Link Party: 10/29-11/20

My favorite daily reminder.
My favorite daily reminder.

There hasn’t been much Link Partying around here lately. I need to fix that, and I promise to be more consistent in the last few weeks of 2016 and into 2017.

Here’s a party to last you all week. Take your pick:

1. An interview with Frank Ocean.

2. Zadie Smith on the dancers that inspire her. (I can’t wait to read Swing Time.)

3. An American journalist spends 10 years abroad and comes back to his homeland.

4. Hillary Clinton and the glass ceiling.

5. Hamilton Leithauser and Rostam‘s collaboration.

6. The barnacle queens of Galicia.

7. Instagram geotagging is ruining nature.

8. Yet another brilliant conversation with Elena Ferrante.

9. The wave of all-women art exhibitions.

10. The preserved shipwrecks in the Black Sea.

11. President Obama on his legacy and America’s future.

12. Behind the scenes at the Butterball turkey hotline.

Have a great week.

Think Tank: About Last Week

"Abuse of power comes as no surprise," by Jenny Holzer. H/T Call Your Girlfriend.
“Abuse of power comes as no surprise,” by Jenny Holzer. H/T Call Your Girlfriend.

You know, there’s only one real way I’ll ever really be able to describe last week, Nov. 7-11, 2016. That week was a total dumpster fire, so vast in its width and depth that we can still see the orange glow of flames deep below the bags of trash on the surface. It’s like we threw the world into the dumpster, gathered up every highly flammable thing we possibly could, put it all in the biggest black bags we could find, doused the whole thing in gallons and gallons of gasoline and lit it with a blowtorch.

Depending on how you feel about the presidential election results in the United States, you may find that metaphor to be an understatement or an over-exaggeration. And that’s fine — I don’t really need your opinion to legitimize the way I feel about it. I’ve had a lot of conversations with my family and friends, and every day the shock of the results wears off a little bit. But I’m still sad, and I’m still angry, and I’m still worried. I’ve thought about writing this post for days, but wondered what contribution my opinion would make to the noise and if I could even effectively articulate it.

It’s taking me awhile to sort through all my feelings about my nationality and how the people of this country think about the concept of me, and I recognize my privilege as a white, heterosexual woman in that process. There are millions of people in this country whose lives have always been in much more danger, and this turn in our country’s history has made those lives even more precarious.

I’m extremely nervous about how the president-elect, his administration and the Republican-owned Congress will dismantle the progressive legislature and initiative in this country. But I’m more upset about something else. The vitriolic rhetoric of his campaign made ignorant white people think it’s okay to do and say hateful things about minority groups under the guise of making the country great again. America has never been great for everyone, with a history steeped in inequality and violence. From the very beginning, minority groups have been denied their rights and fought to their literal deaths for just the tiniest sliver of the so-called American dream. Relatedly, one of the things that has stuck with me the most from this election is this passage from a New Yorker article about Trump supporters (emphasis mine):

In the broadest sense, the Trump supporter might be best understood as a guy who wakes up one day in a lively, crowded house full of people, from a dream in which he was the only one living there, and then mistakes the dream for the past: a better time, manageable and orderly, during which privilege and respect came to him naturally, and he had the whole place to himself.

And for the white people who didn’t vote for him or didn’t vote at all, we’re still complicit in that behavior. I feel guilty about living in a liberal bubble, and not truly realizing how ubiquitous white supremacy really is in other parts of the country. I feel guilty about not making an active effort to canvass for my candidate. I feel guilty about not calling out the people I know who supported a racist, sexist and xenophobic candidate. I used to think I was a pretty informed person, but this election has made me realize I have so much more learning and work to do.

That’s more than just wearing a safety pin on my clothing, or getting caught up in this endless cycle of shared Facebook posts — which, by the way, is really just “performative” activism. I want to be a better advocate for the causes I believe in, and a better ally to marginalized groups whose lives are in incredible danger. I need to be more diligent at calling out racism, sexism and homophobia when I hear and see it. I must remember that social progress is a 24/7, 365 kind of deal beyond the markers of an election cycle.

