused, it became known to a few urban explorers and local residents for the tough, drought-tolerant wild grasses, shrubs, and trees that had sprung up in the gravel along the abandoned railway. The photographer Joel Sternfeld shot some striking photographs of the High Line during this period. His book, Joel Sternfeld: Walking the High Line, is a transporting glimpse at this rusty, derelict structure before it was reclaimed.
Peter Obletz, a Chelsea resident, activist, and railroad enthusiast, challenged the demolition efforts in court and tried to re-establish rail service on the Line. This photo shows Obletz outside his home in 1983. (Photo by Peter Richards Courtesy Friends of the High Line)
Last night the snow finally arrived in New Hampshire. Having grown up in Georgia, a white Christmas is still a welcome novelty for me. Back home in Atlanta, businesses and schools close the moment the “S” word is mentioned. There are few snow plows or sand trucks there, and an all-wheel-drive Subaru is as rare as a nun in a bikini.
But here in New Hampshire, the Land of Subarus, we’re used to the white stuff. We pull on our snow boots and hats, and brave the elements.
I always enjoy those first few snowfalls when the landscape is miraculously transformed. Once the snow is on the ground, I can track every animal who has skirted past my house at night—the deer, the squirrels, the mice, and ermine. And few scenes are as arresting as deep blue shadows stretching over fresh snow on a crisp, clear afternoon. It never ceases to amaze me that I can stand in the middle of the woods on a winter afternoon and actually hear the sound of snow falling.
(Photo by Michelle Aldredge)
Squirrel tracks in the snow (Photo by Michelle Aldredge)
This holiday I’m grateful not only for the well-timed snowfall, but also for all of the readers like you who have made the first seven months of Gwarlingo such a success. I appreciate your positive feedback, comments, store purchases, and emails of support.
I hope you have some time to relax and connect with friends or family this holiday. Today, my Christmas gift to you is this short sand animation called Snow by filmmaker Corrie Francis Parks.
A still from Corrie Francis Parks' sand animation "Snow." Watch the full film below.
Corrie Francis Parks at work on a sand animation (Photo courtesy Corrie Francis Parks)
Corrie works with sand, paint on glass, cut-outs and hand-drawn mediums. This particular film uses a highly specialized technique called sand animation. Corrie has found new ways to incorporate color into her sand films—a medium that has traditionally been in black and white.
Using sand as a material is challenging and difficult to master. Corrie is one of the few filmmakers who is pushing this medium in new directions. You can learn more about Corrie’s work on her website or follow her on Twitter.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Enjoy the film and best wishes for 2012.
(If you’re reading this in an email, click here to watch the video.)
Hallie Zens, age 9, writes a message on the blackboard at the Thetford Community Center during a letter writing session held in memory of writer Grace Paley on her birthday. Paley lived in Thetford, Vermont, and in New York City. She died in 2007 at age 84 at her home in Thetford. (Photo by Jason Johns courtesy the Valley News)
Occasionally she will admit that, though it is “not nice” of her to say so, she believes that she can accomplish as much in a few stories as her longer-winded colleagues do in a novel. And she points out that she has had many other important things to do with her time, such as raising children and participating in politics. “Art,” she explains, “is too long, and life is too short.” Paley is noticeably unaffected by the pressures of mortality which drive most writers to publish…
The oft-noted Paley paradox is the contrast between her grandmotherly appearance and her no-schmaltz personality. Paley says only what is necessary. Ask her a yes-or-no question, and she will answer yes or no. Ask her a foolish question, and she will kindly but clearly convey her impatience. Talking with her, one develops the impression that she listens and speaks in two different, sometimes conflicting capacities. As a person she is tolerant and easygoing, as a user of words, merciless.
Grace Goodside grew up speaking Russian and Yiddish at her home in the Bronx–her parents immigrated to New York 17 years before she was born. Writing was only one of Paley’s jobs. As The Paris Review observes, she spent a lot of time in playgrounds when her children were young, was very active in the feminist and peace movements, and taught courses at City College, Columbia University, Syracuse University, and Sarah Lawrence College. She was also a co-founder of the Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York in 1967.
Grace Paley (Photo Courtesy Dorothy Marder)
“Our idea,” Paley said at 1996 symposium on Educating the Imagination, ”was that children—by writing, by putting down words, by reading, by beginning to love literature, by the inventiveness of listening to one another—could begin to understand the world better and to make a better world for themselves. That always seemed to me such a natural idea that I’ve never understood why it took so much aggressiveness and so much time to get it started!”
