Archive for the ‘Seeing’ Category

The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore has recently announced that it has acquired a previously unknown picture of Edmonia Lewis, a sculptor who was Harriet Hosmer’s contemporary in Rome. The museum’s Deputy Director of Audience Engagement Jacqueline Copeland came across the image in a box of photographs in an antique shop and recognized the artist. Copeland will discuss finding the image at a brown bag lunch on Feb. 7.

The photograph is not the most astounding Lewis discovery–her sculpture Cleopatra was found in the storage room of a mall! And Marilyn Richardson only discovered her date and place of death two years ago.

On a less happy not, in Ken Burn’s Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson there is a reference to African-American artists that is illustrated by a picture that I think is clearly meant to be Lewis.  But is a picture of Vinnie Ream, a white woman who was another sculptor who passed through Rome. And Lewis’s birthplace is still unknown.  (At least I think, unless there has been another Lewis discovery).

Thanks to Sandra Payne for alerting me to the discovery of the photo.

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Jody Culkin, a New York City artist and also my aunt, has a show at the BOCA Museum of Art.  As the museum website explains, “Jody Culkin: Refashioned subverts traditional functions of women’s apparel by creating quirky, ironic faux-utilitarian clothing and accessories which question whether fashion entraps or liberates women – or both.”  Book21Cal has a ton of great pictures of the exhibit on Flickr.  I wish I could see it in person!

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I’ve really been enjoying the Valentine’s Day posts coming my way through Facebook and Google Reader today from museums and archives.  Here are few highlights:

The Morgan Library has an illustration of St. Valentine from The Hours of Catherine of Cleves.

The New Yorker celebrates the day with a post about the exhibit The Loving Story at the International Center of Photography (through May 6).  It is made up of photographs, taken originally for Life Magazine, of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving.  Their interracial marriage lead to the Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia, which struck down anti-miscegenation laws in 16 states.

The NYPL Digital Collection has dozens of great Valentine’s Day cards.

And my favorite: Wellesley has posted its collection of the love letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, written between January 1845 to September 1846.

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This past weekend, the New York Public Library celebrated the centennial of the magnificent building which houses its research collection with a series of events.  The one I was the most excited about was the tour of the stacks.  As many of you know, the  42nd Street research library is a closed stacks  institution.  Users fill out a form and submit it, and 20 or so minutes later the book appears at desk in the middle of the reading room. The forms until very recently were sent downstairs, to the 7 floors of stacks below the reading room, by pneumatic tubes, but I believe, sadly, that system has at last been made obsolete.  Anyway, the whole process seems very mysterious and slightly magical to someone like me, who has has spent countless hours in the building.  Most people on the tour seemed to feel the same way, especially the woman who had tears in her eyes she was so excited about seeing the stacks.  Perhaps not surprisingly, once we got down to the stacks, I felt like I was in a Wes Anderson movie set, in a charming thicket of  old card catalog cases, shoots and conveyor belts, call slips and (of course) books.

There is also a wonderful exhibition of some of the library’s treasures.  Highlights for me were seeing Virginia Woolf’s walking stick, Jack Kerouac’s diary that served as the basis for On the Road and the first book published by Europeans in the Americas, from the 1500s.  The oddest item might have been Charles Dicken’s letter opener–the handle was the paw of his beloved cat Bob, who had passed away. The exhibition’s curator Thomas Mellis is making a series of videos about some of the artifacts.

Another highlight–models of the library’s famous lions (Patience and Fortitude), made of Legos.

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I’ve been meaning to see the exhibit “The Diary: Three Centuries  of Private Lives” at the Morgan Library since it opened in January, but I only managed to get there today, 2 days before it closed.  I’m glad I finally made it, as it is a fascinating window into the ways people have recorded their thoughts for themselves and for posterity.  Standouts for me were the joint diary kept by Sophia and Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charlotte Brontë’s diary entry that spun into a dramatic fantasy world. If you can’t make it to the museum, there an extensive online exhibit and some great podcasts on the website.

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Ragged Isle is a great, creepy webseries that began this month.  It  is a mystery that takes place on island off the coast of Maine and, in the three episodes that have been posted so far, the tension has been mounting and questions adding up. I’ve posted part I below and the rest can be found on the show’s youtube channel.

Hosmer spent some time in Maine in her later life, visiting her old friend Cornelia Crow Carr, who had a house in Bar Harbor.  One summer a poem titled “Bar Harbor” appeared in the New York World, describing the activities of those spending time in the  resort.  The stanza on Hosmer read: While Harriet Hosmer, shut up in her den/ Has laid down the chisel, assuming the pen/ And is writing a book on a subject so queer–/Well–no–I won’t blab–as it soon will appear.” The poem continues to sing the praises of Bar Harbor: “Then the air of the mountain/ The air of the pint/ The air of the ocean, their fragrance combine/ And lend to Bar Harbor such wonderful charm/ That Newport and Lenox start back in alarm.”

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Film critic Erica Abeel recently got James Franco’s attention by revealing she actually knew Allen Ginsberg.  I don’t think I can handle 127 Hours, but I really want to see Howl.

Judith Bernstein, a pioneering feminist artist for whom I used to cat sit, will have an installation at the Alex Zachary Gallery, from Nov. 12-January 15.  You see watch an art critic John Perrault’s introduction to her talk and some of her commentary at the Drawing Center on youtube.  (Probably not safe for work.)
On Sunday, I went to the Museum of the City of New York’s exhibit “Samurai in New York: The First Japanese Delegation, 1860.”  It was the last day, or I would highly recommend going to see it.  It was an interesting look at two cultures coming in contact with each other in a rapidly changing world.   The 23rd mile marker for  NYC Marathon was  just outside the museum door.  The winners had long gone by; the clock read 5 hours and 2 minutes when I got to the museum.  So I cheered on some unsung strangers before going in and some more when I came out.

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This year, I am organizing the Women’s Global Film Series at school.  Tomorrow, as part of the series, I, along with a colleague from the English department, am introducing and moderating Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed.  The documentary tracks the presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress.  I just re-watched to prepare for tomorrow, and it made me feel better on what seems like a dark day.

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Since the Mad Men season ended, I have been turning my attention to Boardwalk Empire, the HBO series set in Atlantic City during Prohibition.  As I had worked on the Margaret Sanger Papers in graduate school, I have been thrilled to see references to Sanger’s pamphlet Family Limitation on the show; that was even the title of last week’s episode.  In response to its first appearance on the show, the Margaret Sanger Papers Research Annex published a post with more information on the pamphlet, including quotes and scans of some its pages.

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I celebrated Halloween by going to see Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, the rock musical about the 7th US president with the tagline “History just got all sexypants.”  The best description I can think of is it is a cross between a History Channel documentary and the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  It is clever and charming, and I liked the way it sent up our tendency to either lionize or demonize our leaders and tackled his treatment of Native Americans head on.  And I am a sucker for oddball musicals.  (The Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical soundtrack is some of my favorite driving music).  The script did lean a little too heavily on (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) jokes about effeminate elite male politicians, played broadly through  homosexual stereotypes. I got that the production was commenting on the discussion around masculinity in American politics, but there was too much reliance on those jokes without enough payoff.  But it was ultimately very worth seeing, especially at the discount price I got through the Theater Development Fund. Read the NY Times review here.

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