So what do we do now?

All of us can stay informed about political issues, and pay more attention to our local and state elections. We should donate to the causes we believe in, whether that’s in the form of money or time. We must refuse the normalization of our president-elect’s language and past behavior, as well as the normalization of his supporters’ language and behavior. We need to make more space for people of color, the LGBTQ community and women in the political and cultural spheres, and treat their perspectives with dignity and respect. We have to support the dying investigative journalism industry that does such important work. And we will continue to make art for the voiceless, the disenfranchised and the past generations of people who fought for equality. You know this is an arts and culture blog, and I believe with my whole heart that art and the humanities will be our solace for the next few years.

And more than anything, we need to make sure that we’re also doing the support work in our private lives, and channeling our feelings into something productive. As someone who works in higher education, I now realize that it’s more important than ever to dutifully serve the students at my institution, and make them feel welcome and empowered.

It’s been absolutely incredible to see the visceral reactions people are having to the election results, and I hope we don’t lose the momentum or the power of those emotions. The future is scary and uncomfortable, but I am ready for the responsibility.

Toni Morrison, in a reflection after the 2004 reelection of George W. Bush, said:

I am staring out of the window in an extremely dark mood, feeling helpless. Then a friend, a fellow artist, calls to wish me happy holidays. He asks, “How are you?” And instead of “Oh, fine—and you?”, I blurt out the truth: “Not well. Not only am I depressed, I can’t seem to work, to write; it’s as though I am paralyzed, unable to write anything more in the novel I’ve begun. I’ve never felt this way before, but the election….” I am about to explain with further detail when he interrupts, shouting: “No! No, no, no! This is precisely the time when artists go to work—not when everything is fine, but in times of dread. That’s our job!”… There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

It’s time to get to work, and it’s time to put out that dumpster fire.


Gold Star for the Internet: Google Art Project

Except for bits and pieces of information in high school and one class in college, the breadth of my art history knowledge has been self-taught. I love reading about art history, and if you started reading this blog way back when, you know I love visiting museums. I’m over the moon when I find online resources that help me expand on this knowledge and think more critically about art. The Google Art Project is an example of an online resource that takes me on a virtual trip around the world, and one that I think everyone should know about.

Tons and tons and tons to explore.
Tons and tons and tons to explore.

Back in 2011, Google partnered with museums to host very high-resolution images of artwork, including photographs, architecture, sculptures and installations, and has worked to add even more pieces. In the same way that you can use Google Maps to see a street view of an address, you can also walk through museums and see what they look like. The main purpose of the Google Art Project is to be an educational tool, giving people more access to art than ever before. In addition to the image, each piece has metadata on the artist, when it was made and what it’s made out of. The art comes from all across the globe, so you can visit museums without leaving your house.

I have been to the Musee d'Orsay and can confirm this is what it looks like. I didn't even have to leave my room to visit again.
I have been to the Musee d’Orsay and can confirm this is what it looks like. I didn’t even have to leave my room to visit again.

You can search by collections, artists or pieces. The website also hosts a cool feature where you can save entries, which comes in handy if you’re working on a project or just want to keep an online list of all of your favorite pieces. It’s also fun to look at the featured collections the museums put together, and other users that are also playing curator.

You could totally get lost for hours looking at different artists and collections.
You could totally get lost for hours looking at different artists and collections.

My favorite thing is the zoom feature. If you pick a painting like The Starry Night, you can zoom so far in you see the brushstroke details. There’s something so satisfyingly zen about being able to see this artistry  at a micro-level. Plus, as a visitor you’d never get to go up that close to a piece in a museum, and you’d probably never see that kind of detail with the naked eye.