Paley’s writing, which appeared in the latter-half of the timorous 50s, was radical for its time. As the New York Times noted in Paley’s obituary, “Ms. Paley was among the earliest American writers to explore the lives of women — mostly Jewish, mostly New Yorkers — in all their dailiness. She focused especially on single mothers, whose days were an exquisite mix of sexual yearning and pulverizing fatigue. In a sense, her work was about what happened to the women that Roth and Bellow and Malamud’s men had loved and left behind.”
Jen Bervin’s work brings together text and textile in a practice that encompasses poetry, archival research, artist books, and large-scale art works.
The Desert is a poem Bervin wrote by sewing row by row, line by line, across 130 pages of John Van Dyke’s, The Desert: Further Studies in Natural Appearances (1901). She used atmospheric fields of pale blue zigzag stitching to construct a poem “narrated by the air”— “so clear that one can see the breaks.”
Each quietly monumental book in the edition of 40 was machine-sewn with over five thousand yards of pale blue thread. Thinking of the artist James Turrell, for whom the poem was first composed for a reading at Roden Crater, Bervin wrote: “The great get on with the least possible and suggest everything by light.”
"The Desert" by Jen Bervin, Granary Books 2008
"The Desert" by Jen Bervin, Granary Books 2008, open view.
Her work has been published in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (Northwestern University Press 2011), La Familia Americana (Spain: Antonio Machado Libros, 2010), The Reality Street Book of Sonnets(UK: Reality Street Editions, 2008), and is forthcoming in a German anthology on appropriation literature (Luxbooks), I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (Les Figues Press), READ (1913 Press), and Figuring Color (ICA Boston/ Hatje Cantz).
Recent exhibitions include: “Jen Bervin: Weaving” at Gridspace in Brooklyn; “The Wildest Word We Consign to Language” at Poets House in New York; and the group show “Telefone Sem Fio: Word-Things of Augusto de Campos Revisited” at EFA Project Space in New York.
Jen Bervin (Photo by Khashayar Naderehvandi)
In "Nets" Bervin stripped Shakespeare's sonnets bare to the "nets" to make the space of the poems open, porous, possible—a divergent elsewhere. "When we write poems," says Bervin, the history of poetry is with us, pre-inscribed in the white of the page; when we read or write poems, we do it with or against this palimpsest."
"Nets" by Jen Bervin, (2004, fifth printing 2010), Ugly Duckling Presse, cover view
Bervin has received fellowships in art and writing from The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, The New York Foundation for the Arts, Centrum, The MacDowell Colony, Visual Studies Workshop, The Center for Book Arts, and The Camargo Foundation.
Her work is in more than thirty collections including The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Walker Art Center, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, Stanford University, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and the British Library.
She curated the New York exhibition, “Emily Dickinson at Poets House: Manuscripts from the Donald and Patricia Oresman Collection”—a rare selection of the poet Emily Dickinson’s original manuscripts.
Bervin teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’ll be the Von Hess Visiting Artist at the Borowsky Center for Publication Arts at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 2012. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
To learn more about Jen Bervin and to explore her poetry, artist books, and visual art, please visit her website.
They salvaged only what was vital, leaving
behind their most precious belongings,
including Aunt Beale’s watercolors,
which were lost, and the thousand
paper cranes Dad had folded
to win Mom over, placing them
on her usual routes, at the post office,
in the library bathroom, that after
the wedding they’d hung
from the dining room ceiling—lost.
They lost several leisure suits,
Star Wars T-shirts, baseball cards
and G.I. Joes and several vases
of fresh daisies. And in the smolder
of blackened house, once the firemen’s
hoses had gone limp, they found
the family schnauzer, dead and gleaming:
what had happened was, the dog
had hidden in the cabinet below
the family silver, which had melted,
casting the poor mut entire.
It radiated waves of heat.
But how could they not reach out
to pet that shiny silver schnauzer,
one by one, saying ‘there boy,’
as they burned their soft pink hands?
About Christopher Robinson
Christopher Robinson is a writer, teacher and translator currently living in the wind. He earned his MA in poetry from Boston University and his MFA from Hunter College. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Alaska Quarterly Review, Night Train, Kenyon Review, Nimrod, Chiron Review, Umbrella Factory, FlatmanCrooked, McSweeney’s Online, Mare Nostrum, and elsewhere. He is a recipient of fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, the Sante Fe Art Institute, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He has been a Ruth Lilly Fellowship finalist for the last two years.
