“Rose Gold,” an exhibition of photographs and a film by Sara Cwynar, is at Foxy Production through May 14. Cwynar, who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, took the title of her show from Apple’s most coveted iPhone color, introduced in 2015. In the film at the center of the show, also called Rose Gold, two voices, one male and one female, offer observations about consumer desire, at once pointed and disaffected: “I keep finding watch advertisements where all the clocks are set to 8:20 … what time was it really? I go to check what time the Apple Watch is set to and end up wanting one … Several male artists have told me that I’m having a moment, as if the moment will pass soon. Rose Gold is having a moment, too … What is the right way to talk about something? People understand more if you communicate through things bought and sold.” Cwynar also examines Melamine, a brand of luridly colored plastic kitchenware from the fifties—the plastic was supposed to be unbreakable, but over time it grew brittle and faded. Her photos include studio portraits of her friend Tracy overlaid with found objects and detritus; and a set of shiny Avon “presidential aftershave” bottles from the seventies. Robbed of their caps—i.e., their golden presidents’ heads—they look denuded, as if forcibly neutralized.
They questioned some of the scholarship kids first, boys with cheap-cut shirts and shabby jackets—the ones who tied their neckties as if they meant it, not with the shrug of boys who’d been born with a tailor in the next room. This was at a boarding school in Pennsylvania, high on a hill overlooking a factory town where shoes were sold with metal tips, so if you dropped your hammer you wouldn’t break your toes.
Next they questioned the rougher kids, the ones who’d give the gym coach the finger while he was watching, ones who laughed in chapel and smirked during grace. Read More
A hypochondriac’s guide to rare diseases.
I recently made a wrong turn out of the parking lot of the Danbury Fair Mall, where I’d indulged in a bag of Auntie Anne’s pretzel nuggets and a pair of cheap earrings at Claire’s. Bemoaning my love for this soulless crap—and not paying attention to my route—I found myself at the entrance to NORD, the National Organization for Rare Disorders. Read More
- Go on, take a peek at my search history. You’ll see a lot of this: “Nude presidents.” “Nude dead presidents.” “George Washington naked.” “Presidential peen.” “Free naked U.S. American founding fathers pixxx.” “Portrait of signing of Declaration of Independence where all signers are nude.” It has been a long road for me. I am not often delighted by what Google brings to me. But now Antonio Canova’s nineteenth-century sculpture of a totally nude George Washington—presidente numero uno, a hundred percent in the raw, not even any powdered wig—is coming to the Frick. It’s a big deal, a time to rejoice, for, as James Barron writes, we are not accustomed to exposed presidential flesh: “The first president had been dead for seventeen years by the time Canova went to work. Canova had done a nude Napoleon as the god Mars about 10 years earlier. But when it came to Washington, clothes made the man—and the statue—because his appearance mattered. ‘John Marshall, his first serious biographer, even entitled the chapter on Washington’s arrival in the world “The Birth of Mr. Washington,” ’ the historian Joseph J. Ellis wrote, ‘suggesting that he was born fully clothed and ready to assume the presidency.’ Nathaniel Hawthorne seemed to echo Marshall’s notion after posing a provocative question: ‘Did anybody ever see Washington naked?’ ‘It is inconceivable,’ Hawthorne wrote. ‘He had no nakedness, but, I imagine, was born with clothes on and his hair powdered, and made a stately bow on his first appearance in the world.’ ”
- When Virginia and Leonard Woolf started the Hogarth Press, it was all fun and games, just like running an indie press should be. But then, as Rafia Zakaria writes, Virginia got bored: “Those first afternoons, when Leonard and Virginia sat covered in ink in the drawing room of Hogarth House, learning by trial and error just how hard it was to set type and center it on the page, were charmed ones. The experience was a simulacrum of the creative process: the beloved final product did not always reflect the pains of its production. But the labors of printing always delivered the satisfaction of a real and tangible object … If Leonard’s involvement was steady, Virginia’s was mercurial, waxing and waning through her depressive and creative spells. As early as March 1924, as they got ready to publish her novel Jacob’s Room, she declared in a letter that ‘publishing one’s own books is very nervous work.’ By October 1933, when Hogarth Press turned sixteen, Virginia declared herself tired of the ‘drudgery and sweating’ and the ‘altered travel plans’ that running the publisher required. She demanded that an ‘intelligent youth’ be found to take over its day-to-day operations.”
Delighting in the mollusks of art history.
Typical of her species, the clam deactivated all of her social-media accounts on her thirtieth birthday and headed to the sea, not wanting anyone to wish her well. She was unable to explain this urge to hide on what most considered a momentous transition—thirty!—a day that’s usually reserved for last-hurrah debauchery. Instead, she Googled cabin rentals in Sag Harbor, where she and her husband would be unlikely to run into anyone they knew. On the drive out, a misty rain cloaked the empty highway. It rained all night, so they stayed in, drank bourbon, and watched The Shining in bed. The next morning, when she went out for a jog along the shore, the liminal space between sea and sky looked fuzzy, indistinct. She searched for something to latch on to. In the city, she tended to look up, searching for scalloped edges and glimpses of figures in lit windows, but by the sea, she looked at the sand. Whatever she picked up she put back down, knowing from experience that these objects would never be as beautiful as they were at first glance, half submerged and luminous in the frayed light.
She couldn’t explain it then, the urge to hide on one’s birthday, but recently she read a passage in Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost about the molting behavior of hermit crabs that explained it perfectly. Hermit crabs have soft, vulnerable bodies, so they scavenge for shells left behind by mollusks. Aside from shedding their exoskeletons, this shell-search is the riskiest part of a crab’s life. Between scurrying out of a too-small shell to a better-fitted one, any number of things can happen: she could get eaten, lose her old shell to an opportunist crab, or get dragged off by a male crab for mating. At the cusp of the molt, the last thing she wants to do is call attention to herself, so she buries herself in the sand or waits underneath a rock. Read More
In 1926, when British publishers Chatto & Windus accepted Rosamond Lehmann’s first novel, Dusty Answer, they had modest hopes of its success. Young authors and tales of youthful experience dominated the market at the time, a craze sparked by Alec Waugh’s autobiographical best seller The Loom of Youth, published in 1917, when he was nineteen. And twenty-six-year-old Lehmann had written a book “of decided quality,” thought Chatto director Harold Raymond, who nevertheless told her that they didn’t expect to make any money. The novel received a few reviews following its publication at the end of April 1927. “This is, indeed, one of the most charming and convincing studies of young womanhood that we have read for some time,” said The Spectator. “But the story is too sad for popular taste.” Such an assessment was, it seemed, borne out by the less-than-brisk sales. Then a week later, the Sunday Times ran a review by the poet and critic Alfred Noyes, who was an old friend of Lehmann’s father’s, and whose praise was the stuff of debut novelists’ dreams:
It is not often that one can say with confidence of a first novel by a young writer that it reveals new possibilities for literature. But there are qualities in this book that mark it out as quite the most striking first novel of this generation … The modern young woman, with all her frankness and perplexities in the semi-pagan world of today, has never been depicted with more honesty, or with more exquisite art.
The world took notice, and an overnight literary phenomenon was born. During the summer of 1927, a whirlwind of publicity enveloped Lehmann, to her amazement and mild chagrin. “It’s rather terrifying somehow,” she confided to Raymond, “when a thing you have made yourself, very privately, becomes so very public.” Read More