A screenshot does not do it justice. Go look.
A screenshot does not do it justice. Go look.
In a cultural moment where so much of the Internet is noise, it’s refreshing to discover or go back to these kinds of projects that have real educational value. Now that so many classrooms across the United States are outfitted with laptops and smart devices, teachers can build whole units around the access to these visuals they would once have had to pay for, either in an expensive art history textbook or students’ admission. These museum partners have been extremely generous to make their collections available without demanding extra money from the online visitors. When you can have this kind of content available to people who would maybe never see these pieces or be interested in art history otherwise — and keep it free — that’s really extraordinary. This kind of project makes me love the Internet, and think higher of companies like Google who use their wealth for all kinds of community service initiatives.

Looking at a print in a book is great for reference and initial research, but there’s really nothing quite like the emotional experience of standing in front of a piece of art that resonates with you. The Google Art Project is a good compromise — at least until teleportation becomes a real thing. For that, I give it a huge gold star.

Do you have any art resources to share, or know of other cool Internet projects? Share them in the comments.



Culture Connoisseur: The Broad Museum

You can't miss it.
You can’t miss it.

Way back in December, I reserved two tickets to the newly-opened Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles. At the time, the earliest tickets I could get were for a mid-morning Sunday in March. The Broad opened to much fanfare. I knew how hard it was to get the timed tickets the museum preferred its visitors to reserve, so I settled for a reservation on a mid-morning Sunday in March. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile you know I love art, so you can probably understand my curiosity about a new museum opening in my proximity.

Two weekends ago, I took my grandmother — who I get my love of art from — to downtown Los Angeles, where the Broad has a new shiny building that looks like a square honeycomb. I was already familiar with Ely and Edyth Broad, as they’ve contributed to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and other philanthropic causes in the city. The Broads have amassed thousands of contemporary art pieces, and decided to reinvigorate the city’s art scene by establishing a new museum and making their private collection public.

I've got to hand it to the Broads -- they commissioned some incredible architecture.
I’ve got to hand it to the Broads — they commissioned some incredible architecture.

Overall, I was impressed with both the Broad’s architecture and collection. The galleries are on the first and third floors accessible by escalator and elevator, and the museum offices and vault are on the second floor. As you descend back to the first floor to exit you see the vault from internal windows. I thought that was a great design decision, making the vault as important as the work on display. My grandmother and I agreed that the honeycombed structure was a great decision for bringing in natural light and making the museum seem even bigger. My favorite pieces were works from Barbara Kruger, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and El Anatsui. I also loved the Takashi Murakami mural, a John Baldessari painting and this Cy Twombly piece.

Barbara Kruger.
Barbara Kruger.

People from all walks of life were there to see what this trendy museum had to show, which made me glad that the free admission allowed visitors to see the art. While there, I spotted James Goldstein in the first-floor gallery, a millionaire who recently donated his very famous house to LACMA. If that’s not a good example of how the Broad has permeated several LA socioeconomic levels, I don’t know what is.

What I found most interesting about the Broad, however, was the behavior of the other visitors. I can’t tell you how many young people I saw with DSLR cameras, taking pictures of themselves and their friends surrounded by sculptures and standing in front of paintings. There’s an entire protocol for the line to the Infinity Mirrored Room installation, and it was so long that I decided to skip it. At the time, I was particularly annoyed — I was there to see and experience the art, not for a photo shoot and not for people who were doing it all for the Instagram. I’m guilty of snapping a few photos when I go to a museum, which the photos on this post make clear. But bringing camera equipment seems to suggest that you planned the outing as a photo op to show everyone you had been somewhere, and I wondered whether or not those people actually remembered anything about the Broad’s collection once they left the building.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s just a reflection of the contemporary museum-going experience. The museum’s location, architecture and art is inherently populist, and the hype of the new drives people to want to go and say they experienced it first. (For the most part, if something is free in LA, people will go to it and if something that will make for a pretty photo is free in LA, young people will go to it.) While this isn’t a primary motive, the Broads want you to interact with the art in that way because you posting photos on your social media accounts gives the museum free publicity. Photos of the Infinity Mirrored Room are pretty, but they also cement the Broad’s name as the place to go for the pretty Instagram photo.