December 2, 2011 in
News, Sounds with
Jessica Miller-Rauch, Erica Moon, and Michael Krzankowski perform a scene from Peter Wyer's new opera in progress, "Numinous City" (Photo by Michael Palma courtesy of The Rubin Museum)
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
This line from Victor Hugo came to mind the first time I heard the incredible story of Tibetan nun Ngawang Sangdrol.
At age 14 Sangdrol was jailed at the notorious Draphchi Prison for peacefully protesting against China’s invasion of Tibet. The prison has an estimated population of 1000 of which some 600 are thought to be political prisoners ranging in age from 18 to 85, many of which are captured monks and nuns.
While in captivity, Sangdrol was beaten with iron rods and rubber pipes, subjected to electric cattle prods on the tongue and six months in complete darkness in solitary confinement. She was also forced to spin and knit until her fingers were raw and blistered.
Ngawang Sangdrol (Photo courtesy American Opera Projects)
She told the BBC that the mental torture was even worse than the physical torture. ”We had to denounce his Holiness the Dalai Lama and were not allowed to engage in religious practice.”
In 1993, while inside Drapchi prison, Sangdrol and 13 other nuns clandestinely recorded songs in tribute to their homeland and the Dalai Lama using a smuggled cassette player. This courageous group of women, who became known as the “singing nuns” of Drapchi, suffered extended prison sentences and harsh treatment as a result of their actions.
Fortunately, the nuns’ recording made it out of Tibet and the fame of these protest songs ultimately led to intercession by the government and to Sangdrol’s release. While her early release was officially on grounds of good behavior, her liberation was politically well-timed, happening only a few days before then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited George Bush’s Texas ranch. Sangdrol ultimately served 11 years of her full 23-year sentence.
“We recorded the songs because we wanted our families to know that we were still alive,” said Sangdrol, “and we wanted Tibetan people to know about our situation and our love for our country. We hoped it would reach our families, but we didn’t know for sure. I had no idea until I arrived in America that people all over the world heard those songs while we were still in prison. Now, it makes me feel so sad to listen to the recording, because I remember our friends in prison who died.”
The Tibetan Shrine Room from the Alice Kandell Collection was one of the places we visited at The Rubin Museum during our tour with Ngawang Sangdrol (Photo courtesy The Rubin Museum of Art)
“The Chinese have taken Tibet, our home,” read the lyrics to one song. “Tibetans are locked away in prison/Oh, fellow Tibetans, please come here/Buddhism’s holy land will be free soon.”
Despite years of inhumane treatment, torture and “patriotic education,” Sangdrol’s spirit remained strong.”Even when I first went to prison I knew this sort of torture was taking place,” she told the BBC, but “I was even angrier that an invader would come to our country and persecute our people.”
I had a rare chance to meet Ngawang Sangdrol at The Rubin Museum in New York City two weeks ago. During a tour of the collection, Sangdrol explained the cultural significance of some of the pieces in the museum, including the Tibetan Shrine Room and The Lukhang Murals.
Richard Gere at the performance of Peter Wyer's "Numinous City." Because of his pro-Tibet activities, Gere is permanently banned from entering China. (Photo by Michael Palma Courtesy The Rubin Museum)
Actor Richard Gere, who is an active supporter of the Tibetan Independence Movement and the Dalai Lama, also joined us for the tour and shared some of his own knowledge of Tibet. Gere is the co-founder of Tibet House, Chairman of the Board for the International Campaign for Tibet, and creator of The Gere Foundation, which awards grants to groups dedicated to the cultural preservation of Tibet and the Tibetan people. Because of his pro-Tibet activities, Gere is permanently banned from entering China.
While Sangdrol’s public appearance was an event not to be missed, it was the showcase performance of Peter Wyer’s new opera, Numinous City, inspired by the former nun’s story, that was the impetus for Sangdrol, Gere, myself, and a large crowd of enthusiastic music lovers to gather at the Rubin that evening.
Ngawang Sangdrol and Composer Peter Wyer at The Rubin Museum (Photo by Michelle Aldredge)
Wyer says that the title of his opera, Numinous City, reflects how our lives are constantly shaped by unseen political, spiritual, and emotional forces. It is a reference to what becomes of us after trauma, when the ghosts of the past do not so easily depart.
