By Deb A.
The extraordinary Hay Festival in Wales draws to a close today, and we were thrilled to find a list of books that give some of the festival speakers hope. Combine that with Steven Pinker's suggestions for reading material to make or keep you optimistic, and you have the start of a promising summer reading list.
One of the things that gives us hope is hearing women's voices, so here we offer, in no particular order, a selection of the books that make authors feel good. What books give you hope? Add your favourites in the comment section below.
By Deb A.
She calls herself "the spinach in the teeth of the art world." Alice Procter, a.k.a. The Exhibitionist, draws attention to the colonial, whitewashed stories behind some of London's best-known artworks and the galleries in which they're found.
On Uncomfortable Art Tours through the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain, and the Queen’s House (National Maritime Museum), Ms. Procter offers her guests a viewpoint that is not likely to be part of a museum audio guide anytime soon. Her art history lessons, which began as part of Antiuniversity Now, pull no punches, covering everything from how colonialism helped build the collection to how the way in which the artworks are displayed lends credence to a very specific imperialist understanding of the world. Her own website features reproductions of classic portraits with labels like "thief" (Queen Victoria), "white supremacist" (Horatio Nelson) and "invader" (James Cook) scrawled across them in red graffiti, and she passes out buttons that read "display it like you stole it" at her tours.
The museums and galleries she examines have been quick to distance themselves from Ms. Procter's activity, but she notes that her ultimate goal is to encourage institutions to openly engage with the colonialist narratives behind their art collections and their own histories.
"Museums are institutions of memory," she wrote in The Guardian. "They must stop pretending there’s only one version of events, and be willing to own up to their role in shaping the way we see the past."
Uncomfortable? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely.
By Deb A.
This Earth Day we join NASA in looking back at a single iconic photograph: Pale Blue Dot, taken in 1990 from Voyager 1.
While it still looks the same from this vantage point, that single speck now contains more microplastics than there are stars in the galaxy.
Here's how the Earth Day Network is working to ensure that our pale blue dot doesn't get choked by plastics.
By Deb A.
The Nobel Prize for Literature is embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal. Bring back the pussy bow! (New York Times, Refinery29)
Women, how would a male author describe you? Katy Waldman at the New Yorker follows the trend started by Whit Reynolds and eagerly embraced by thousands of women. (Electric Lit offers a handy guide for women who are stumped.)
Ronaldo Schemidt's haunting photo from the Venezuelan protests has won this year's World Press Photo Contest. (World Press Photo)
Somaliland poet Nacima Qorane is the latest artist to receive a jail sentence for promoting reunification between Somaliland and Somalia. (BBC)
"We have assumed that a thing by him has to look like his late works, and that he therefore had no beginnings. That, of course, is totally implausible.": Laurence Kanter from the Yale University Art Gallery explains why Leonardo da Vinci is only now being credited for his work on an altarpiece panel. (The Observer)
From an unknown da Vinci to perhaps the best known--Mona Lisa's only smiling if you are. (artnet)
By Deb A.
Here's a roundup of just a few examples of beauty in the world this week.
Yinka Shonibare's Wind Sculpture has arrived in Central Park.
'They want to read books that engage with their everyday experiences, featuring characters who look like them." Denene Millner wrote in the New York Times about finding books for black children that celebrate daily life rather than extraordinary 'firsts.'
Hot on the heels of his own attempt to show that things just keep getting better, Steven Pinker recommended books to make you an optimist in The Guardian.
March 8th was International Women's Day, and the CBC celebrated with a list of 30 incredible women to inspire you with art...
...while Bloomberg highlighted female photographers around the world.
A book of lost poetry by Lou Reed is set to be published.
Canada's new Heritage Minute is for everyone who grew up with Anne of Green Gables.
By Deb A.
Twenty-two years ago, Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library to encourage America's preschoolers and their families to develop a love for books. The programme began by sending 1,700 free books to children in Ms. Parton's home county in Tennessee, and since then has expanded to provide monthly reads to one million families across America, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Each year, a panel of early childhood literacy experts reviews hundreds of books to select the most appropriate titles, which differ from country to country.
This past week, the initiative celebrated an awe-inspiring milestone when it shipped out its 100 millionth book. It marked the occasion by dedicating the book--Dolly Parton's own Coat of Many Colors--to the world's largest library, the Library of Congress.
Here are a sample of some of the books the programme has sent out. We highly recommend you play Jolene on repeat in the background while you take a look.
By Deb A.
February is the shortest month, but it's no less packed with interesting tidbits from the worlds of art and literature.
A must-read: After the controversy surrounding the temporary removal of a pre-Raphaelite painting at the Manchester Art Gallery, Ellen Mara De Wachter at Frieze investigates the issues that arise when cultural institutions incorporate activism into their programmes.
Masterpiece found: Ben Ewonwu's long-missing portrait of Nigerian princess Adetutu Ademiluyi has been located in a North London flat. (The Telegraph)
An Olympic champion: Whether you follow every triple Salchow or not, you will want to take a look at this extraordinary pavilion. It's covered with Vantablack spray, not the pigment that can only be used by Anish Kapoor. (Dezeen)
Not recent, but related (and amusing): Stuart Semple has protested Mr. Kapoor's exclusive rights to Vantablack with the pinkest pink, the glitteriest glitter, and the blackest black that's actually available to artists. You can purchase any of these as long as you're not Anish Kapoor.