I’m not saying any of this is a good or bad thing — if you like to go to this kind of space and wish to have your experience in this way, more power to you. I’m also not really here to judge about the ways in which other people experience the world. It’s just an observation about the current ways in which we interact with each other and the art in the museum space, and how that affects our interpretation of the art inside those museums. I’m excited to see what the Broad has in store for the future, and how the Broads will go about acquiring new pieces to add to the collection.

Some Cy Twomblys.
Cy Twomblys.

If you decide to go to the Broad, plan far in advance and get reserved tickets. If you go on a weekend without a ticket, you’ll have to stand in a long line that wraps around the building. For my fellow museum-goers who like quiet spaces, prepare yourself for large crowds in the galleries.

Have you visited the Broad? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


Undergrad Adventures: European Romanesque through Baroque Art

Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" is one of my favorite paintings, and I was so glad it popped up in this class.
Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” is one of my favorite paintings, and I was so glad it popped up in this class.

I needed some extra units this quarter, so I decided to pick up an art history class. I definitely count art and art history as hobbies: I love going to museums, reading books about art and incorporating art into my daily life.

This particular class covers Western art history from the European romanesque (early medieval) era to the baroque. This also includes the Renaissance, which honestly deserves an entire class. While I’m a little sick of the lecture-group work-exam class structure (My senioritis has just kicked in), I have enjoyed this class more than I thought I would.

Everyone should take an elective they really love.

You love United States history? Take a class in it. You want to know how to code? Sign up for a workshop. Beyond the knowledge I gained about the subject material, this class taught me that taking electives you want to take is really a form of self-care and makes you a well-rounded person. I love literature classes, but this class was a great diversion from my normal and further fused my hobby with my everyday schedule. I really wish I would have taken more art history classes earlier on in my college career so I would have gotten the full deal.

Romanesque through Baroque art is still not my thing, but I feel more comfortable discussing it. 

Talking about art from the Impressionists onwards is my jam. So as you can imagine, I walked into this class feeling a little bit uncomfortable. From the eighth century to the 15th century in Europe, all of the art was religious, which is something I don’t have much experience with. The fact that 99.9 percent of this art had some religious context makes sense, though. The only people/groups who had money to spend on commissioning art were the religious figures/churches. If they weren’t inspired by Greco-Roman statuary, these artists were borrowing the Byzantine style, and modernism was just a twinkle in the sky.

Nine weeks into the class, however, I feel more comfortable talking about the art from this time period and the cultural significance of these pieces. I can now explain to you what a polyptych is, and tell you all about both Donatello and Michelangelo’s David. I’m glad that I can add all of this information to my breadth of art history knowledge, and that if anyone ever asked me about the Mérode altarpiece or the different parts of a pilgrimage cathedral, I could totally carry on a conversation.

The idea that art is truly everywhere seems to have originated in this time period.

One of the best things I’ve learned in this class is that art is really everywhere. The Europeans crammed sculpture and paintings into just about every corner of the cathedrals they built, from the windows to the door jambs. Their idea (well, those who believed that decorating churches made them even holier and showed incredible devotion) was that everyone, including the illiterate, needed to have the fear God instilled in them. Because so many people could not read, the best way to do that beyond a sermon was making it incredibly visual. There are some insane tympana that probably scared everyone who crossed through the church.

I have to say, I’m really glad they did that. I think that attention to detail and deliberate move to put art where everyone could see it has direct implications for the architecture that follows it. The trend in architecture right now is insanely minimalist, but when I was in downtown Los Angeles last week, I could even see the care taken to add details to the architecture of some of the early 20th century buildings. It just makes me happy that it all exists.

But multiple choice tests continue to suck. 

Granted, I am sort of glad that the exams for this class are multiple choice. Sometimes it’s easier to pick out the right answer from a list of wrong ones instead of trying to pull it from my head. And it is really difficult to retain all of the information, from the name of the artist (so many Italians) to what the pieces are made out of. But 75 percent of the questions on the test ask those kinds of questions. Who is the artist? Who commissioned this piece? Where was it displayed? What is this color/item/person in the painting supposed to represent? What is this architectural detail called?