Although the opera is still a work in progress, Wyer’s score and libretto are off to a stunning start. The narrative moves between the main character’s earlier experiences in prison and her current life working as a nanny for a couple in Brooklyn. (Sangdrol, like the opera’s main character, Tsering, also worked as a nanny in Brooklyn when she first moved to America).
Wyer’s comedic touches were a pleasant surprise in an opera about faith, trauma, and political oppression. The comic story line of the Brooklyn couple, marvelously sung by Jessica Miller-Rauch and Michael Krzankowski, offered some relief from the emotional intensity of the Tibetan scenes, which movingly dramatize Tsering’s walk to Lhasa in order to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet and her subsequent imprisonment and torture.
During one comic scene, John, who has hired Tsering to work as a nanny is his household, performs a lengthy rant about the state of American politics. (Photo by Michael Palma Courtesy The Rubin Museum)
The most comic scene is set in Brooklyn on election night in November of 2004. John and Leila, the couple Tsering works for, are holding a party. When the television announces the re-election of George W. Bush, John belts out the longest, loudest F-bomb in opera history–a brilliant, extended F note that sets the scene for John’s political rant.
References to Guantanamo and Abu Graib add a layer of complexity to the narrative. We see that Tsering is living in America and is free from her prison cell, and yet she is still haunted by the torture she endured in prison, just as America is haunted by its own violent actions.
Wyer has interwoven Tibetan mantras brilliantly into his score, and some of the most exciting moments musically occur during the choruses. His inventive mixture of Western music with traditional Tibetan sounds and techniques result in compelling textures.
Composer Peter Wyer during his recent visit to Kathmandu, Nepal
Gwarlingo highlights some of the most inventive work being made today in visual art, music, writing, film, performance, design, and more. It's also a place where creative people can connect, explore, and share ideas. Gwarlingo has been featured on Andrew Sullivan's The Dish, NHPR, and more. And the name? Gwarlingo is a Welsh word for the rushing sound a grandfather clock makes before it strikes.
“Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It's what everything else isn't.”
― Theodore Roethke
Subscribe for Free
Join the conversation about art, ideas, and the creative process by signing up for a free email subscription to Gwarlingo. I will never rent, sell or give your email to any third party, guaranteed. Enter your email address here:
Become a Member
The Gwarlingo Membership Drive is in full swing, and I have some cool rewards to offer you in return for your membership dollars -- limited edition prints, photographs, books, interactive profiles, and more. Donate and see all of the benefits of membership here. (UPDATE: $10,500 of the $15,000 goal has been raised so far thanks to 100+ backers.)
My name is Michelle Aldredge. I’m a writer, photographer, and the creator of Gwarlingo. At Gwarlingo, I share in-depth conversations with artists, as well as some of my own exciting finds in contemporary art. I've done radio appearances on NHPR and consulted on arts projects big and small. From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation's oldest artist retreat, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. You can read more about me and my work here. Thanks for visiting. Come back. Come often.
A Chain Link Fence Transformed: On my recent visit to the deCordova Museum, one of the artworks I found most compelling was “Capturing Resonance” by sculptor Soo Sunny Park and composer Spencer Topel, which is made out of chain link fencing. Read more about the piece here.
Sol LeWitt's Advice to Eva Hesse: DO! In 1965, when Eva Hesse found herself in a difficult creative place, artist Sol LeWitt wrote his friend a long letter of encouragement: “Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out, struggling, grasping,…Stop it and just DO!...If you fear, make it work for you – draw & paint your fear and anxiety.” I’ve never had so many overwhelming, positive responses to a piece. Read LeWitt's entire letter here.
The Sunday Poem: Gwarlingo subscribers receive The Sunday Poem in their inbox each week for free. The Sunday poets include Matthew Zapruder, Ravi Shankar (shown above), Meghan O'Rourke, Donald Hall, Kevin Young, Matthew Dickman, Seamus Heaney, Cristián Flores García, D. Nurkse, Jane Hirshfield, Stephen Dunn, Anzhelina Polonskaya, Eduardo Corral, Jean Valentine, Maureen McLane, and more. Explore the entire series here.
The Complete Creative Series: In 13 years working for an artist residency program, I've seen it all. I understand both the psychological and practical barriers to creating your best work. Fear, doubt, financial worries, procrastination, the distraction of technology, presenting yourself online and on applications, creating an engaged community: these are just a few of the challenges you face in any creative field. The Complete Creative is an in-depth series that examines some of the topics that most concern you and your creative life. Read the series here.
