Archive for Arts

“Where the Sagebrush Grows”

Brittany Bronson’s review of my friend John Glionna‘s book, “Outback Nevada: Real Stories from the Silver State,” really captures Glionna’s gifts and the heart of his charming, striking feature writing.

Most of Nevada’s land — almost 86 percent — is uninhabited by people, covered in sagebrush, and managed by the federal government. That leaves plenty of room for the imagination. Green corporations envision wind farms. Red politicians see a dumping grounds for the nation’s nuclear waste. Even for those who have driven one of those two-lane highways stretching across high desert, it is still easy to assume that there is nothing, and no one, out there.

John M. Glionna sets out to prove the opposite in Outback Nevada: Real Stories from the Silver State, a collection of reported essays profiling the inhabitants of “the real Nevada.” Written between 2013 and 2021, the essays span the rise and fall of President Donald Trump, a worsening drought, and a global pandemic. Glionna lets his subjects serve as the narrators, comedians, and political commentators, and his cast of characters is well curated. They disrupt any assumptions of Nevada as a culturally homogeneous place.

The book’s 45 subjects include a Catholic priest who conducts mass in casinos; elderly best friends who have outlived their cowboy husbands; a Shoshone activist who uses art to comment on the environmental impacts of mining; the Thunder Mountain Indian Monument; and the daily police blotters of the state’s smallest towns, full of “scandal, buzz or scuttlebutt.”

neighbour today

Stunning work

With some friends on Saturday I visited the rennie museum to see a group exhibition of work by photographers Katy Grannan, Andres Serrano, and Larry Clark (their photographs left to right). It was a thrillingly moving experience for me.

This is the museum’s penultimate show, as Bob Rennie, who owns and who restored the 51 E. Pender building, the oldest in Vancouver’s Chinatown, announced last month that the building will soon be home to the first Chinese Canadian Museum in the country. I know the new incarnation will be marvellous, but I will make sure I get down to E. Pender to see this show again, and the last one, too (I don’t believe the artists have been announced for that one yet).

A note about the middle image above, Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ.” You can see the damage to this photograph, which was attacked with hammers in Avignon, France, on Palm Sunday in 2011. Several other large photographs by Serrano in this exhibit had also been attacked in another previous showing, the cracked and smashed glass covered over by bright red tape.

Great photographs teach you how to see them. But not everyone is you.

Sunday reading

Henry James by way of The New York Review of Books is always good:

James summarizes the moral that America emerging from the Gilded Age seems to offer: “To make so much money that you won’t, that you don’t ‘mind,’ don’t mind anything—that is absolutely, I think, the main American formula.” It follows that if you don’t make money you will “mind” the public thinness and waste of American life, and be reduced to “the knowledge that America is no place for you.” There is a grim social price paid by American “progress”; finding in the city streets a “new style of poverty” compared with what he had observed in European cities, James notes: “There is such a thing, in the United States, it is hence to be inferred, as freedom to grow up to be blighted, and it may be the only freedom in store for the smaller fry of future generations.”

‘Heroines Revisited’ review

Mala Rai’s review of Lincoln Clarkes‘ “Heroines Revisited” gets the important things exactly right.

For the people that loved her, whether she is missing, deceased, or transformed, these pages are a sensitive keepsake. As half the women photographed may be closely connected to [or even have been among] are murdered and missing indigenous women, these pictures may be the sole glimpse into a family member or friend’s troubled time. How can the surroundings be so dire, yet every woman in that instance is utterly stunning? They are in terribly vulnerable places, yet invoke the persona of tough-as-nails heroine: Your sister riding a 10 speed, smoking a cigarette, clad in page boy at and a crop top. Your former high school friend at St. Paul’s hospital, perched in a confident, yogi pose upon her bed. The woman who’d become your mother, about to inject, focused on her syringe, but 13 pages later, impeccably put together, she is confidently staring right back at you. A tender Mother’s Day sisterhood collective. Perhaps their arrival at that destination in life was a shock. Maybe it was expected. It isn’t profound sadness or pain that I see in each frame, but the significance of these women in our society. They likely had no idea that their images in the finished product would comprise a collection of artful history. The pictures make us hunger for more details of each person’s personal history, but there are no crumbs to spare.