What We’re Loving: Saintly Comics, High Relief


This Week’s Reading

In 1974, David Esterly was pursuing a career as an academic when he encountered a limewood carving by the seventeenth-century master Grinling Gibbons. He gave up English literature, devoted himself to the art of high-relief carving, and in the process became not merely the foremost Gribbons expert, but a master carver himself. The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making details Esterly’s restoration of a Gribbons drop at Hampton Court, but it is more than this. “I was apprenticed to a phantom, and lived among mysteries,” he writes of that time, and the memoir is indeed as much about engagement with the past, and the preservation of ancient arts, as it is one man’s journey. If you are in New York, through January 18, you can see Esterly’s intricate and beautiful work on display at W. M. Brady and Co. —Sadie Stein

No matter how hard you try, you can’t help but stare at a train wreck, and Stephen Rodrick’s behind-the-scenes New York Times Magazine profile of Paul Schrader’s film The Canyons fills the guilty-pleasure, sweet-tooth fix quite nicely. A director desperate for a hit; a screenwriter (Bret Easton Ellis) more concerned with waging social-media jihads than actually writing; a porn star (James Deen) with a sensitive side; a budget that wouldn’t cover Kanye West’s ego; and, of course, Hollywood’s favorite child-star-turned-TMZ-punchline Lindsay Lohan: while this equation might not add up to a box office hit, it’s a fascinating look at the absurdity of Hollywood filmmaking. To see what’s become of the film so far, check out the trailer. —Justin Alvarez

Joan Acocella’s review in this week’s New Yorker of two recent biographies of St. Francis of Assisi gives a fascinating history of the life of the radical Catholic saint and founder of the Franciscans. I was surprised, though, not to find in it mention of the other religious order Francis, along with St. Clare of Assisi, helped found: the Poor Clares. My (limited) knowledge of Francis’s biography largely comes from a comic book of the life of St. Clare that I was given by my parents for Christmas or a birthday one year, so it’s hard for me to think of him without also thinking of his female counterpart. The comic was packed with fervent praying and miracles and gruesome depictions of Francis’s stigmata—much more exciting than other comics I read at the time—it’s a shame that it looks to be out of print. —Clare Fentress

I’ve been taking a tour of two very different versions of Eastern Europe through The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel and Paul Park’s A Princess of Roumania, the latter being a pretty fun sci-fi novel about a girl who discovers that she’s a princess in an alternate Europe where Romania is a leading power. They go together surprisingly well. —Andrew Plimpton

What has revolution achieved? This question, so central to modern day Latin American political identity, hangs over every piece in Peruvian-American artist Ishmael Randall Week’s latest solo show, at Eleven Rivington. The effect is striking. Stepping into the exhibition space, the viewer is pulled into a dialogue between the old ideologies and the present realities of revolution. The exhibition is demanding, and the conversation is not an easy one, but the art is eminently approachable, and visually appealing without exception. In one sulpture, Randall Weeks carves a stack of canonical texts on Latin American revolution into a beautiful Andean topography. I found myself returning to the piece time and time again. Most of the pieces in the show kept calling me back, and I was happy to abide. A second show by Randall Weeks, at the Drawing Room, is going up next week. I’ll be baying at the gates. —Arthur Holland Michel