By Deb A.
Yanuary Navarro appreciates the unique allure of gouache and watercolours, noting that "they don't require much more than a cup of water and a brush. The older I get the more I appreciate simplicity." Yet her beautifully vibrant illustrations are part of a fantastical world where fairy tales, science fiction, and a childhood growing up in the Honduras collide--anything but simple. Agave Magazine is proud to feature Yanuary's A Coyote's Dream in our most recent issue, and to speak to her about being an artist, the power of ideas, and her series of invented short stories, 'The World of Wolli'.
What is 'The World of Wolli', and how did it come into being?
The 'World of Wolli' is the title of a series of visual short stories depicted in no chronological order. I have been building the story one painting at a time over the years. The concept began during my last year in college where I had an independent study class where I had the safe space to explore any subject. The narratives that began to naturally demand a voice were autobiographical, illustrating how my family and I immigrated and endured a dangerous journey through Central America. This is something I never really felt comfortable talking to people about and made me feel ashamed.
Over the years the narratives have expanded to include a network of people around me and their life stories and how they inspire me. I exaggerate people into characters and their details because storytelling is more interesting to me when truths are costumed in metaphors and when people are entertained they pay more attention to what is being said.
Where else do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in other forms of art such as film, literature, music etc. and seeing other artists move forward with their ideas despite social disadvantages and failures. Their courage to share their human experience creatively motivates me to not be so afraid of doing the same.
Your work is influenced by fairy tales and science fiction. What are your favourite stories?
My favorite stories list is always changing and growing. Currently, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and Star Wars by George Lucas are some of my favorite fiction stories because they depict relatable human struggles within a fantastical setting that asks the human mind to leave logic and exercise the abstract concept of imagination. I believe that practising this helps us to become more skilled at empathizing with other people in real life and imagining what joys and sorrows they may be experiencing and therefore have a more appropriate response.
When did you realise you wanted to be an artist?
During high school I began to seriously practice my painting. I did not have hopes of becoming an artist or even make a living from it. I did it because being in the flow made the world make sense and brought a sense of inner peace that I could not get anywhere else. I think that the arts have shaped me from a frustrated teen into a peaceful and confident adult.
If you couldn't be an artist, what would you be?
I think I would enjoy being a scientist building machines and gadgets out of my Science Fiction dreams.
To be honest I feel that one cannot just be an artist hiding away from the world in a studio and perhaps that is not the worst fact in the world. Art is the voice of the people, it comes from a place of struggle seeking to be heard and the only way to hear what people's concerns are is to go outside and live life.
By Deb A.
In a time when famous people of colour can safely assume that they will be asked about #OscarsSoWhite in practically any interview, and when representations of black lives in the media often revolve around tragedy and the response to it, Zun Lee wants to draw our attention instead to "black love and black joy... everyday moments that are very quiet, but at the same time very powerful."
Mr. Lee is a photographer whose most recent exhibit, Fade Resistance at The Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, consists of over 1,000 photos that he did not take.
Four years ago, during the American recession, Mr. Lee stumbled across a box of old Polaroids. He knocked on doors to find the owners, but neighbours couldn't identify the subjects. It wasn't uncommon, he was told, for photos to be left out on the street. Unable to find the owners, he kept the box, and decided to build an archive of African American life as told through similar images.
Thanks to eBay and yard sales, his collection now consists of about 3,500 photographs documenting everything from newborns and family gatherings to hobbies and holidays from the 1970s to the 2000s.
Although Fade Resistance's primary aim is to emphasize the agency of the individuals and families in the photos, Mr. Lee is also acutely aware of the risk of objectification that comes with his exhibitions, telling the CBC, "it weighs on me to not really have the original owners attached to them. They're actual families, who know what these photos meant, and us speculating about them is kind of not OK." He posts his images on social media, hoping that he'll hear from the families to whom they belong, whether it's to reclaim the pictures or to instruct him to remove them from the Internet.
Fade Resistance asks us to consciously confront the vast gap between self-representation of black lives and media narratives about African Americans, and to decide that for all of us, "we are enough as we are".
By Deb A.
The way to a person's heart is through the stomach--it's an old saying (rendered gender-neutral here because... well, because it's 2015), but no less true for its age.
Celebrated chef Grant Macdonald understands very well the intricate intertwinings of food and love: while his culinary imagination and thoughtfulness has found expression in some of the most notable restaurants in North America, it all begins in his own kitchen, where he prepares meals for and with his wife, writer and photographer Ariana Lyriotakis, and their four children.