Envisioning the Future with Yo La Tengo, R. Buckminster Fuller, & Sam Green: Recently, I had a chance to hang out with Sam Green and Yo La Tengo at the ICA in Boston. Their "live documentary," The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, was like no other film screening I’ve been to and is a must see. Read more here.
The Life & Legacy of Horace Pippin: One of my favorite discoveries at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia was African-American artist Horace Pippin. Here's a look at Pippin's life, art, and legacy, including 34 works by the Depression-era painter. These paintings blow me away.
Everything is Art. Everything is Politics: I didn’t expect a publication that has been touted as one of the “Best Art Books of 2012″ to stand just six inches tall and contain only two photographs. But as Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s new book of quotes, Weiwei-isms, proves, small can be powerful. Read my review here.
The Day in the Life of a Homeless Piano in NYC: Anthony Sherin's quiet, poignant short film has haunted me since I first saw it. Surely you have five minutes? I promise it's worth it. Click here to watch the film.
The Debut of Mary Ruefle's Erasure Melody: Mary Ruefle is one of today’s most admired practitioners of erasure poetry. A new erasure by Ruefle is a rare event, and the publication of one online or in print even rarer. Gwarlingo is the only place where you can see this one-of-a-kind piece. Read Melody in its entirety and learn more about erasure poetry here.
Little People in the City: While the public goes mad for Banksy, a more polished street artist named Slinkachu has been producing brilliant, evocative artwork that has largely escaped the attention of an American audience. Slinkachu is everything Banksy is not–-subtle, poignant, empathic, contemplative. Gwarlingo readers loved Slinkachu's photographs. Check out 33 of his images here.
The Art of Focus - 5 Ways to Free Yourself from Digital Dependency: Our day begins with good intentions. We resolve that today will be different from yesterday, because today, we we’ll stay on task. But then we turn on our computers and smart-phones, and before we know it, we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. How do we make the most of technology without frittering our lives away? How do we create time and space for deep thinking, creation, and real connection within the chaos of digital life?
13 Years, 3500 Artists, 7 Memorable Lessons: After thirteen remarkable years of working at The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, I decided to leave the Colony in May of 2012. Letting go of a 9-5 job (with a regular paycheck and benefits) in order to expand an arts website is a risky thing to do, but I've loved every minute of the Gwarlingo adventure. Did I learn something from working with over 3500 artists in those 13 years? Hell yeah. Read more here.
52 Pieces by British Street Artist Banksy: Banksy is a walking, breathing oxymoron. Depending on who you ask, he is either a genius or an overhyped vandal, a talented documentary filmmaker or a brilliant faker. He is both a lefty and a critic of liberal piety. He flips off the art world establishment, and yet courts the very art world he claims to detest. He is a street artist who sells his work for high sums in galleries and auction houses, and “an anarchist environmentalist who travels by chauffeured S.U.V. Is Banksy an arch prankster or an art genius? Read more here. (Above: Cardinal Sin by Banksy)
The Illusionist: At first glance, the work of Swiss artist Felice Varini looks like interesting, abstract art superimposed on an architectural space. But these are actually brilliantly composed installations--real paintings in real spaces that hover eerily in front of it. See more of Varini's work here.
The Spectacular Snow Drawings of Simon Beck: Beck creates these incredible designs by simply walking in the snow. These massive installations take two days to complete. See more photos here.
Creativity is the Power to Act: Ai Weiwei's interviews and blog posts are a thought-provoking read. “Creativity is the power to act," Ai says. "It’s the power “to reject the past, to change the status quo, and to seek new potential.” Ai is an architect, sculptor, curator, poet, critic, publisher, and photographer--an artist who created installations out of 1,200 bicycles and 100 million handmade porcelain sunflower seeds. Read more about Ai's writing, political activism, and art work here.
How to Feel Miserable as an Artist: This marvelous list, which is relevant to artists of all disciplines, was created by illustrator Keri Smith and is part of The Artist’s Survival Kit, which Keri wrote and designed. I like Keri’s list because it emphasizes the ways in which we tend to stay in our safe zones as artists. Read the full list here.
Hugo Author Brian Selznick Shares 20 Favorite Books: Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of Brian Selznick's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret has won over critics and fans alike. In this popular Gwarlingo exclusive, Selznick shares his own favorite books for children. There are some wonderful discoveries on the list for readers of all ages. View all 20 titles and see illustrations from Selznick's newest book, Wonderstruck here.
