Tag: art

homegoing yaa gyasi black lives matter race relations books reading africa

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

‘Homegoing’ by Yaa Gyasi is the PEN/Hemingway prize winner of 2017, so my goal is to finish it by the end of the year. Even without finishing it, I can tell this book is deserving of the prize a hundred times over. Homegoing is set in the late 1700s in Africa, at the beginning of the slave trade. The book goes on to tell the story of two lines of a family. Two half sisters, one of whom was born to a slave woman, and the other, born to the same woman once she was free. Each chapter focuses on a new generation from the various family lines across centuries, leading to the presence.

homegoing yaa gyasi black lives matter race relations books reading africa

Homegoing is vital to read in our present time. This book captures the horrors black people have endured through centuries of hate and discrimination. But it remains a beautiful story of how our lives unfold and what leads to who we are today. In the end, it is about finding your roots and your place in the world.

There were so many parts in the book I loved, but what surprised me the most is how I related to the characters. One of the characters from Africa feel like she does not belong in America; like she is ‘the wrong kind of black.’ This is how I feel being a white immigrant in the US. By default, I am excused from a lot of discrimination and injustice. But I am not welcomed to the privilege of a lot of middle class white people are born with.

I think it’s time we put away the things that divide us. Multiculturalism is what makes this country truly unique — it’s time we embrace that.

There’s still a few weeks left in 2017, don’t sleep on this book!

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso

Most people generally consider Picasso to be one of the greatest artists of all time. He’s certainly revered and admired by many. He is the father of Cubism. His style was risky and unexpected. But did you also know that he treated women like shit?

pablo picasso marie therese walter la reve

One of the most famous subjects of his paintings was Marie Therese, seen above in La Reve, or the dream. She was his mistress for a while (because divorce was illegal and he couldn’t leave his wife). He eventually married her and stayed married to her until his death. He had several children with her. And used her ability to have children to torture Dora Maar, one of his mistresses who could not have children.

dora maar pablo picasso painting art cubism women

Picasso was able to capture her heartbreak in beautiful paintings. But he allegedly pitted them against each other and one time even suggested they physically fight over him.

I am not writing this to suggest that everyone should now commence hating Picasso. I just want to share some part of his life that not many people know about. As an artist he had a duty to create art that we will love and admire forever. But didn’t he also owe to himself to maintain some morality?

My question is where should he have drawn the line? And also, do you guys think he would have been able to produce the art he has created if he behaved differently? I sincerely hope the answer is ‘yes.’


Here’s a horrible video I took in his room at the LACMA. There is no photography allowed, so I had to be stealthy ;))

photography in argentina the getty grupo escombros photographer artists politics freedom black and white

Photography in Argentina

Photography in Argentina

photography in argentina the getty grupo escombros photographer artists politics freedom black and white 2

Julio Pantoja — Sons and Daughters

photography in argentina the getty grupo escombros photographer artists politics freedom black and white

Grupo Escombros — Signs


I had the pleasure of catching the Photography in Argentina exhibit at the Getty this weekend. It was a collection of photographs from 1850 until 2010. I’m not too familiar with photography in Argentina, so it was a great experience. It was a very politically charged exhibit. Argentia has had it’s fair share of troubled history, so this came as no surprise.

The first photo is from a collection called Sons and Daughters, by Julio Pantoja. He photographed the children of people who have mysteriously vanished under Isabel Peron’s reign. The second photo, Pancartas, or Signs, is by El Grupo Escombros, a group of Argentinian painters, photographers, and performance artists set on shining a light on current political and economical defects.

But perhaps my favourite section was the modern photography that showed the paradox of wealth exclusion. The section begins with Sebastian Friedman’s Segurismos, showing people behind gates and fences, voluntarily, physically showing us the division of social and economic status. The back wall contains Ananke Asseff’s photographs. It is a series of people holding guns, shining light on the unreasonable fear the upper and middle class have of the urban population, people living in the villas miserias — slums. This series is called Potencial – potential. It made me realize how this is not even a legitimate fear, just the potential for danger.
Right next to this collection is a set of Gian Paolo Minnelli’s photographs from the barrio. They show life from the ‘other side.’ The people the rich are so afraid of.

