• Books
  • Diving into the Mystery

    I’ve lived long enough to remember when Advice for Artists was a quiet, contemplative stream at the edge of town. Now it is a surging river with big crowds, water sports and riverboat casinos. Much has changed since Julia Cameron published the The Artist’s Way in 1992. Originally titled Healing the Artist Within, the book […]

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  • A Timely Romeo and Juliet

    Cast of “Romeo and Juliet,” at the Huntington Theater (Photo: Huntington Theater) “Theater is the essential art form of democracy,” claims Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater in New York. A new idea that power should stem from the consent of the governed—flowing from below to above—was born in Athens in the 6th […]

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  • Endlings

    Celine Song (Photo: Courtesy of the artist) A few years ago I was rhapsodizing with a friend about how much I love powerful storytelling, the kind that takes you so fully into another reality. Was the topic W. G. Sebald, George R. R. Martin, Rachel Cusk? I can’t remember what launched me, but the response […]

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  • The Many Faces of Othello

    Ira Aldridge playing Othello in the 19th century, from a painting by James Northcote Humans have a built-in pattern detection facility that is a key method for making sense of things. Making sense is, after all, an essential survival skill. Barraged daily by a firehose of sensory data, we have to employ some means of […]

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  • Bad and Better, Both

    Henrik Ibsen Humans are not particularly good at assessing large patterns. We can make smaller calls, like noticing that our train is late or determining that an apple is particularly delicious. But assessing transportation infrastructure efficiency or the overall quality of food production? It is like the difference between weather and climate: there is that […]

  • Art/Politics
  • Sublime Persistence

    Trevor Paglen, Blue #3 (Chelsea), detail. C-print, 2016 Stories about architect Louis Kahn‘s legendary tenacity and unwavering devotion to an idea fill the biography of his life by Wendy Lesser, You Say to Brick. Iconic and larger than life, complex while also doggedly singleminded, Kahn is an ongoing symbol of art that comes from relentless […]