95 Rare Color Photographs: The second most popular post in Gwarlingo's short history has been this feature on the rare color photographs taken by FSA photographers like Jack Delano, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott. The overwhelming response to this piece leads me to believe that I'm not the only one who finds these early Kodachrome photos from the 30s and 40s a fascinating discovery.
Grace Paley on Writing: "If you want to write, keep a low overhead...The best training is to read and write, no matter what. Don’t live with a lover or roommate who doesn’t respect your work. Don’t lie, buy time, borrow to buy time. Write what will stop your breath if you don’t write." Read more here.
On Money, Fear, & the Artist: Being an artist is so hard because we’re operating in a parallel universe from the larger culture–one that values imagination, creativity, and ideas more than money or status. Read more about art and fear and explore Mark Wagner's amazing currency collages here.
Tour the Tate Modern: The Tate Modern in London, a former power plant, is the most visited modern art gallery in the world. I share some of the highlights from my own visit in this special tour.
The Journey to Freedom: Peter Wyer's Numinous City is inspired by the extraordinary true story of Ngawang Sangdrol, a Tibetan nun, imprisoned in Lhasa, Tibet at age 14. Sangdrol and other nuns managed to record songs on a smuggled cassette player while in prison, the fame of which ultimately led to her release. I spoke to Sangdrol and Wyer (pictured above) at a sneak preview of the opera at the Rubin Museum in New York City. Read more about this incredible story here.
Visit Kim Uchiyama's Tribeca Studio: "I think it's important for us to understand that we live in a society that doesn't value mystery. We want everything to be absolutely clear and unambiguous because this makes us feel more comfortable. We're often afraid of what is foreign or unfamiliar."
Red Heart the Ticker: A legendary songcatcher inspires two musicians on a Vermont farm. Listen to new music from Red Heart the Ticker and take a tour of their farm and studios in this special expanded edition of Gwarlingo's Creative Spaces series.
Browse a handpicked selection of books and other items of interest to artists, writers, teachers, librarians, art lovers, designers, and other creative individuals. A percentage of your purchase supports Gwarlingo.
A Line Made By Flooding: In 2007 Eve Mosher created High Water Line, a public art project in Manhattan and Brooklyn that brought the topic of climate change directly to the city’s residents. “I never wanted this to be a reality,” Mosher said the week Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York and New Jersey. Read more here.
Before and After Dinner: Most people know André Gregory through his critically acclaimed film My Dinner with André, but Cindy Kleine's new documentary reveals so much more about the respected theatre director and raconteur. Read my full review of the film here.
Film & Fatherhood:How do you learn to be a father, particularly when there are no fathers around to be an example? This is the question at the heart of Samein Priester’s documentary 1st&4ever. The dilemma of fatherhood has taken on new significance for Samein since the tragic loss of his partner, artist Denyse Thomasos. Read more and watch the film in its entirety here.
Transforming New York City's Water Towers: Artists like Tom Fruin and Rachel Whiteread are creating memorable public sculptures out of the humble New York City water tower. In the Spring of 2013, 300 rooftop tanks will be transformed into works of art by established and emerging figures in art, music, science as well as public school students. Read more about water-tower art here.
Lessons from the Writing Life: Poet Matthew Zapruder and fiction writer Amy Hempel read and discuss new work at the Juniper Summer Writing Institute in Amherst, Massachusetts.Read more here.
My Review of Christian Marclay's The Clock: The Clock is artist Christian Marclay’s magnum opus, a mesmerizing 24-hour montage of thousands of time-related movie clips that have been masterfully edited and synchronized to show the actual time. Does it live up to the hype? Find out here.
Tales of Captivity and Freedom: In I Am an Executioner, Rajesh Parameswaran introduces us to a cast of heroes—and antiheroes: from the lovesick tiger who narrates the unforgettable opener, to the ex-CompUSA employee who masquerades as a doctor; from a railroad manager in a turn-of-the-century Indian village, to an elephant writing her autobiography; from a woman whose Thanksgiving preparations put her husband to eternal rest, to the newlywed executioner of the title, these characters inhabit a marvelous region between desire and death, playfulness and violence. Read an interview with Rajesh Parameswaran here.
Lewis Hyde on Art and Ownership: Lawsuits over image appropriation, music remixes, file sharing, and copyright infringement are on the rise and emerging as the central debate of the digital era. The Grey Album, a 2004 mash-up by Danger Mouse, is a prime example of the type of copyright dispute Lewis Hyde discusses in his most recent book, Common as Air. You can read a full interview with Hyde here.
