Blog Posts

  • Grave: Out Now!

    Grave book

    My first book—Grave—is officially out from Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series! It’s a concise exploration of the past, present, and future of how Americans care for the dead and is told from my perspective as a cemetery tour guide. It was a journey to write and I’m proud to have it out in the world. Pick up a copy and take it on a stroll to a cemetery near you.

    If you’re in the NYC area, I’ll be having a book launch party with Morbid Anatomy on February 23!

  • Cover Story for Raw Vision Magazine

    Grant Wallace in Raw Vision

    My first cover story for Raw Vision magazine is on Grant Wallace who based his mysterious illustrations on messages from spirits and extraterrestrials. The full story is available in print and an excerpt is online:

    When he died in 1954 at the age of 87, The New York Times wrote in Grant Wallace’s obituary that he was a “newspaper man, war correspondent, magazine writer, essayist, and artist” whose litany of accomplishments included eyewitness editorials from the Russo-Japanese War, humour writing, archaeological coverage, horticultural experiments, the founding of a writers’ colony, the production of animated cartoons, and the editing of a cinema arts magazine. There was no mention of his explorations of the occult, nor of the detailed documentation of his telepathic investigations but, although it was the least known part of his expansive career, this fascination with the universe and its mysteries as portrayed in his art has become his most enduring legacy.

    Read the full story in Raw Vision.

    Grant Wallace in Raw Vision

  • A Year of NYC Microseasons!

    The NYC Microseasons project I’ve been doing with my friend Erin Chapman reached a full year of seasons on Winter Solstice 2022. Visit our site for all of our weekly missives and sign up for the newsletter:

    Each week was an opportunity to pay close attention to the small changes in both the natural and unnatural world, where coyotes roam the urban edges and marsh birds wade on a fragmented shore. Appreciating the droning song of window AC units along with the morning croon of the mourning doves, the chaotic appearance of potholes as well as the beautiful silhouettes of great trees, revealed that while the months seem to fly by, there are signals of time all around us. Forecasting these Microseasons encouraged us to slow down and notice even the more unpleasant parts of city life, such as the aerial flotsam that catches in the trees and wasps invading summer picnics, and consider what part they play in making this a place like no other.

  • Black Studio Photographers Exhibit for Fine Books

    For the winter 2023 issue of Fine Books Magazine, I wrote about the ‘Called to the Camera’ exhibition on Black studio photographers that was on view at the New Orleans Museum of Art:

    These photographers were often working across commercial assignments, advertising, photojournalism, and the fine arts; still their studio practice was pivotal in giving a space for their communities to be seen by the camera and in turn create a legacy of African American life.

    Read the full story in Fine Books Magazine.

  • Tales of Discovery for JSTOR Daily

    I contributed two stories timed with discoveries to JSTOR Daily, one on the discovery of King Tut’s tomb and another on the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone:

    With all this attention paid to the Rosetta Stone, its meaning beyond an object used by European scholars to unlock an ancient script is frequently overlooked. The moment in which it was created to spread the reputation of a ruler—literally as the stelae were erected around the kingdom—and the use of language to assert that ruler’s power is also a part of its history. As museums are now reckoning with the looted provenance of many objects in their collection, the stone is also an object inextricably linked with the conquests of colonial powers in the eighteenth century. The Rosetta Stone is a key to the past, but it also carries forward these colonial legacies and reckonings toward the future.

    Read the full story on JSTOR Daily.

  • Cemetery Language of Flowers Zine

    Cemetery Language of Flowers

    My latest spooky zine is The Cemetery Language of Flowers, a compact guide to the symbolism of flora found in graveyards. It includes 28 pages of original text and photographs, ranging from the meaning behind broken roses to the complex symbolism of the passionflower. Pick up at copy here.

  • Grave for Object Lessons!

    I wrote a book! Grave for the Object Lessons series of compact publications is now available to pre-order from Bloomsbury. I’m excited to share my short exploration of the American grave as a design object: “The grave may be a final destination, but it is not the great leveler, and permanency is always a privilege.” Read more here.

  • 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.

  • Reviews for Raw Vision Magazine

    I have been doing fairly regular reviews for Raw Vision Magazine of “self-taught” and folk art in their print issues. The Summer 2022 issue includes three reviews I wrote: Dan Miller and Domenico Zindato at Andrew Edlin Gallery, Black Dolls at the New-York Historical Society, and Frédéric Bruly Bouabré at the Museum of Modern Art. Pick up a copy (it’s beautiful!) and check them out. 

  • 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.