Category Archives: books


lately, i’ve been a bit stuck in a creative rut (ok, since this past fall). it isn’t that i haven’t been thinking about what to post or write about, it’s that i can’t bring myself to do it. the mental block lies somewhere north of agitation and somewhere south of irritation.

by agitation, i mean that when i do take the time to scan the blogs and news articles for interesting tidbits, exhibits, and artist news, i haven’t been finding anything that engages me in a meaningful way. i’m a blank. the last artist i found genuinely compelling was JR. his portraits are total immersion and yet they’re actually just magnifications of a detail – the de-anonymizing and simultaneous humanizing of people (especially women) within the context of their communities.

i’m reading the painted face: portraits of women in france 1814 – 1914, this book delves into the subject-context relationship. that is, “the mutual dependency, of the subjects and objects”, that a subject becomes more meaningful by virtue of his or her the relationship to the other objects within the portrait. a man with his book, a woman and her mirror, that vase…

if i may lift and reapply this idea more liberally — what I find especially compelling about JR’s portrait is the very fact that it is “exhibited” in the very community it is derived from. a gallery exhibit would to me, drain the portraits of their power by severing their connection “home“.

ironically given his massive scale portraits, JR is actually semi-anonymous. but that just makes me appreciate his work more, that there is no inherent need for attention to the artist. he doesn’t do this for the recognition, he does it because he is compelled to do so. because what he does is more important than who he is. or so i’d like to believe.





summer reading list

this summer has been a bit more reading and a lot less travel and art than last summer. last summer i had a fantastic time volunteer-teaching a watercolor class with some feisty grandmas, a rather life-changing trek through the colombian wilderness, and an eye-opening time at an internet start-up. this year, i’ve had a different kind of satisfying summer of discovery, the bookish kind.

here’s a quick snapshot of the things i’ve read and a few of my thoughts on each.

on china henry kissinger
very lucidly written, reminded me of spence quite a bit only more condensed. he lays out the argument for the real politik approach quite convincingly as a diplomatic strategy with china. very sensitive when it comes to understanding politics within the realm of culture.

my father’s tears john updike
very beautiful prose. see previous comments. heart him.

gilead maryilynne robinson
i had actually tried several times before to read this book, but i had difficulty getting past the opener. while i appreciate the narrative’s overtly christian perspective, it came across as a little too sanitized– a little too good.

stories from a ming collection translation cyril birch
super funny, incredibly engaging, and bite-sized. the morals and the plots are rather outrageous. a chinese canterbury tales?

no exit and three other plays jean-paul satre
dark, funny, who knew existentialism was this hilarious? enjoyed this much more than the plague, but it might be too soon to take sides in that rivalry.

change by design tim brown
engaging in a gladwellian sort of way, great concepts though a bit heavy on the anecdotes.

born to run christopher mcdougall
so good! very fun read, has certainly piqued my interest in running barefoot and the tarahumara.

i also briefly attempted to read ficciones by borges but it required too much thinking on my morning commute — will need to save this for a quiet evening or a vacation…preferably in south america…


will return to more photos of artwork soon! i’ve enrolled in a fall sculpture course, and i’m very excited to work in 3D!



the hard stuff


In the presence of supple
goodness, some people
grow less flexible,
experiencing a woodenness
they wouldn’t have thought possible.
It is as strange and paradoxical
as the combined suffering
of Pinocchio and Geppetto
if Pinocchio had turned and said,
I can’t be human after all.

Kay Ryan

american giants


“pardon the egg salad stains, but i’m in love…”

i’ve just completed john updike’s collection of short stories my father’s tears. a short story is the perfect antidote to a long commute that has minimal transfers. for the past month of june, i’ve managed to squeeze in entire subway-ride-sized bites of updike’s americana. and what a sad, but lovely and intensely intimate america it was.

a few years ago i discovered philip roth whose writing, from my first encounter, was something to be devoured. philip roth is a deeply engaged author. he is thinly controlled emotion coupled with a sincere talent for storytelling. american pastoral still leaves me mildly stunned. he’s very good.

i adore philip roth with his expansive story arcs covering broad swaths of american life and his pointed critique of the dream. he is intricacy without intimacy, an emboldened nuance that is only subtle for the unprepared. but updike is equally and differently delicious. updike is certainly the finer handler of language. he doesn’t push so much as examines, and even dwells, on the details that make life so lucid and so simultaneously devastating.

what roth is to new jersey, so updike seems to be to pennsylvania.

i’ve spent a lot of time in Newark…next stop Alton, PA.



quote marginalia by billy collins





family in america