Whistler, Fireworks, and a New Way of Seeing: James McNeill Whistler’s loose, impressionistic depiction of fireworks at night was not to everyone’s liking when the painting made its public debut in 1877. Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket sparked an infamous feud between the artist and the Victorian critic John Ruskin. During the libel trial that followed, Ruskin's lawyer asked Whistler, "The labour of two days is that for which you ask two hundred guineas?" The artist replied, “No, I ask it for the knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime.” Read more here.
Peter Hutton’s films of rivers, oceans, cargo ships, and landscapes are everything commercial movies are not—subtle, completely silent, thoughtful, and devoid of narrative. "Cinema tends to be this additive thing, it gets more complicated technologically," says Hutton. "I wanted to do it alone, keep it personal and private...It’s not about the pyrotechnics, it’s about something else---being inventive with limitations." Read an interview with Hutton and watch a video of his recent exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum here.
The Lines Between the Arts are Insignificant: Hiroshi Teshigahara's Antonio Gaudi is like no other film I can think of. This 72-minute visual poem on the Spanish Art-Nouveau architect avoids conventional narrative and instead, lets Gaudi’s buildings do the talking. "Gaudi worked beyond the borders of various arts,” Teshigahara once said, “and made me feel that the world in which I was living still left a great many possibilities.” Read more about Gaudi and Teshigahara here.
Doris Salcedo on the Perspective of the Defeated: This photograph of 1,550 wooden chairs piled between two buildings in Istanbul stopped me in my virtual tracks when I first saw it. Born in Colombia, Salcedo’s installations are meditations on the silenced lives of the marginalized--the gap between the powerful and the powerless. Read more about Salcedo's installations here.
The DIY Punk Philosophy of Jem Cohen: Artist Jem Cohen uses film as a solo medium to create cinematic collages and haunting meditations on memory and place. Cohen’s films are works of art–soulful, provocative, anti-commercial, mysterious, unconventional, and beautifully imperfect. The filmmaker has worked with an array of musicians through the years–Patti Smith, R.E.M., The Ex, Gil Shaham, Elliott Smith, Cat Power, and the late Vic Chesnutt. Read more about Jem's work here.
Roger King Explores Love & Fatigue in America: “What does it mean to live in between?” writes novelist Andrea Barrett of Roger King’s latest book. “Not only between geographical locations, but between health and illness, commitment and freedom, love and loss?” In this in-depth interview with British novelist Roger King, we discuss writing, King's fight with chronic fatigue syndrome, his aid work in Africa and Asia, American healthcare, and more.
Artist Matthew Northridge: Matthew Northridge uses paper like no other artist I know. Matt gave me a tour of his solo show at Kansas Gallery during a recent visit to New York City. Explore more of his work here.
The Most Memorable Experiences in the Arts: I asked an array of artists to tell me about their most memorable experiences in the arts during 2011. Singer Rosanne Cash (pictured above), Moosewood cookbook author Mollie Katzen, journalists William Powers and Jeff Sharlet, British composer Tarik O'Regan and others share their surprising picks here.
Exhuming the Forgotten: Filmmaker Errol Morris said that Bill Morrison's Decasia might be ”the greatest movie ever made.” Assembled entirely from decaying, highly flammable, early nitrate footage, this masterpiece belongs in the tradition of Stan Brakhage’s films and Michael Lessy’s memorable book Wisconsin Death Trip; it is simultaneously poetic, haunting, and compelling. The entire piece is a meditation on ruin and the temporal nature not only of film, but of life itself. Learn more about Decasia and Bill Morrison's other films here.
The World of E.B. White: In 1951 the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals accused writer E.B. White of not paying his dog tax and “harboring” an unlicensed dog. White wrote this hilarious letter in response to the ASPCA. Read the letter and an overview of White's work here.
The Sound of Four Hands Clapping: In 1971 composer Steve Reich embarked on a five-week trip to study music and drumming in Ghana. Shortly after his return, he wrote “Clapping Music.” In this 1972 video Reich performs this classic piece with percussionist Russell Hartenberger.
The Evolution of Photographer Bill Jacobson: “There has always been a poetic stance in my work,” says photographer Bill Jacobson. “Whether in focus or out, it’s never been about a single narrative, but rather something beneath the surface of what’s being photographed." Explore Jacobson's work here.
An Accidental Classic: Sibylle Baier’s critically-acclaimed Colour Green was published 30 years after it was first recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Baier starred in Wim Wender's films and wrote her own songs, but abandoned her career to move to America and raise her family. Read more about how this classic finally found an audience here.
