Elsewhere on the Internet: Women, art, and love

There’s not really a theme here: this is just a list of links I’ve enjoyed this week that I wanted to share before I take to the sea. (I finally get to say that and mean it!)

Remember when I posted about Lilit Marcus’s article about reading only women in 2013? Lilit posted a sequel at The Toast, which describes some of the blowback she’s gotten and details a few more of her favorite woman-authored discoveries (in case you were looking for ideas to add to your #readwomen2014 list.

If you’ve somehow missed it, this is #readwomen2014. It is pretty astonishing how it has blown up on social media in a month, especially to those of us who have been quietly and deliberately reading woman-authored books all along. But it’s a bandwagon I’m happy to jump on, so behold: the #readwomen2014 shelf on my Booklikes page. It will only grow longer. The ladywriters shelf, of course, lives on.

Also at The Toast, grad student Tina Rivers has some thoughts about art history being the scapegoat in conversations about education and jobs. She makes several good points, but my favorite is that visual literacy is an extremely valuable skill in contemporary life. Yes, job-value as well as life-quality-value.

Speaking of visual literacy, I knew before reading this article that the marauding toddler in question was crawling on a Donald Judd sculpture. I’m no great fan of mid-century minimalism, so usually the best I can say about Donald Judd is that I know his work when I see it. But that’s actually quite something: functional and formalist though his work may be, it still forged a distinct place in 20th century visual landscape. Whether we know it or not, the way we see and imagine things today has in part been influenced by the work of Judd and his contemporaries. Besides, parents, you have no idea whether that thing can hold a child’s weight or not!

That story reminded me of one I’d heard when working at the Philly art museum: the reason that we don’t permit backpacks in galleries is that one time a woman tripped on hers and punched a hole through a Picasso as she lost her balance. A quick Google search led me down this rabbit hole: Picasso-punching confirmed, although it doesn’t note whether her backpack was the culprit; plus several other horrifying stories of art destruction (mainly of Picassos, interestingly).

I really enjoyed this Awl story about a woman who ghost-wrote love letters, among other things. The author, Bonnie Dowling, often had to coax the real message out of her clients; her work seemed to be as much counseling as it was writing. But I think the story resonated so much with me because I place so much value on textual communications in relationships. I tend to prefer an epistolary courtship of some length, regardless of whether I met the romantic interest on- or off-line; I rely on chatty emails and texts to establish intimacy when I’m not ready or able to invest much facetime. I’ve grown out of this somewhat, but I used to rely heavily on Emails to carry the point in relationship arguments as well. For someone who is most comfortable in text, writing is a source of power–leverage, even, when that’s necessary. I can’t imagine handing that power over to someone, or not having it to give in the first place. . . . and that failure of imagination on my part suggests some astonishing unexamined privilege on my part. I had to take stock of my expectation.

Are you reading Dr. Ladybusiness? You probably should be if you’re a poet and/or a current or recovering academic, which is a significant percentage of my peer group. Anyway, she recently wrote to place the recent revival of interest and backlash on Dylan Farrow’s story in the context of a larger struggle to reconcile the sins of the artist with the legacy of the art. It should be simple, and she makes it so:  it’s your choice whether you continue to value the art of criminals (convicted or otherwise), but why should that so-called controversy drown out the voices of those who survived their crimes?

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