• After the Rijksmuseum’s landmark Vermeer retrospective opened last month, writer Lawrence Weschler traveled to Amsterdam for the Atlantic to investigate art historian Benjamin Binstock’s widely ignored theory that six of Vermeer’s paintings may have actually been created by his daughter, Maria:

If Vermeer didn’t paint all of the works attributed to him, then why is there no record of Vermeer ever having had any kind of assistant, despite the strict rule of the local painters’ guild (of which Vermeer was for a time the head) that assistants be registered? How could a girl as young as Maria—a teenager, if Binstock’s chronology is correct—have possibly created a painting as extraordinary as Girl With a Red Hat? Also: Why would Maria have suddenly stopped painting—and isn’t it too much of a coincidence that she stopped painting when her father died? And is Binstock’s chronology even correct? The dates he assigns to paintings are crucial to his narrative, but some differ significantly from the dates proposed by others, providing ample scope for debate. Critics could have raised these and other questions—but again, no one did.

  • A team of scientists created what they call the “lightest paint in the world,” with the capability to keep surfaces cool and change into any color. Max G. Levy writes for Wired about this “structural paint” and its range of potential applications, from aircraft design to urban planning:

Structural paint may also last longer. (Some airlines repaint planes every four years.) Pigment molecules break down in sunlight but structural color doesn’t—so it doesn’t fade. “We have all these ways of trying to fix pigment, to try to prevent it from oxidizing and losing its color. Or it fades and we throw it in the landfill,” says Baumeister, who is also a cofounder of consultancy Biomimicry 3.8. “But when you need color to last forever—for the life of the organism—structural color is preferred.”

Chanda’s team also realized that, unlike conventional paint, structural paint doesn’t absorb infrared radiation, so it doesn’t trap heat. (“That’s the reason your car gets hot in the hot sun,” he says.) The new paint is inherently cooling in comparison: Based on the lab’s preliminary experiments, it can keep surfaces 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than conventional paint.

  • For Berkeleyside, Iris Kwok mines the decades-long legacy of education and activism at Eastwind Books, which was one of the first Asian-American bookstores in the country and will close its doors at the end of next month:

When Harvey and Beatrice took over Eastwind Books’ Berkeley location, it had been in operation for 14 years, owned by a Hong Kong company and focusing on books written in Chinese, not English. (The Hong Kong company had two other Eastwind locations in L.A. and San Francisco; the Dongs were never involved.) 

They slowly started to fill the shelves with the kind of books they wanted to read — Asian American and ethnic studies books and literature with a focus on social justice. There were fewer titles to choose from back then, when the field of Asian American studies was still new and most publishers were hesitant to bet on books they thought wouldn’t sell. At first, offerings tended to be nonfiction books written by local historians and professors. 

“At one point, I could count on a desk the number of books that were written by Asian Americans about Asian American things,” said Asian American activist Steve Louie, who sometimes helped out at the store. By 2000, Louie said, “you could have a dozen shelves … and that’s just a conservative view because Harvey and Bea couldn’t carry everything.” 

  • Ingrid Rojas Contreras, a Colombian novelist who recently released her second book, muses on touring the mazes of Europe and the act of getting lost in a new piece for the New York Times:

A different sort of maze exists underneath the city of Paris. Most of it is closed to the public, but that doesn’t stop lovers of the labyrinthine from sneaking in.

I meet Léo Kavernicol there, 65 feet below ground in the Parisian catacombs. She is a cataphile, an urban explorer entranced by the secret catacombs — a network of subterranean ancient stone quarries, tunnels and galleries that sprawl for more than 170 miles in a sort of negative of the city above. No high-minded noblewomen inspired this place. The catacombs were born in the 18th century, when some of the abandoned limestone quarries began to weaken and parts of the city caved in. Overflowing cemeteries meant the bones of Parisians, some of them 1,200 years old, had to be relocated. As officials dug tunnels to connect the quarries and reinforce them, and to give a resting place to the dead, they created, inadvertently, a maze.