Errol Morris on Photography: What makes an “honest” photograph? Is the medium of photography more factual and authentic than other art forms? Can a photo be objective or does it always have a point of view? When does a photograph document reality? When is it propaganda? When is it art? Filmmaker Errol Morris addresses all of these questions and more in his new book Believing is Seeing.
Ira Glass on the Creative Process: Ira Glass, the host of NPR’s This American Life, gives some useful advice about the art of story telling. Remember the method you learned in college–opening paragraph, thesis sentence, supporting material? Glass says to throw that tired technique out the window!
Essay: On Crows Openness is a state of mind that the nature lover and the artist share. Art, like bird watching, is about seeing, hearing, and understanding. It requires stillness. It demands that we remain open to the unexpected. Read the entire essay here.
Nairobi-London Sound Clash: I discovered the Owiny Sigoma Band during a 2011 trip to London. This highly original, Nairobi-London sound clash, which blends traditional Kenyan Luo styles with contemporary western influences, is like nothing else I’ve heard before. Their debut album, which pulses with mellow grooves, lyre riffs, and hypnotic drums, is organic, quirky and rough around the edges, but in a good way. Listen to the record here.
The Urban Frenzy of Olive Ayhens: Olive Ayhens' neo-expressionist pen and ink and watercolor drawings are a knock-out: textured, original, and deliberately unruly. Working on location, Ayhens draws the lively center of New York City, personifying its skyscrapers in a style that is vigorous and playful, as well as idiosyncratic.
Occupy Writers: Who could have guessed that one of the sanest pieces of writing about the Occupy movement would come from children's book author Lemony Snicket? Read “13 Observations Made by Lemony Snicket while Watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance" here.
P.J. Harvey's "Let England Shake": "I only sing the songs that I can still believe," says singer P.J. Harvey. The emotionally charged "Let England Shake" is one of the strongest records of her career. Listen to samples and watch videos of Harvey's collaboration with filmmaker Seamus Murphy here.
A Secret Garden in the City:These gardens on the roof of Rockefeller Center are one of the best-kept secrets in New York City.
The Discomfort Zone: V.S. Naipaul believes that female writers are inferior and sentimental. Jonathan Franzen observes that "you can't deconstruct and undress at the same time." Has writing about love without hipster irony become a radical act for male novelists today? Read the full story here.
Ten Rules for Writing Fiction: Writers like Zadie Smith, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, and Richard Ford offer guidance on the art of fiction writing. A sampling of their advice: "Have children." "Don't have children." "Get an accountant." "No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write." Damn. What am I going to do with all of those black turtlenecks?
Music by Goldfish: How aware are we of sound as we move through the course of our day? Which sounds do we register and which do we ignore? Do we even give the subject much thought? “Quintetto” by the Italian artist collective Quiet Ensemble is an intriguing blend of music, sound and installation art.
Doubt is Your Revelation: Jeff Sharlet's most recent book, Sweet Heaven When I Die, is a collection of 13 essays about belief, skepticism, and spirituality. Sharlet writes about Brad Will, an anarchist journalist who filmed his own murder by police; BattleCry, an evangelical youth movement devoted to spreading its particular brand of the Christian message; a new-age healer named Sondra Shaye; and renowned intellectual Cornel West.
George Bernard Shaw Exposed: Not many people realize that George Bernard Shaw was a passionate amateur photographer, as well as a prolific writer. When Shaw died at the age of 94, he left behind over 10,000 photographic prints and over 10,000 negatives in his home in Ayot St Lawrence.
Olafur Eliasson, the Danish artist who brought the sun to Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and created man-made waterfalls in New York City, has a new project--Din blinde passager (Your blind passenger), a 295-foot-long tunnel filled with dense fog.
Breathbox by Antti Paalanen: Watch a mesmerizing piece of music by Finnish accordion master Antti Paalanen. "Mesmerizing accordion music?" you ask. Yes. Really.
The Fear of Failure: Even if you don't know his name, you know his work. Legendary designer Milton Glaser discusses the myth of creative genius and gives advice on how artists can move past the fear of failure. “Find out what you’re capable of doing or not capable of doing,” says Glaser. “Admit what is.” “Embrace the failure.” Watch Glaser's talk here.
Documenting a Revolution: Two filmmakers, who risked their lives to document the looting of archeological sites during the Iraq war, now find themselves in the heart of the Egyptian Revolution.