• Passages Part II: Berlin

    At the bottom of the memorial, what I felt more than anything, I think, was a sort of fear. The fear of wandering through a world that had closed itself off. Of streets in which no window or door was open. Of storefronts no longer familiar or welcoming. The same remorseless facade around every corner. "I was walking along close to the walls," writes Kafka in his parable The Cell. "Although there were several doors, if one opened them, one only found oneself standing in front of a dark, smooth rockface, scarcely a handbreadth beyond the threshold."

  • Passages Part I: Paris

    More than anything, the way people moved around—without a definite direction, and yet somehow methodically, checking a piece, hesitating, deciding to continue on—reminded me of the way I walk around my apartment when I’m not sure where I’ve put my keys. Only, people in museums usually aren’t looking for something specific, like keys. They don’t know what exactly it is they’re looking for. They’re hoping they’ll know it when they see it.

  • Smoke as Motif

    Was there, in all this tension, in the clenched, interwoven fingers of Cezanne’s motif, an expectation of inevitable release? An anticipation of relief? Like the relief that comes with clarity, even a terrible clarity. As I left, that impassive painting looked to me like the face of an aging dam. 

  • Happy Public Domain Day, 2024

    In 1998, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (derisively known as the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act"). In a nutshell, the legislation extended the copyright on most published works from 75 years to 95 years. Immediately after it was passed, copyrights that had been set to expire in 1999 were extended for an additional twenty years. So followed two decades of public domain silence. This is the year that in many people’s minds, Disney gets its due.

  • Two Moons

    The other thing that’s difficult about this way of encountering art, is that it takes trust. You are asked to trust the painting before you understand it, before you can see what it holds for you. You are asked to turn over your attention and your imagination to someone else, not knowing how they may chose to use them. To look at art in this way is vulnerable. 

  • Original Derivation

    For each of these, Dylan, Bach, jazz, Shakespeare, and chant—the bread and butter is something not made, but received. More than that, using this given material seems to have enhanced their originality. It gives them more room to think.

  • April: “Warrior with Shield”

    Though the surface of the statue was pockmarked, scratched and pitted–the limbs didn't seem severed or mangled, so much as ground down, worn away as wood or stone is worn away by water or weather or time. For that reason the statue seemed to occupy two time frames, one brief, one prolonged. Both the violent instant, the impact of a blinding light, an obliterating moment of force–but also the slow duration over which the supposedly permanent is steadily, patiently effaced.

  • Stepping Through the Blue: “The Truman Show” and Ancient Cosmology

    Each day, there are countless demands on our time and our energy. We work to provide for ourselves and our families in the short time we have on this globe. But despite all that, we do well to remember the poet Hopkins’ call: “Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!” The entire cosmos, from the electrons that orbit their nuclei to the planets that orbit other stars in other galaxies, cries out for our attention and promises to reward the one who stops to see.

  • Happy Public Domain Day 2023!

    This year’s list items entering the public domain in the United States includes several works from 1927, including: Steppenwolf, Hardy Boys, Metropolis, and a smattering of works on evolution and faith.