It was a perfect set-up. The exhibit highlighted the superficial division we place upon ourselves. Causing more of such divisions to come up again and again.

If you have a chance to see this, I highly recommend it!

pablo neruda 100 love sonnets poetry spanish chile love relationships

Pablo Neruda — Poet Of The Day

Pablo Neruda — Poet Of The Day

I love Pablo Neruda because he’s real. Even his most famous poem: ‘I love without know how, nor when, nor from where’ is the most sugar-coated of all his work — it still doesn’t sound perfect.

His relationship with Matilde was very complex. He was married to his second wife when they met and they could not be together publicly until fifteen years later. He was already a public figure at this time, and she had a life of her own. She was an amazing woman who was the first ever female physical therapist in Chile. They both couldn’t go public with their affair and Neruda didn’t want to hurt his wife. He held off publishing his famous 100 love sonnets until years later.

pablo neruda 100 love sonnets poetry spanish chile love relationships

This poem is incredible. Oftentimes these ‘relationship goals’ we set for ourselves are unrealistic. Pablo Neruda paints a very real portrait of the complexities of connections between people.

I love that about his poetry. It shows how real life is. Nothing is so cut and dried, and nice and tidy, tied up with a bow. We always think we will meet our soul mate in the simplest way. But life can be messy. I hope you all meet the love of your life when you are willing and able to be with them. But it might not always work out that way. When things seem too complicated, just remember, Neruda wouldn’t have been able to give us this poetry if his life was easy and simple.

john ashbery some trees new york school poet poem poetry

John Ashbery

John Ashbery

Today’s poet of the day is John Ashbery, who passed away Sunday at age 90.

I am so sad I never got to meet him. He was one of my favourite poets of all time, and he’s the reason for my love of all New York School poetry.

john Ashbery’s poem ‘Some Trees‘ is one of the most amazing works of modern poetry. Although I talked about it in the linked post, I wanted to revisit this beautiful poem. I think they are different every time we read them.

john ashbery some trees new york school poet poem poetry

Someone asked me to read this poem at a wedding once. I had to say no, I don’t really believe this is a love poem. John Ashbery was very young when he wrote this, and instead of reflecting the blind idealism some associate with youth, this poem shows us a sense of disillusion. It’s almost as if he already knows that no matter how amazing something is, in the end reluctance always creeps in.

When I first read it, I thought this poem was about meeting someone who saw the world the same way you did. And I still think it is about that, only now I can’t help but think it is about settling as well. Eventually, no matter what a whirlwind something was, it all must settle down.

I’m sure in the future I will have a different interpretation for this poem, but in the mean time, share your thoughts with me.

Rest In Peace John Ashbery

Bernard Boutet de Monvel -- Art Of The Day

Bernard Boutet de Monvel — Art Of The Day

Bernard Boutet de Monvel — Art Of The Day

Today’s art of the day is from Bernard Boutet de Monvel.

Bernard Boutet de Monvel -- Art Of The Day art deco mrs warren pershing painting portrait design architecture rectilinear style nature background

Bernard Boutet de Monvel was the father of the ‘profile picture.’ See what I did there? A lot of his paintings of people were done in profile. His style was the precursor for the Art Deco movement in art and design. It’s something known now as ‘rectilinear’ painting. It’s a term reserved for architecture and drafting. If you remember my earlier posts, I’ve talked a bit about the bridging of the gap between art, science, and engineering.

What Bernard Boutet de Monvel did was bridge the gap between art, design, and architecture — a natural procession in my opinion. Art and design are very closely related, and the connection he made helped solidify him as an imperative figure in the art world.

