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Required Reading

‣ Powerhouse photorealist painter and longtime New York artist Audrey Flack, now 92 and still painting, talks with Curbeds Wendy Goodman in her Manhattan apartment, chock-full of ephemera, art, and other gems:

She pioneered photorealism along with Chuck Close, Richard Estes, and Robert Bechtle. But “I had to be better than the men to be accepted,” Flack says. Her new memoir also talks about the challenges she faced as a woman artist, complicated by her abusive first marriage, and the challenges of raising her daughters — the eldest was born with severe autism in 1959. It also peels back the romantic notion of what went on at the Cedar Bar and the artists involved, especially the women who were her peers.

Her second husband, Flack says, “saved my life; he saved my kid’s.”

In the early ’80s she suffered a deep depression and stopped painting. Instead of spending time in the studio, she would go to the same bench on an island in the middle of Broadway near the apartment and sit there for the day. For two years, Flack made notes trying to figure out what had happened to her and why she had shut down. And after two years she was ready to open the door to the studio, not to paint, but to sculpt, which she did for the next ten years.

‣ Palestinians in Gaza are facing starvation amid the Israeli military’s bombings, and one family in Canada says their relative died from malnutrition while waiting for his temporary visa to arrive. For CBC, Sheena Goodyear speaks with his sister and nephew:

Marcus says the last time he and his mother spoke to their family in Gaza before his uncle died, Lina was in a “devastated state.”

“She was sobbing and like, saying that they honestly don’t have anything to eat. They were surviving off of a date for, like, the day,” he said.

“Then they’re just drinking, she called it sewage water, but unsanitary water because there’s just no infrastructure left in Gaza.”

Communications are spotty in Gaza, and Marcus says they’ve only been able to speak to Lina and Ismail intermittently during the war. They only found out that Ismail had died when Lina posted about it on Facebook. 

Marcus says it appears his uncle’s heart gave out after months of malnutrition.

“He just passed from something that’s so preventable,” he said.

‣ A new Renaissance mystery was solved this week, this time reuniting eight canvases in Milan from a magnificent Piero della Francesca altarpiece. Lorenzo Tondo writes for the Guardian:

The eight known components of the artwork had been scattered across different locations since its dismemberment at the end of the 16th century. Throughout its history, several attempts by museums to reunite the dispersed panels from the original polyptych, located in five museums across Europe and the US, have been unsuccessful. Until Tuesday, when the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in Milan, thanks to loans from the UK, US, and Portugal, managed to reunite the eight known panels – combining their Saint Nicholas with the four from the Frick Collection in New York and those from the National Gallery in London, the National Gallery in Washington DC, and the Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon to exhibit them in the show Piero della Francesca and the Augustinian Polyptych Reunited.

The director of the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Alessandra Quarto, described the move as “the reunion of the century”, noting her success this time after learning the Frick collection would be closed for six months. With the works temporarily heading to storage, the New York museum agreed to the loan, facilitating agreements with museums in London, Washington, DC and Lisbon.

‣ Laura Baisas reports for Popular Science on the fascinating remnants of a settlement lost to a fire 3,000 years ago, granting us a window into Bronze-Age village life. Meat porridge even shows up at the site, perhaps an early ancestor of Britain’s notoriously mediocre cuisine?

Despite being encased in mud for thousands of years, many of the artifacts still have signs of their daily use. A pottery bowl bearing the finger-marks by the individual who made it was found containing its final meal. It was a wheat-grain porridge mixed with animal fats–potentially goat or red deer–and a wooden spatula used for stirring was resting against the inside of the bowl.

“It appears the occupants saved their meat juices to use as toppings for porridge,” said Wakefield. “The site is providing us with hints of recipes for Bronze Age breakfasts and roast dinners. Chemical analyses of the bowls and jars showed traces of honey along with ruminant meats such as deer, suggesting these ingredients were combined to create a form of prehistoric honey-glazed venison.”

‣ Women in Medieval Europe often used letters and embroidery to express themselves and quietly subvert the rigid societal expectations that hemmed them in. Scholar Pragya Agarwal writes for Smithsonian Magazine:

In collaboration with noblewoman Elizabeth Talbot (widely known as Bess of Hardwick), Mary, Queen of Scots, designed several embroidery and lace patterns. The designs were a way to express her agency and emotions during her captivity.

