Reading Kristín Ómarsdóttir’s Poetry After Visiting The Visitors

by Rebecca Fish Ewan

My first impression of Iceland formed in 1980, my college freshman year, when I learned in geology class that Iceland was the youngest land on Earth. Young in the sense that new ground emerged from a molten womb all day and every day without end. I yearned to visit this infant place. It took thirty-six years to realize this desire and by then I had heard that people lived there too.

To prepare for my trip to Iceland, I bought a map and a small stack of books—The Sagas of Icelanders, Halldór Laxness’s Independent People, Oddný Eir’s Land of Love and Ruins, Eva Heisler’s Reading Emily Dickinson in Icelandic, Alda Sigmundsdóttir’s The Little Book of Hidden People and The Little Book of Icelandic, as well as the Iceland Pocket Guide. I listened to bits of books read in Icelandic, tried to learn phrases and words, hoping to find an occasion on my travels to say bergmálor sindrandi, words for echo and shimmering that seemed to emerge from the landscape like magma. I was convinced that the best way to get to know a country was through its landscape, literature and language.

Continue reading “Reading Kristín Ómarsdóttir’s Poetry After Visiting The Visitors”

Inside the Ruin: A Pair of Gilded Aftermaths

by Sarah Ann Winn

I’m not a fan of escape rooms, mainly because I want unlimited time to explore all the clues, to discover mysteries and answers that maybe have nothing to do with the goal, but which have something to do with plot, or connections the designer tries to make. I like well-thought-out red herrings. I love the idea of Sleep No More, the New York City production loosely based on Macbeth, staged in an elaborate and immersive environment that the audience members are “free” to explore, to open drawers and read letters, to smell bottles of perfume on nightstands, to flip through the books on the shelf. I never went, because something about the cast members being able to pull people away from the group, out of their exploration was a little too creepy for me, in what is an already gruesome play. That and the mask requirement.

Walking into Darren Waterston’s in Filthy Lucre at the Freer Sackler Gallery in Washington DC in May of 2017 gave me the same sense I wanted when I read about “Sleep No More.” The viewer enters a world where something has gone terribly wrong Continue reading “Inside the Ruin: A Pair of Gilded Aftermaths”

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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