Weekend

Required Reading

This week, the UK’s poetry pavilion, Georgia O’Keeffe’s sister Ida, grad school mental health, underground queer Persian dinners in LA, and more.

British set designer Es Devlin is designing the UK Pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020, with a “performative structure that will use artificial intelligence to write poems.” According to Dezeen: “Called the Poem Pavilion, the structure will be the first UK Pavilion created by a female designer. It will feature an illuminated “message to space” made up of numerous AI-generated poems, which the Expo’s anticipated 25 million visitors will be invited to contribute to.“ More photos at Dezeen (via Deezen)

A new study by a team of Harvard-affiliated researchers highlights one of the consequences of these realities: Graduate students are disproportionately likely to struggle with mental-health issues. The researchers surveyed roughly 500 economics Ph.D. candidates at eight elite universities, and found that 18 percent of them experienced moderate or severe symptoms of depression and anxiety. That’s more than three times the national average, according to the study. Roughly one in 10 students in the Harvard survey also reported having suicidal thoughts on at least several days within the prior two weeks. (Other recent studies have had similar findings, including one published earlier this year that described graduate-student mental health as a “crisis.”)

Savage Taste is a queer, Persian pop-up dinner series in Los Angeles, run by Parnian out of her apartment since July 2017; that November night was her version of Friendsgiving, the millennial feast day, featuring Cornish hens stuffed with walnuts, pomegranate, and barberries, based on a recipe passed down from Parnian’s grandmother; a sweet potato braise of her own invention; and adas polo, or a rice with lentils and raisins, with a crunchy tahdig sibzamini, or potato-rice crust. Somewhere between a restaurant and a dinner party, Parnian’s events are notable not just for their accomplished cooking, but for the remarkable connections Parnian creates between attendees. In a fragmented, lonesome Los Angeles, its queer institutions fraying just as the city floods with newcomers who, however subconsciously, expect the city’s lush lifestyle to improve their life, dinners like these are creating a much-needed community hub.

A subsequent Associated Press article in The Los Angeles Times revealed that Ms. Thompson was not of European descent — as had been commonly assumed — but “a full-blooded Cherokee Indian” from Oklahoma. That detail, Ms. Meister said, raises the compelling question of whether “Migrant Mother” would have resonated so widely if viewers knew the subjects were Native American.

Disneyland has been granted a US trademark over the words “Hakuna matata” vide registration number 27006605. Hakuna Matata is a Kiswahili slogan meaning no problem, no worries.

… Totally unrelated to the Disneyland trademark, there are a lot of lessons for Kenya and the East African Community (EAC) to learn. The first is the need to have a structured framework to protect our national and regional heritage. Kiswahili is spoken throughout EAC and it would be unreasonable for one particular country to claim ownership of the language. However, some words form part of our heritage and ought to be protected where possible.

For two years, Rodriguez has been studying natural sources of color — plants, flowers, insects and oxides — and has researched historical methods of preparing them, including indigenous techniques that predate European colonization. (Those orchid bulbs? She located them via a friend who studies medieval history and supplied her with a recipe for how to prepare them.) But it’s not just her materials that nod to the past. She has used these pigments in a series of paintings inspired by the elaborate codices of the Mexican colonial era.

The series, titled “Codex Rodriguez-Mondragón,” after her father’s and mother’s surnames, serves as a curious record of our time. Like colonial codices, her paintings function as literal and cultural maps, delineating borders and capturing aspects of the landscape, including flora and fauna. But they also record the current political moment — in particular, issues of immigration. Look closely at one of Rodriguez’s large-scale map paintings and you will find images of protests, deportations and the tent city where migrant children, separated from their parents, are warehoused in Texas.

But while Georgia pursued art with laser focus, Ida’s interests were more varied: she wrote short stories, studied Native American anthropology, and worked on and off as a nurse, earning her nursing degree from New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital during World War I. Ida, who also taught drawing, began taking her own art more seriously when she discovered oil painting in the twenties, creating a series of still lifes and landscapes in a naturalistic style. Georgia and Stieglitz, who married in 1924, were struck by Ida’s creative vision, which she also expressed through flower arrangements. “Ida is truly an artist, too, if ever there was one,” Stieglitz wrote to journalist Paul Rosenfeld in 1924. “She has done things in that way which compare with Georgia’s best paintings—the same spirit—the same balanced sensibility—the amazing feel for color and texture.” In 1927 Georgia curated an exhibition at New York’s Opportunity Gallery that included five paintings by Ida, who exhibited under the name Ida Ten Eyck.

Like many gestures of colonization, the exhibition uses misplaced nostalgia for actually existing cultures as a smoke screen for complicity with their destruction, in this case through gentrification.

The girls, now in their late 20s and early 30s, allege in a series of federal civil lawsuits filed over the past decade that Epstein sexually abused hundreds of girls, not only in Palm Beach, but at his homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and in the Caribbean.

In 2007, the FBI had prepared a 53-page federal indictment charging Epstein with sex crimes that could have put him in federal prison for life. But then-Miami U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta signed off on a non-prosecution agreement, which was negotiated, signed and sealed so that no one would know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes. The indictment was shelved, never to be seen again.

  • I’ve never met Aram Mjroian but really want to after reading this essay, which describes how writing about his experience as part of a diaspora helps prevent history from being forgotten:

When writing fiction, whether I’m examining ethnic identity or focused on some other subject matter entirely, I have always been more interested in archiving memories and recreating the world around me than frolicking in the infinite thrills of imagination. That is to say I often write to record altered versions of my experiences or approach a tangible problem in a fictive setting. I avoid too much, if any, autobiographical information, but even our wildest dreams are grounded in our sensory understanding of the world as we perceive it. The romantic idea of separating our senses or identities from writing is impossible. With this mentality, my understanding of my ethnicity has proven integral to my choices as an author. What I’ve come to love most about fiction is its ability to help me examine issues such as ethnic identity from a new perspective. In my nonfiction, it’s easier to approach such subject matter head-on. By putting words on the page, I can solidify thoughts that would otherwise remain undefined, as well as prove — to what I’m certain is my grandfather’s eternal delight — that I’m still here. My name, in the act of being written anywhere or on anything, offers inherent proof of our survival.

  • While people continue to memorialize former US President George H. W. Bush, some people are pointing out that much of what we’re complaining about today with the Trump White House was also done by Bush I. Here are two threads:

  • And the Christmas decorations at the White House are inspiring a lot of commentary. Two of my favorites:

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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