The above portrait of Mrs. Warren Pershing is very seamless in my opinion. The background is further away, and it looks almost like she stepped into the shot, ‘photobombing’ this picture of a landscape. There is something very interesting about that. However, it doesn’t look forced or awkward. She seems to belong and fit in right where she’s standing.

There’s a lot of detail in the background, making it just as important as the subject. This confirms my earlier statement that Bernard Boutet de Monvel sought to connect art and design.

London calling Lucian Frdud kitty garman

London Calling — Art Of The Day

London Calling — Art Of The Day

For today’s art of the day, I wanted to take it back to the London Calling exhibit I saw at the Getty last summer. I loved his exhibit, all the artists were incredible. But what really grabbed my attention are the changes I noticed in Lucian Freud’s work.

London calling Lucian Freud kitty garman

London calling Lucie Freud portrait of bowery

The painting of Kitty Garman with her cat was painted in 1947, one of Freud’s earlier works. The portrait of Bowery was painted in 1991. Lucian Freud was a painter who questioned sexual identity and chose subjects whose sexuality was inconsistent or ‘fluid.’ Leigh Bowery was a gay icon who died shortly after this painting was made, from complications from AIDS. Freud himself was involved with both men and women throughout his life. What all of this says about Freud’s own sexuality is something his grandfather Sigmund would have to answer.

What grabbed my attention is the insane attention to detail in the portrait of Kitty, versus the harsh rendering of Bowery. The first painting was done in 1947, and other paintings of Kitty in the years to come were also done in the same style as the portraits of Bowery. It could be argued that Freud was just discovering his style. However, I think this was something more; perhaps another question for Freud’s grandfather. The ‘unflattering’ way he drew his later subjects is in direct juxtaposition with the almost manic attention to detail in his earlier works. I wonder what goes through an artist’s mind when they make these kinds of changes.

I can say that London Calling was one of the best exhibits of modern art that I have ever seen.

five life-changing books Solzhenitsyn Hemingway Memoirs of a geisha herman hesse glass bead game albert camus a happy death

Five Life-Changing Books

Five Life-Changing Books

No longer able to choose just one book to talk about, I bring to you five life-changing books to read this summer. Yes, I know it’s almost August, you better get started!

five life-changing books Solzhenitsyn Hemingway Memoirs of a geisha herman hesse glass bead game albert camus a happy death

Cancer Ward – Solzhenitsyn.

The ultimate allegory, Cancer Ward uses cancer as an analogy for the sweeping effects of Stalinism. It affects everyone, doctors, high-ranking officials, and the common man. The reason this book is number one on the list of books that have changed my life is because I am tremendously touched by Solzhenitsyn’s lack of anger. Cancer Ward is basically a memoir of his life after imprisonment in Stalin’s gulag. Solzhenitsyn has every right to be bitter, resentful, and downright furious at this point in his life. He was imprisoned for no reason, and now, once ‘free’ (or as free as possible, living in exile), he has cancer. However, the main character, Kostoglotov, has so many tender and gentle qualities.

Once he is free (from cancer this time), he walks around town and sees the world in a different light. This ending taught me a lot about seeing everything from a different perspective. Once you let go of anger, everything is seen anew. I hope to carry that lesson with me for the rest of my life.

The Sun Also Rises – Hemingway.

Every Hemingway book has had a tremendous effect on me. The Sun Also Rises was yet another lesson on how to see things from a different perspective. This book was a close tie with Number one on my list of five life-changing books. I’ve read Hemingway’s works many times over, and each time they affected me differently. Most recently, I saw his endings as not a loss, but a chance to start over. Many people believe he is depressing, but he doesn’t portray emotions. Hemingway is the father of showing without telling. He just writes words, what you perceive as ‘the meaning’ is a reflection of yourself.

