I can’t concentrate in a studio (or coffee shop) when surrounded by flying words (i.e., interviews or music w/ lyrics) when I am in editing or writing mode, which happens to be the majority of “normal” working hours. In the event, however, I am doing something artful, namely drawing or painting, I listen to podcasts. After finishing Jia Tolentino’s book, Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, I found her press tour interviews. Here is the one I like of her at Vox’s The Ezra Klein Show that condenses her articulate, thought-provoking discourse on the internet as a destructive agent of selfhood. (Full disclosure: she played an editor to my content many moons ago. She wouldn’t haven’t the foggiest idea who I am today. She’s now a New Yorker writer with big ideas to conjure and no peons to edit. She made it.)
While browsing at the library, I came across The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday by Rob Walker. What a fun book to open up anywhere and find a sweet idea for quick creative output. With the Internet down this past week, I decided to dig into one of his ideas. Draw a personal map. Here is my brief attempt. (That thing up there. Yeah.)
I remember listening to Jori Graham’s poetry reading at the Library of Congress. Before reading poems from her collection, Fast, she mused about how libraries offer a love affair in the “adjacencies” of authors nearby and beckoning you to find them. This is why we get lost in libraries, at least, I know I do. I mean, where else, on one browse, would I come home this week with:
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (how the hell did I EVER MISS this one? I’m now obsessed with her work)
On Tyranny by Timothy Synder (again, how the hell did I EVER MISS this one. So accessible, so interesting, so right on.)
The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist's Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo by Clea Koff (This one is so intense; I need an uninterrupted weekend. Snow is expected; should help the hibernation. Light roast coffee here I come.)
When in doubt, go to the library.
The writer Anne Lamott believes in radical self-care, too. She always drops some truth bombs for us living inside a creative life.
Robert Frank, ground-breaking documentary photographer, complicated and supported how I saw the world as a budding documentary photography student in the ‘90s. (We never met but I heard him talk to me through his images; how I framed the world was not crazy. An odd, unscripted candance was the part of me trying to find a personal visual language.) My photog professor handed me Frank’s book of “The Americans” when I decided to start a semester immersion journalism assignment on roller-skating rinks—the people inside, the lighting, the subculture.
The mantra back then was if we got one shot out of thirty-six (single frames on a film roll), he considered that a success. So I bought film in bulk with money I made off scholarship and writing news stories for the local newspapers. I sat in dark closets making rolls and rolls of film on my own blank film canisters. While fellow college kids drank in bars, I stood in the darkroom, watched my lousy (but sometimes beautiful) images develop, and smelled like fixer all the way home until I showered.
The goal was always: Does the developed image look like what you have stored in your brain at that exact moment of tripping the shutter? Do the images align?
I have spent the last 20 years hunting down his work in museums, in addition to Friedlander, Evans, Winogrand, Arbus, Atget. I took a precious day of vacation (only two weeks a year allowed on the job!) to listen to a lecture by famed photography curator John Szarkowski discuss documentary photography at the LACMA, where I was a docent.
This is no place, however, right now, for an extended essay on the state of photography in my personal opinion, but to only show extreme gratitude for finding Frank’s work at the right time in my life.
I hope you have artistic giants that have shaped your world, too.
As the much anticipated(!) 2020 presidential election gets underway in the U.S., I decided to go back and look at a project I started last year. None of the candidates today have any kind of interesting hairline. But I guess that’s okay, as I can’t wait to see the first woman’s presidential portrait in the National Gallery in a few years….
Nature reported a medical study this week that stated patients who spent 120 minutes a week in nature contributed to good health and a sound wellbeing. (If this is the threshold, then I am an extreme overachiever. ) I think sitting under a tree in a park counts. No fear, city folks.
Find this philosophy as an entry point into Agnes Callard’s book Aspiration: The Agency of Becoming as discussed in The New Yorker article “The Art of Decision-Making” by Joshua Rothman.
You can find a podcast (and its transcript) here with Agnes Callard interviewed by David Wright.
This philosophical perspective pretty much sums up everyone’s motivation to do or not do something. Love it. Using it.
How much NEW can be said or made about mothering as a lifestyle, a choice, a destination, a role, a meme? I thought I had seen it all until I came across Taiwanese photographer Annie Wang . Check out The New Yorker’s profile/gallery of her work. What a vision she had. She created a visual developmental Pandora’s box or nesting doll replication. Beautiful and wonderful.
A lack of emotional awareness has a subclinical name in neuroscience. It’s called ALEXITHYMIA. And I find it interesting that I experience this in random moments during meditation, when I turn into the hinged world of neutrality. I’m guessing you too may have had a feeling with no name linked to it before?
I love documentary pieces like these. They are relief to an often depressing news cycle. (Good vibes, only.)
Also check out the somewhat humorous yet sad Subway Bathrooms edition. (I remember reading a quote from Paul Aster, a native New Yorker, that his mother taught him never miss an opportunity to use a clean bathroom before leaving for somewhere. Anything to avoid the train delays and subway toilets, apparently. Good advice we can use no matter where we live.)
I’ve been told by reliable sources this is nerdy and sort of cool. It’s an out take to a larger graphic story I’ve been working on for about five years with no home yet. Reading about neuroscience and mindfulness fill my numerous tabletops. If there’s a flat surface in the house, it’s got something on it that I’m reading.
And if you think climate change isn’t real, our biggest brainiacs, the gray whale, need some love and attention. Scientists are perplexed why so many are washing ashore dead at an alarming rate. They are telling us, once again, humans are killing the planet. We will devolve by our own doing. And the cockroach will happen to become known as the most intelligent and adaptable species (my theory…it’s based only on empirical evidence. But still. You get the point, I hope).