Reading the unreadable: The woman who deciphers centuries-old handwritten documents. "You see [Jane Austen's edits to Pride and Prejudice], and you think—that's so much better than it was before." (Atlas Obscura)
By Deb A.
Chris Ofili is arguably best known for creating art with elephant dung. Andres Serrano's Piss Christ was made with the artist's urine. Tracy Emin's My Bed hosted a range of bodily fluids, including one that has recently made headlines again in the art world: menses.
The first major movement in the West of using or depicting menstrual blood in art started in the 1970s, along with second wave feminism. And so it is no surprise that recent efforts to address the period taboo coincide with a reaction to the rise of high-profile misogyny.
In 2015 Rupi Kaur's photo showing the artist with a bloodstain at her crotch was removed (and subsequently reinstated following public backlash) from Instagram, leading Ms. Kaur to object to a world that "will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak."
Six months later, American artist and activist Sarah Levy used her period blood to create a portrait of a presidential candidate who reacted to tough questions at a debate by claiming the female moderator had "blood coming out of her wherever". He is now president, and the painting was purchased this year by the Museum of Military History in Dresden, Germany. It's hard to say which fact is stranger.
The latest controversial attempt to normalise a regular function of the bodies of half of the earth's human population can be found in an equally surprising place: the Stockholm subway. Its new exhibit by Liv Strömquist is a series of black-and white felt pen drawings that feature the occasional blotch of bright red between women's legs. Some have hailed it as a coup for womankind, while others have recoiled in disgust, angry at their newly uncomfortable commute.
For those who prefer to decide when they will be confronted with the reality of women's reproductive cycles--a luxury most women do not have--there's Period Piece in London, which "seeks to provoke critical dialogue about shifts in contraceptive technologies and constructions of the 'natural' around women's bodies." With music composed from ovulation cycles and poetry based on reactions to the Catholic church's rejection of birth control in 1968, the exhibit finds new, less confrontational ways of talking about periods. It is a pop-up event by the Science Gallery London, which opens officially in 2018.
For a brief overview of period art, this piece by Kristen Cochrane is a good place to start.
By Deb A.
Ursula Johnson, also known as Little Bear, is this year's winner of Canada's Sobey Art Award.
The prestigious prize recognises the country's most promising contemporary artists under the age of 40. This year's shortlist included a record number of women (four of five of the artists are female) and two Indigenous artists from the five regions.
Ursula Johnson, representing the Atlantic region, is a performance and installation artist of Mi'kmaw First Nation ancestry. She descends from a long line of artists, including Caroline Gould, her great-grandmother and master basket weaver. Often incorporating basketry traditions into her art, Ms. Johnson explores identity, community, colonialism, and her Indigenous heritage: she wove baskets around herself for her Basket Weaving (Cultural Cocoon) series (2003-2015), was symbolically scalped in Elmiet (He/She Goes Home) (2010) to draw attention to Nova Scotia's history of scalping, and collaborated with Soto Pow Wow dancer Bert Milberg for Hot Looking (2014), a commentary on the appropriation of indigenous culture.
"I will now have the tremendous opportunity to work on a larger scale and expand the reach of my work to a broader community while exploring more diversity in materials and content as well as beginning to create a network of collaborators internationally!" Ms. Johnson said of her win.
Her desire to work with and learn from others was just part of the reason Ursula Johnson received the $50,000 CDN award; the selection committee noted that she "was singled out for her strong voice, her generosity and collaborative spirit. Through her work, she redefines traditional materials and re-imagines colonized histories."
Ursula Johnson is a talented, insightful artist with a strong sense of community, history and social justice--in other words, a fitting representative for the nation's contemporary art scene in a year in which Canada's colonial history has come under the microscope and gender and identity politics dominate public discourse.
The shortlisted artists, Raymond Boisjoly (West Coast & Yukon), Divya Mehra (Prairies & North), Bridget Moser (Ontario), and Jacynthe Carrier (Quebec), will each receive $10,000 CDN. All five artists' works are on display at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto until December 9th.
By Deb A.
A book of poetry written by Leonard Cohen just before his death will be published next year. (Billboard)
We've talked about the Fearless Girl statue at length, and we wish we could be shocked that the firm behind it has a history of underpaying women and people of colour. (NPR)
Thirty publishers rejected Matt Cain's book on the grounds that it was too gay, but the general public disagrees: it's well on its way to getting published through crowdfunding instead. (The Bookseller)
505 new books were released during the UK's "Super Thursday". Which will you read first? (BBC)
Prize round-up: Kazuo Ishiguro won this year's Nobel Prize for literature. And the five finalists for Canada's Giller Prize have been announced. (Nobel Prize, Giller Prize)
The Guardian asked the art world about the biggest question currently facing artists. In one way or another, money comes up a lot. (The Guardian)
A school librarian rejected the First Lady's donation of ten Dr. Seuss books. (The Washington Post)
The Yayoi Kusama museum in Tokyo is open for business! (Yayoi Kusama Museum)
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