The beautiful scene of the bulls goring the steers, with Bill constantly repeating, “must be no fun to be a steer,” was yet another allegory – my favorite rhetorical device. The whole book is filled with opportunities to add your own interpretation to what’s happened. This book taught me to find hope and faith in a situation where it seemed there was none. This is something I have used time and time again throughout my life.

A Happy Death (La morte heureuse) – Camus

I never read Camus knowing full well he was an Existentialist writer. Later on, I sought out to read Camus to learn more about Existentialism and to become more philosophically advanced. I never knew A Happy Death was his first book either. Turns out, it is a study of the Existentialist concept of creating your own happiness. In a way, this book was a kind of prediction for my future behavior (or maybe my behavior is a result of having read it?). I always believed that happiness is something you need to make for yourself, will for yourself.

Another aspect of Camus’s books that always stays with me is his descriptions. He is an excellent painter of landscapes. I constantly learn from him how to describe surroundings to make the reader genuinely see the places around him.

The Glass Bead Game – Herman Hesse

If you’ve never read anything by Hesse, The Glass Bead Game is a compilation of all his most famous themes: the meaning of life, following your heart, and the harmony and flow of life. There are a lot of allusions with the names of the characters, and in the German language, a lot of word play. For me, the concept of the main character leaving his post to pursue what he feels he really is destined to do, is invaluable. In this book, music works to create a sense of harmony between the mathematical and artistic aspects of the Glass Bead game. It’s a beautiful foray into a fantasy world where intellectualism is of greatest reverence.

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

Probably the only modern book I actually like. I read this book at a time in my life when I was “in love” with someone who did not love me back. This book, taking place in Japan at the cusp of – and during – World War II, made me feel like it is possible for me to have true love. It was one of those Romeo and Juliet type things, where it seemed like so much stands in their way, it will never work out. But it did. This book filled me with hope, and even though now I realize how silly my little crush was, the hope is something I chose to keep with me.


I hope this post didn’t bore you to tears, and I urge you to check out one of these five life-changing books if you haven’t already!

Mapplethorpe orchid shadows flowers

Some More Mapplethorpe

Some More Mapplethorpe

Today’s art of the day is some more Mapplethorpe. In my last post about him, I talked about his balance of delicacy and toughness by using flowers to render phallic objects. This photograph is from the same series. Mapplethorpe shows the delicacy of the flower, and it’s toughness in the shadow.

Mapplethorpe lily shadows flowers

It is amazing how something can look so different in the shadow.

The shadow of the orchid is so different in character from the original object.

Seeing this, I am reminded of perspective. Sometimes we get so lost in our thoughts, we get tunnel vision. Our problems seem unsolvable. Seeing this photograph reminds me to look at things from a different angle. There’s something quite beautiful casting this menacing shadow.

Things are not always as they seem.

michel leiris alberto Giacometti art drawing sketches

Alberto Giacometti — Art Of The Day

Alberto Giacometti — Art Of The Day

Today’s art of the day is Michel Leiris Frontal View, by Alberto Giacometti.

michel leiris alberto Giacometti art drawing sketches

Michel Leiris was a surrealist writer and later published magazine articles on his friends, one of whom was Alberto Giacometti. It’s interesting how the two friends ‘paid each other back.’ Leiris by sitting for him, and Giacometti for letting himself be interviewed.

Giacometti was a draughtsman and I find it interesting how he chose to render the face. He treated this sketch as a draft with all the horizontal and vertical lines. This drawing is dissecting. Like my last post about Harold Edgerton, this drawing once again makes me think of a bridged gap between art and science, engineering.

The face is not something traditionally drawn with science in mind. A portrait is traditionally artistic, and conveys emotion. Giacometti showed a more scientific approach to portraiture. Even the title of the painting, “Frontal View,” conveys a scientific approach. This is the title of building drafts. Yet the artistry is not sacrificed. The emotion is still conveyed on Leiris’ face.

I think bridging the gap between science and art is an artist’s greatest strength.