Art as a Meditation on Death, for Art & Object

Artist Andrew Wyeth’s “Funeral Group” drawings are having their debut presentation at the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine. I wrote about the haunting work for Art & Object:

Wyeth remains an artist many consider on the fringes of twentieth-century American art who was a contrarian to the shifts in modern visual expression. The new attention to the “Funeral Group” drawings, with their unfinished lines and unflinching gaze at an inevitable end, offers another view of his process and perspective. Wyeth said in a 1965 interview with Life magazine that he wanted to “paint without me existing,” and here he is, working through themes of grief and absence that have pervaded art for centuries and envisioning a moment of final absence from his work when all that will be left behind are the people he captured on canvas.

Read the full story on Art & Object.

Stories on Landscapes & Unburnable Books for Fine Books Magazine

For the Autumn 2022 issue of Fine Books Magazine I have two stories in print! One is on the landscape photography of Robert Adams that is currently on view at the National Gallery of Art:

For five decades Robert Adams has captured with a quiet clarity the landscapes of the American West. He has given the same consideration to the stark lines of suburban subdivisions as the majesty of the mountains, always with an eye to how people have altered the earth and what the role is of an artist in a place of both beauty and destruction. As he wrote in his 2017 book Art Can Help, “It is the responsibility of artists to pay attention to the world, pleasant or otherwise, and to help us live respectfully in it.”

I also wrote a piece on the “Unburnable” edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and how it was made to resist the flames as a statement on censorship:

Created in a time when book censorship in schools and libraries has escalated around the United States, the “Unburnable” edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a 1985 novel that confronts oppressive totalitarianism, is a statement of free expression. … Challenged since its publication, Atwood’s searing story of a dystopian America where women’s rights are suppressed by religious fundamentalism was made into a unique volume that can withstand 451 degrees of heat.

Read both stories in print in Fine Books Magazine.

Photographs by Gordon Parks of WWII Industry, for Art & Object

I’m always interested in lesser known aspects of famous artist’s work, and I had the opportunity to write about the World War II-era photographs Gordon Parks took in Pittsburgh at the Penola, Inc. grease plant. Read all about it at Art & Object:

In American industrial hubs during World War II, what’s known as the “arsenal of democracy” rapidly manufactured the materials to support the Allied military efforts overseas. This largely invisible labor included a diverse workforce producing everything from steel and ammunition to the grease that lubricated tanks, airplanes, and weapons. A young Gordon Parks photographed this work at the Penola, Inc. grease plant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1944 and 1946, visualizing the people operating the world’s largest facility of this kind in the world. The clarity and humanity in these images—where the heat and the grime of the plant are vividly present—show one of the twentieth century’s preeminent photographers of life in the United States using the camera to honor the individuals undertaking these jobs without overlooking the intensity of their toil.

Sharing Tombstone Recipes Insights in the New York Times

As much as I enjoy writing, it’s also fun to be an interviewee for topics I’m passionate about! The New York Times asked me about tombstone recipes and gave a very kind shout out to the Cooking With the Dead zine that I co-wrote all about the people who choose recipes as their epitaphs:

Allison C. Meier discovered Ms. Dawson’s spritz recipe a few years ago while walking around Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, looking for unusual headstones for a tour she leads. … “Recipes are such a beautiful way of remembering people,” said Ms. Meier, 37, who lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn. “You’re still following in their footsteps and putting ingredients together the way they did.”

Read the full story in the New York Times.

On New York’s Most Famous Unknown Artist, for Fine Books

In the final years of Ray Johnson’s life, the artist famed for his collages and mail art made a shift to photography. It remained an obscure part of his practice until this year, and I wrote about it for the Summer 2022 issue of Fine Books Magazine:

Nearly three decades since his death, these photographs deepen the understanding of an often elusive creator who was anointed “New York’s most famous unknown artist” for how he deliberately stepped out of the mainstream. But he never stopped producing the extraordinary out of the most humble materials, leaving behind a whole project as a last act of correspondence for people to see through his eyes.

Read the full story in print in Fine Books Magazine.

The Art Newspaper: A Meditation on an Island of Lost Souls

In my first story for the Art Newspaper, I interviewed artist Coco Fusco about her work in the 2022 Whitney Biennial. Her video piece meditates on the dead from the COVID-19 pandemic who were interred on Hart Island, New York City’s potter’s field:

It gives the viewer the sensation of floating above the earth, where hundreds of victims of Covid-19 are indistinguishable from those of yellow fever, tuberculosis, Aids and other diseases that have previously swept through the city. If their names were known, they may have been scrawled on their coffins in marker pen, but they are all now hidden and unmarked.

“One of the things that’s in the narration is, ‘The bodies lie together alone,’” Fusco says. “What every individual buried there shares is aloneness.”

Read the full story at the Art Newspaper.

Fine Books Magazine: André Kertész

For my photography column in the spring 2022 issue of Fine Books Magazine, I wrote about the early work of Hungarian-born photographer André Kertész. Before becoming an influential photojournalist, he used postcard prints to capture the bohemian life of Paris. Selections of these works are on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta through May 29:

From 1925 to 1928, before the magazine commissions and exhibitions, his main photographic medium was something much humbler: the carte postale, the popular postcard format used for sending messages and selling souvenirs. Without depleting his meager savings, the small-scale format enabled him to experiment, leading to a lyrical yet formal style that would be foundational for his practice.

Read the full story in print in Fine Books Magazine.

NYC Microseasons Project

NYC Microseasons

On Winter Solstice 2021, NYC Microseasons was launched, an ongoing project I started with my friend Erin Chapman. Each week we are sending a newsletter marking the small shifts in the seasons across the five boroughs, reflecting on how both natural and unnatural forces are at work in New York City. The first season—The Solstice Arrives and Shadows Lengthen into the Darkest Days—is online now, along with ways to commemorate its passing. You can subscribe here for future seasons or follow along on Twitter.