After the Art – Issue 1

Welcome to After the Art‘s inaugural issue!

After the Art publishes personal review essays that explore the way reading can enrich the experience of looking at art.

We hope you enjoy these first four:

“I Heart Appalachian Art: Between Chlamydia And Twang” by Diane Seuss

“Looking for Vermeer” by Michael White

“Dark Emeralds at White Castle” by Jean Harper

“Hey, Vancouver!  Where’s Your Soul?” by Nicole Breit Continue reading “After the Art – Issue 1”

I Heart Appalachian Art: Between Chlamydia and Twang

by Diane Seuss

I stumbled upon Rebecca Morgan’s drawings, paintings, and ceramics a few years ago, in the way those of us who don’t live in big cities with access to galleries find art—on the internet. Even viewing them on a screen, robbed of their true scale, I was bowled over by their liveliness. Her art rises almost exclusively from her rural upbringing in the Appalachian region of central Pennsylvania and is focused on the human figure in a landscape of pines, grasses, wildflowers, cattails, and other signifiers of the world beyond culture. Still life components in the paintings and drawings—Cheetos, Big Gulps, sunglasses mirrored rainbow, Jell-O salads decorated like American flags, granny afghans, hunting dogs, corn on the cob, Mountain Dew—bring cultural debris in, perverse, comical, rapturous. Morgan’s figures are not just un-idealized, they’re purposely grotesque. Bodies are covered in zits and bug bites. Eyebrows aren’t just unplucked; they’re bushy as a cowboy’s mustache. Eyes are sometimes tiny on doughy faces. Teeth are yellow or green and as crooked as old tombstones. Women’s bodies are large, unshaved, tattooed, fingers capped with fake nails. Continue reading “I Heart Appalachian Art: Between Chlamydia and Twang”

Looking for Vermeer

by Michael White

A few years ago, in the midst of a bad divorce, I flew to Amsterdam. I rented a bicycle at Central Station and rode all over town, across canals and through the sprawling, leafy Vondelpark. Then I visited the nearby Van Gogh museum. I was saving the huge Rijksmuseum for my second day. I had a vague idea that I wanted to see the Rembrandts. I’d been depressed for months, and I thought the Rembrandts might somehow help.

At that time, the Rijksmuseum was undergoing a major renovation. Wandering through the crowded galleries, I remember passing a doorway on my left. A sign said: Vermeer Room. I decided to pop in for a second. Three small paintings hung on the far wall. As I moved closer, I felt an electrostatic charge in the air that shivered the skin on my forearms. A little further, and goosebumps appeared. Continue reading “Looking for Vermeer”

Dark Emeralds at White Castle

by Jean Harper

In the painting, there is one dark head at the window, and I think he—yes, he—this man in the 24-hour White Castle, somewhere in Missouri, is leaning with his back to the rain slicked glass, reading a book of poetry. Not a newspaper, for we might see a corner of the news tipped into the light.  Not a magazine, for why in the middle of a rainy night go to an all-night White Castle in Middle America to read a magazine.  Those are in waiting rooms – doctors’, dentists’, hairdressers’. Here, perhaps on a side street in St. Louis, the man in White Castle is reading something contemplative, yet with joy in it.  I want him to be reading James Wright, maybe The Collected Poems.  I think his daughter has given it to him, a gift attached to no holiday, just: Here, Dad. Continue reading “Dark Emeralds at White Castle”

Hey, Vancouver! Where’s Your Soul?

by Nicole Breit

“We often forget, living here in Vancouver, that we live in the youngest city on earth, a city almost entirely of, and only of, the twentieth century….we live, not so much in a city but in a dream of a city.”
~Douglas Coupland, Polaroids from the Dead, 1996

“In thirty years,  most North American cities ought to be pretty much the same as they are now…A few new buildings, a few more people, bigger trees—you get the idea. But Vancouver? We have no idea what this place is going to be like next year, let alone in a few decades.”
~Douglas Coupland, City of Glass, 2000.

♦ ♦ ♦

I was six when my catechism teacher told us that Jesus was everywhere. Present, especially, in those who were less fortunate—those living in poverty, poor health, or poor in spirit.

By my late teens art became my religion. But I never disavowed what I understood to be a simple message, too often obscured.

Be kind.
Continue reading “Hey, Vancouver! Where’s Your Soul?”

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