The Family Table, published by Agave Press, is the culinary story of Grant and Ariana's family of six. It is a cookbook of humble ingredients, shared meals, and good company.
From Montreal to Santa Barbara via New York, Vancouver and Austin, Grant and his family seek out local ingredients and imbue them with personal meaning, creating new dishes, new tastes, new adventures. As a collection of favourite recipes, anecdotes, and food-inspired moments, The Family Table is designed to be enjoyed for generations to come.
The Family Table is available as a full-colour, 150-page hardcover with dust jacket for order now at Agave Press. It is printed in the USA.
"Moving locations as often as we do means that we have been endowed with a generous gift of a variety of food cultures, ingredients and culinary traditions. This proximity to a rich bounty of North American cooking—the ability to experience things locally from near and far—has been immeasurably cultivating in how we perceive cooking in all its diverse forms, on a daily basis."
By Deb A.
From their very first freshman activities, university students are divided into their faculties: Arts and Humanities, Science, Engineering, Agriculture... we imagine that while Arts students fulfill their Science requirements with classes nicknamed 'Moons for Goons', Science students are rolling their eyes behind a battered poetry anthology. Math is for the logical, literature is for the dreamers, and never the twain shall meet.
Like all divisions we rely upon to help us make sense of the world, this one is not nearly as black-and-white as we may assume. Just ask the author who is also a doctor of history and philosophy of science and technology with an undergraduate degree in math and drama. Or turn to Oxford University and its Humanities and Science series, which recently launched its 2015 programme with 'Narrative and Proof: Two Side of the Same Equation?'.
"Mathematicians are storytellers," posited scientist and keynote speaker Marcus du Sautoy. "Our characters are numbers and geometries. Our narratives are the proofs we create about these characters."
Du Sautoy's love of mathematics is rooted in the journey rather than the answer. Mathematical proofs are like detective stories for him; the last chapter, in which everything is revealed, is nothing without the build-up of the rest of the book. Both a proof and a novel require narrative to be exciting. He also notes that at times, the link between literature and math is even more direct, citing Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, in which each chapter is half the length of the previous one, thus creating the much-lauded pacing of the story.
Author Ben Okri is the next speaker up to bat, and he also sees the link between narrative and mathematical proof, arguing that there is an unavoidable logic to storytelling, and that working out the 'inner maths' of a story is one of the most challenging tasks a writer faces. Storytelling, he insists, is the oldest technology, and in the beautiful prose for which he is known, he tells us that "narrative is woven into the fabric of consciousness as mathematics is woven into the fabric of the world." Everything, from stories to theorems, is narrative.
And then mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose arrives on the scene to pierce through the poetry of his predecessors on the panel. He agrees that indeed, narrative and proof do share things in common: while one might suppose that an author can simply make characters do whatever he or she pleases, the fact of the matter is that authors do face constraints if characters are to be believable. He also identifies beauty as a common element of both sides of the narrative/proof coin. And yet, Sir Penrose insists, the two are irreconcilably different due to one unavoidable element: in math, you can tell a great story, but if you're not right, the rest doesn't matter.
By Deb A.
Before smart phones and WiFi made it nearly impossible to not be able to find immediate answers for anything from burning questions to useless trivia, there was the library.
The New York Public Library (NYPL) has generously intertwined the new and old, offering us an entertainingly bizarre look at some of the queries it received in the years before we had the luxury of settling debates with a quick (and often, thankfully anonymous) swipe. #letmelibrarianthatforyou is the library's endearingly cumbersome hashtag for its new Monday feature in which some of the strangest archived query cards from its reference desk see the light of day once more.
The series began with a lucky find: an old recipe box labeled "interesting reference questions". As the NYPL notes, "in a world pre-Google, librarians weren't just Wikipedia, they were people's Craigslist, Pinterest, Etsy, and Instagram all rolled into one." The library was as much a place for a songwriter to fact-check her bluebird-related lyrics or a Swiss stroller manufacturer to ask for a list of expectant mothers as it was for students or bookworms.
Unlike typing "what does it mean when" into a Google search and being confronted with the most popular searches that start that way (currently, "what does it mean when you dream about someone" is the top suggestion, hinting at a world heavily populated by lovesick dreamers), these cards represent the specific questions of a very small minority; in this case, we can't imagine that being chased by an elephant ranks high on the list of typical dreams.
#letmelibrarianthatforyou offers us the quirks of daily life as part of the bastion of human knowledge that is the New York Public Library, and reminds us that no matter what we can find online, we still need our libraries.
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