Mary’s designs were a symbol of her pride and resistance, especially as her letters were under constant surveillance. Her use of color and symbols showed her grief and melancholy. In one panel, a crowned ginger cat is pictured with a gray mouse, representing the Scottish queen’s fractious relationship with her cousin Elizabeth I.

While these letters and embroidered messages offer fascinating insights into the emotions of medieval women, most of them are from women of high social standing who had wealth and privilege. Women from lower classes generally weren’t educated, so they couldn’t make use of these forms. And the archives have gaps. What was perceived to be of value has been saved for posterity, while that which did not hold cultural currency was not.

‣ Haitian filmmakers have long memorialized the Haitian Revolution through a range of cinematic approaches, traced by Yasmina Price in an essay for Hammer & Hope:

Often working in exile, many Haitian filmmakers, artists, and scholars have been steadfast in resisting both domestic repression and the pressures of the dominant Euro-American cultural industries. These same mechanisms have impacted the preservation, distribution, and exhibition of Haitian films locally and abroad. In the diaspora, crucial efforts have come through organizations such as the Haiti Cultural Exchange and CUNY Haitian Studies Institute in New York, and this essay itself was written in conjunction with a film series, Struggle of Memory: Forgetting Haiti, Remembering Ayiti, at Anthology Film Archives. In her introduction to the anthology The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States (2001), the celebrated Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat (who participated in an opening conversation for the series) describes a collaborative project about the history of Haitian cinema undertaken with Dominique, her friend and mentor, and the American filmmaker Jonathan Demme, whose work includes Haiti: Dreams of Democracy (1988) and The Agronomist, a 2003 documentary about Dominique’s life co-produced by Danticat.

‣ You’ve probably already seen the video of a climate protester interrupting a Henrik Ibsen play last week on Broadway, to the instant chagrin of its actors. Caroline Levine reflects on the intentionally disruptive demonstration and the history it builds upon for the Nation:

This is an old story for activists. No matter what the action, it is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is loud. It is inappropriate. It makes no difference. It creates backlash. Activists should be less strident and more savvy and moderate—less attention-grabby, more decorous.

But the historical record tells a different story. Activists have shaped almost every aspect of our daily lives, from eliminating poison from our pepper to creating public parks, eradicating smallpox, and ensuring that we all learn some math. In 1850, you could be fired for missing a day of work for illness, and your employer owed you nothing if you happened to lose your arm in one of his machines. We have generations of activists to thank for medical leave and worker safety protections.

‣ This new device might make it possible for us to talk to our dogs … be still my heart. Jessica Lucas explains for Daily Beast:

The patent is certainly full of possibilities. It contains all kinds of suggestions about a world revolutionized by FluentPet: dogs that are able to alert humans about impending earthquakes, drug dogs that can tell police officers exactly which drug they’ve picked up the scent of, increased spending on pet products from dogs that can verbally demand new toys, and even a form of FluentPet-enabled dog telepathy. It raises questions about the aims of the company, its plans for the 8 million points of data collated by its dedicated user base of pet owners and animals, and what those things could mean for the future of automation.

One of the more fantastical ideas in FluentPet’s patent is its potential future plans for its button-based technology. The document outlines a process in which AI would be trained to track the brain activity of dogs while they use FluentPet buttons, eventually resulting in a system which would predict which button a dog was thinking about pressing before it pressed it. These dogs would have AI-enabled abilities akin to telepathy, allowing them to communicate—or even operate smart home systems attached to doors and food dispensers—just by thinking.

‣ A handy illustrated guide to submitting FOIA requests by Nate Jones and Emily Joynton in the Washington Post:

‣ As someone who’s still trying to shake the devastating typo “Lunchmeat,” where has this been all my life?!


The I Am Not A Typo campaign is calling on tech giants to ‘correct autocorrect’ in the name of equality and to truly represent the amazing multiculturalism of UK. One researcher who has been a key advocate for the cause said “My name is Dhruti. Not Drutee, Dirty, or even Dorito. And yet these are all words my name has been changed to, often because of an autocorrect decision or a rushed message,” says writer and journalist Dhruti Shah. And this is not a new issues as across all girls and boys names given to children in England and Wales in 2021, nearly 6,000 (out of 13,532) were deemed ‘wrong’ or ‘not accepted’ when tested on Microsoft’s English dictionary. #iamnotatypo #typo #multicultural #uk #cultural

♬ Solas X Interstellar – Gabriel Albuquerqüe

‣ A synopsis of the fever dream that is the new JLo movie:

Shah Rukh Khan has left the chat (we still love him, though):

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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