Issue 110 features paintings by Matt Kleberg paired with an excerpt from Jamie Quatro’s novel in progress. Also inside: Jonathan Anderson and James Elkins debate the persistent presence of religion in postmodern art; Kyle Dugdale on architecture and icons—both Orthodox and Apple; Sara Zarr on Nomadland, the new economy, and the spirituality of living in cars; Jason K. Friedman on the ethical strength of cheerfulness; Melissa Florer-Bixler on the border wall and the Sonoran ecosystem; photographing the legacy of redlining; a new magazine explores what we need from photojournalism; Eric Aho on painting “behind God’s back;” creative nonfiction by Parnaz Foroutan and fiction by Susan Neville; poems by Linda Gregerson, Luci Shaw, Philip Metres, and more.
The Way of the Critic: To Judge Is to Love
Good criticism also helps us see why some art doesn’t work, or works poorly, activating the worst in us. When criticism is judgmental in the sense of being censorious, that too is in the service of art and our experience. The critic is showing us why we need and deserve better.
Haji Gershin’s Hamam
Every time the women came to bathe, inevitably, someone’s bracelet or earring fell into the drain, and the head female bath attendant led a blindfolded Haji Gershin into the baths, where he stood amidst the naked women, tapping the copper pipes, his head cocked to the side.
I felt / the soil-dark downward / proof of being, the earth / an appetite, an almost-love, the air / a meeting ground, / the whole of seeing / seeable
The Unvarnished Truth
Throughout the winter, Dr. Iske obsessively polished their furniture with oil. He had studied plant biology in college before going on to med school, and when he saw varnished wood, he saw the tree it had come from.
Plague Psalm 90
A psalm for the plague year by Philip Metres: “Loss, you have been our regent, / Refusing the refugees / you sent. / / Truly we’re boxed in an annex / Of the mansion / of your text.”
Wasim’s was the only part of the family cut off when the wall was erected, the rest residing on the other side near the Israeli settlement of Gilo. From their family balcony, Gilo can be seen—ten thousand red-roofed pillars by night, one colossal cloud by day.
But innocence / / Is not responsibility / cleansed by command / And water, lifted, can but flee / the trembling hand.
To the Ram’s Horn I Cannot Sound
The sound I imagine / you make has to / hold me and wake / me to its own kind / of internal return.
The Day of Big Trouble
How a thing looked was important. Not just Is it useful, but Is it nice to look at. Trees made fruit, and fruit is useful, he’d said to Zeke. But before fruit comes flowers, and there’s not a thing to be done with them but look.
In the Studio
I cut a hole in the ice each winter, an extraordinary black trapezoid—“avanto” in Finnish—intended for the bracing plunge to follow the extreme heat of the Finnish sauna. The shape carries so much personal meaning.
The Strange Persistence of Religion in Contemporary Art
We’re talking here about two projects: rereading art history to recover a wider context for religious meaning, and rereading it to recover a wider sense of the art historical project. You are aiming at the first, which is the larger and more important one, but our examples have been mainly the second, which would be a tonic to the discipline.
The Lamp of Art
Beginning and beginning again, / the eye opens to see the border / of its galaxy and finds there a snake.
The Double Lamp of Solitude
Occasionally, she would indulge / in controlled acts of remembrance, / letting the distant world intrude. / She found this sometimes helpful / to her investigations, but a little / went a long way.
Relational Cartography: Photographing the Landscape of Redlining
We get the crap… If you get white people over here, then they’ll start making the produce look worthy… It shouldn’t be like that. This is our city… We care just as much about our kids, just as much as the white people out there in Williamsville, Amherst, and other surrounding areas… Why can’t our kids see the same things?
Lasting images go beyond the simple act of documenting a moment by demanding a response from the viewer. The viewer reacts at a much deeper level, like we do to smell, but with the eyes.
Not So Much an End as an Entangling
And then the angel pulled, just slightly, / on one of the threads / composing the linen / the painter had tacked to his stretcher.
When We Say It’s the Little Things
It’s the taste of that first sip / of coffee, rich and strong, the Mr. Coffee cup warmer / on your desk. It’s having the right pen.
Summer already fading, out of the question. Light / arrives at an oblique angle. Scatters of rain. Yet here / we are, alive and attentive
The trees of evening are filled, a sieve of leaves and small birds, the resident choir offering an evening orison of twitter. But look! high on the power line a singular sentinel robin conducts the evening’s benediction of western light glittering across the bay, between the islands, all the way to Canada. Luci…
The Drowned Man
When Moses led / the senseless run toward the waters, I pulled / the reins to slow my horses. But then the sea / diverged itself into two walls and stood / as if held by glass.
At the Shore
I begin with the soul, that escape / artist, that meme.
I’d Have Two Gorgeous Bishops
I am soothing; on an empty leash, eyes / cease to be sexy.
In my family, as in others, it was money that finally broke us apart. The brother who was out—my uncle—was now in; the brother who was in—my father—was now out. An old story, set now in southeast Georgia: Lear in the Low Country, the prodigal son come home to the provinces.
Somewhere in This Country
He’ll rewire you / Because you let him, no, because you were looking / Always for someone who could.
The Uncontained Life
It’s as though the movie represents an alternate life for any of us. Take away a job. Take away a spouse. Take away an able body. Take away good mental health. How many of us could maintain our current lifestyles for long before we’d feel the crunch, the walls closing in?
The Light of Promise
Today, in a comprehensive fulfilment of biblical promise, your iPhone, which counts your steps and is acquainted with your ways both public and private, will offer to route your path home and watch over your lying down.
From The Right Hand
This faith was not mine / this bite into colorless / this flush with skin and bones / this eating the circle this / fingering of names
Dressed by God
Each body a consecrated temple. / That means // sister, no one needs to see / past your knees.
Water in the Desert
The waters of the Sonoran Desert are scarce and wily. In O’odham lands, shy rivers will retreat underground, seeping into the sand, as if to rest from the seen world for a while.
Rose Petals Burned
We cannot see our loved ones, shut into hospitals / like mysterious shrines, taken out alive or dead. // They close our eyes. We have no say in whether / we breathe or not.
And so, emboldened by what the angel told them, / off they went toward Bethlehem to find / the swaddled babe and manger and lolling beasts, / their beauty and their beings ramified / in carols lightening our lamentations
Is it always necessary— / I think but do not say— / for the eyes of men / to penetrate the ways of the most high?
were onto something, separating the good god / from all of this, but you’re so stubborn, you / insist on hanging dead in the web