While I find knowing all of that information important, especially if you’re going to be an art historian, regurgitating it to mark A, B, C or D doesn’t do much to help me retain the art’s cultural significance. There is an essay portion of the exam that approaches this idea of explaining why the pieces are important to talk about, and I’ve rocked it both times. A good art history class would have a lecture component, but also a component where we discuss the pieces and what we think about them. Tl;dr Death to multiple choice tests.

Do you like art history, or have something to say about an elective you really enjoyed? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Link Party: 5/11-5/15

Your periodical reminder that Zoe loves plants. She knows nothing about gardening or botany, but she loves plants nonetheless.
Your periodical reminder that Zoe loves plants. She knows nothing about gardening or botany, but she loves plants nonetheless.

A few exciting things happened this week, which I’m really excited to tell you all about soon. In the meantime, here’s what I read this week:

1. Alex Herns gets a lot of emails that aren’t meant for him.

2. Will art save the future generations from radioactive waste? 

3. This writer took her mom to a very expensive restaurant and had a wonderful time. I had a wonderful time reading the account.

4. What it was like to visit Yves Saint Laurent’s studio.

5. Moss is very very very important.

And a bonus: A very good single from Albert Hammond Jr.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Culture Connoisseur: Dick Blick Art Materials

I’ve recently discovered the most magical place on Earth, and it’s not Disneyland. It’s called Dick Blick Art Materials.


Dick Blick is a group of art stores that stocks supplies at discounted prices. It has a much better selection than Michaels, and is not pretentious in the slightest — I am not an artist, but the staff makes me feel very welcome. When I was younger, there was a really great store near my house called The Painted Moon, and it was very similar to Dick Blick in terms of product and the friendliness of the staff. I wish I had been more appreciative of it when it was still in business, but I digress.

I’m planning on making some stationery in the next few weeks, so I needed to pick up some supplies. On the way home from the Anaheim Packing District on Saturday, my best friend Paige and I stopped by the Fullerton store. It’s smaller than the Pasadena store, but I found everything I needed: transparent water colors, two paintbrushes, two markers and some cards made out of special paper.

Very excited to try this all!
Very excited to use everything!!! The markers are great, because I don’t have to bust out my entire calligraphy setup to try to get the same look. I’ll be trying the watercolors soon — I have pencils, but they don’t work incredibly well. 

One of the things I really like about this store is that product quality isn’t compromised for price. I spent about $40 and used a special discount going on for the weekend, but I got a lot of stuff and it’s all professional-grade. Plus, I have a discount card that takes 10 percent off of every purchase.

But what I really love about Dick Blick is that when I go into the store, I immediately feel calmer. There’s something about wandering through the aisles and browsing amongst the selection that is incredibly therapeutic. (Also, Paige, who has gone with me on both trips, is the best sport about letting me wander. Paige is the real MVP.) I think part of the magic is also knowing that whatever I come home with, I’m going to be able to make something really cool with it. That feeling of excitement and creativity fused together is the best, so I’m glad I live in proximity to several of the same store that can make me feel that way. If you ever have to buy art supplies, whether it’s for a class or just for fun, I highly recommend Dick Blick.

Have you ever been to Dick Blick, or have a store that just really blisses you out? Tell me about it in the comments.



Link Party: 11/17-11/21

I didn't feel well this week, so seeing a beautiful blue sky while on an errand was very welcome.
I didn’t feel well this week, so seeing a beautiful blue sky while on an errand was very welcome.

A little later than usual today, but here’s what I read this week:

1. The history of the Styles section of the New York Times was fascinating.

2. How we look when we look at a painting.

3. The tiniest copyright violations ever made.

4. The causes of the rise in dystopian films.

And 5. a calligraphy project I’m definitely trying after finals.