  • Actor Mira Sethi pens an essay for the New Yorker on sexism, patriarchal violence, and the annual Aurat March for gender justice in Pakistan:

In 2018, Aurat March, a local version of the Women’s March, attempted to expand the contours of the discourse on women’s freedoms—social, economic, political. Every year since then, major Pakistani cities hold Aurat March in the face of much criticism. In fact, the march has become so controversial that merely participating in it casts one as provocative.

Aurat March stirs moral panic in Pakistan, “an overriding and pervasive fear that the very fabric of society is being destroyed by the spread of some perceived immorality,” Arsalan Khan, an assistant professor of anthropology at Union College, New York, told me. “Women’s self-assertion is framed in the idiom of sexual immodesty and thus a threat to family and society.”

  • On NPR’s Code Switch, listen to 15 accounts of the Montgomery Bus Boycott from some of the women who led it, including Claudette Colvin and Gwendolyn Patton:

Colvin told her story to Radio Diaries, explaining that when the bus driver ordered her to get up, she refused, saying she’d paid her fare and that it was her constitutional right. Two police officers put her in handcuffs and arrested her. Her school books went flying off her lap.

“So the bus driver yelled to the back, ‘Give me them seats.’ But I remained seated. Since I had been studying in history the injustices, segregation, and talk about our heroes, it felt like Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth’s hand on me pushed me down on another one. History had me glued to the seat.”

  • Nadra Nittle breaks down why classified workers and teachers in Los Angeles schools are on strike for better wages and healthcare in The 19th:

Alicia Montes also wants to be better compensated as a classified worker. She is a campus aide at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, home to four different high schools in L.A.’s Westlake District. The role requires her to ensure that trespassers don’t walk onto school grounds and that students get to class safely, among other duties. Montes has worked for the district continuously since 2006, and before then as a teacher’s aide from about 1984 to 1995.  Despite her years of service, the 63-year-old makes less than $30,000 annually, she said. Montes survives by splitting the cost of rent with her nephew and living frugally.

“They need to realize that — the campus aides, the [teaching assistants], cafeteria people, the building and grounds workers — we’re the ones taking care of the school,” she said of LAUSD officials. “The teachers are teaching the kids, but it’s the support staff that is here making sure that the school runs.”

  • With access to Plan B increasingly at risk (thank you, Walgreens), Rebecca Barker reports for Rewire News Group on college students pushing for vending machines that supply emergency contraceptives:

Paige Shayne, a Tufts junior and president of Tufts NARAL, said it is heartening to see how the vending machine has expanded access to sexual health and wellness for all students. She hopes it has raised awareness that reproductive health affects everyone, regardless of gender.

“We love seeing students buying from the machine without embarrassment, and we’re hoping that the information in the machine for Plan B erases a lot of the misconceptions about contraception and abortion,” Shayne said. “So many students were really enthusiastic when the machine was first installed, which shows how supportive and open the campus is generally to reproductive health, so it’s been exciting for us to see students use the machine every day.”

  • The next generation of filmmakers carrying forward a … time-honored tradition 👀: 
  • Happy National Puppy Day! Here’s a compilation of your favorite famous dogs as youngins:

Your favorite dogs as puppies 🥰 #nationalpuppyday #weratedogs @adventuringwithnala @chowderthebulldog @madmax_fluffyroad @tuckerbudzyn @dougthepug @tofu_corgi @fenixlumiere @goldenchilaquil @good.boy.ollie #greenscreenvideo #greenscreen

♬ original sound – weratedogs
  • Last in animal news this week, but certainly not least, the cats tasked with guarding the graves of poets John Keates and Percy Bysshe Shelley are now on Instagram (@piramidegatti23):
The latest post from the @piramidegatti23 Instagram account, featuring a very diligent guardcat (screenshot Lakshmi Rivera Amin/Hyperallergic)

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it 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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Lakshmi Rivera Amin

Lakshmi Rivera Amin (she/her) is a writer and artist based in New York City. She currently works as Hyperallergic's editorial coordinator.

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