Have a great weekend! I’ll be presenting at a research conference, working on projects and helping to put out a newspaper.

What did you read this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

Gold Star for the Internet: Fly Art

Every once in awhile, someone on the Internet gets a really genius idea and deserves a giant gold star. Today, I’m giving it to Fly Art.

I had a hard time picking which ones to show in this post because they're ALL. SO. GOOD.
I had a hard time picking which ones to show in this post because they’re ALL. SO. GOOD.

There are a couple of similar projects, but the jist is that the people behind Fly Art take rap lyrics and layer them over pieces of classical art. It started off as a Tumblr, but expanded to clothing: tank tops, t-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with the prints. Some of it is a little obscure (both the paintings and the songs), but most of the lyric and art pairings are completely spot-on.

Spot-on, right?
Spot-on, right?

What I like the most about Fly Art is not necessarily sartorial, even though I got a lot of compliments when I wore mine earlier this week. As much as I wish that it wasn’t true, a lot of people don’t appreciate the kind of art that hangs in museums or reside in private collections. The idea of putting art on clothing — something that is almost more public than the museums themselves — with references to songs that people know is a great way to spread it. And even if you don’t know what song the lyrics are from, you can gleam the meaning from the piece it’s paired with and vice versa. Not only does it show that classical art is still deeply relatable, but that rap music is a huge cultural force.

And for that, I bestow a humongous gold star.

I mean, wouldn't you want to wear this on a t-shirt?
I mean, wouldn’t you want to wear this on a t-shirt?

You can buy Fly Art clothing here.

What do you think about Internet projects like this? Let me know in the comments.

Culture Connoisseur: LACMA

In case you don’t follow me on Twitter, you should know that I am in the midst of a very passionate love affair.

With the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In addition to having a really great social media team (that also retweets my photos), LACMA is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. In fact, I’m a card-carrying member.

My membership card when it came in the mail. It's always in my wallet in front of my Starbucks card and my Ulta rewards card, so you know it's for real.
My membership card when it came in the mail. It’s always in my wallet in front of my Starbucks card and my Ulta rewards card, so you know it’s for real.

LACMA’s collection is huge, and has just about every kind of art you can think of. The organization of the museum itself is very smart, so if you don’t like a particular type of art (here’s looking at you, anti-modern art people), you can avoid that building or particular floor pretty easily.

I get the same standard replies when I tell people that I like to go to museums: “That’s nice,” “You drove all the way to there?” and “I don’t really like museums.” But what I wish that more people knew is that at LACMA, there’s something for everyone: playing with that outdoor installation that looks like spaghetti, the awesome piece that uses 100,000 miniature cars  and even free jazz on Friday nights.

Had you fooled there for a second with the passionate love affair announcement, didn’t I? Here’s a photo I took of the lights out in front of the museum. If you know anyone that has ever been to LACMA, they’ve probably taken a photo in front of these lights (myself included, but those are safe on Facebook).

For students, LACMA’s yearly membership is only $30, which is a complete steal considering it’s $13 alone for general admission. When you become a member, they send you this great monthly calendar that tells you all about the events for the month. And if you time it right, there are times during the week where general admission is free (so you can bring your friends, of course).

I’m looking forward to some of the upcoming exhibits, featuring Delacroix, the Hudson River School and Larry Sultan.

My Must-Sees at LACMA:

  • Matisse’s “La Gerbe” (One of my favorite pieces of all time)
  • The Impressionists room (One Saturday morning, I had this room all to myself and it was wonderful.)
  • The kimonos at the Japanese art pavilion (I love great textiles, and these kimonos are beautiful.)
This photo is from the Van Gogh to Kandinsky exhibit the museum had all summer. It was so great I went twice.
This photo is from the Van Gogh to Kandinsky exhibit the museum had all summer. It was so great that I went twice.

And when you’re done with the museum, you can go next door to the tar pits and then catch a bus up the street to the Original Farmers Market and the Grove. Win win win.

Been to LACMA before? Tell me about it in the comments.