Interviewsand Articles


Editors Introduction w&c #15: East & West

by Richard Whittaker, May 8, 2016



photo by Jacqueline Thurston

“East and West” is not a theme that runs all the way through this issue, but a fit can be made here and there. It’s within reach in relation to our lead interview with artist Jacqueline Thurston, who talks about her time as a Fulbright Scholar in Egypt. Thurston made unexpected connections there and was so touched by her experiences that she’s returning to Egypt to continue her project, and also to work collaboratively with professor Dr. Dardery at South Valley University near Luxor.
     After I’d talked with Jacqueline, Jane Rosen’s recent work came to mind, some of which has an uncanny resonance with the statuary of ancient Egypt. Our feature “East & West” will introduce new readers to this artist, longtime friend and contributing editor.
     If we consider the West’s embrace of the predictable, the quantifiable, then would an embrace of the random and the unpredictable be more aligned with an Eastern sensibility? I suppose that’s stretching it, but it brings us to artist James Melchert. He has long been fascinated with embracing chance as part of his artmaking process. In our interview we talk about that and include some elegant examples of his broken porcelain tiles.
     And chance, as usual, plays its part in bringing us a number of our features. Leigh Hyams happened to be in town, visiting from Mexico. A friend, Theres Rohan, was hosting a little exhibit of Hyams’ work at her home and, as soon as I walked in, Leigh took me over to a table covered with a selection of artist’s books and portfolios. “Here,” she said, picking up a little box full of her dog drawings. “You might like these.” And of course, I did.
     The painter Michael Wells’ work appears thanks to a visit to his studio in connection with another project. After finishing up, it was too much fun looking through his work to rush off. I had to select a few pieces even if they didn’t fit into out theme.
     Then, several months ago, my wife and I were driving through Trona, California, on our way to Death Valley. Trona isn’t a place one associates with art even though the town itself is like some kind of offbeat poetry or maybe a hidden installation from another time and place. So it was a surprise when, on our way out of town, my wife said, “Wait a minute. Did you see that sign? Free Art.”
     I hadn’t, and we made a quick U-turn. Welcome to the work of William Fuller III. Trona is a perfect setting for a movie about an outsider artist, but the best we can do is present a little portfolio of his work. Mr. Fuller was a pleasure to meet.
     My conversation with Livia Stein is the result of my appreciation for her drawings of Gandhi. I wondered what led her to make them. And the chance to bring Gandhi into these pages in any form was too much to pass up. 
     In his contribution for this issue, Enrique Martìnez Celaya ponders some basic questions contemporary art museums face in dealing with conflicting challenges. In light of an ideal of important and exemplary art, how does the concern for status, fashionable positioning and entertainment affect what gets presented to the public? How does a museum maintain postures both of inclusiveness and exclusivity? And is an earlier ideal of the art museum already a thing of the past?
     I have to mention a new section in the magazine, Art of Living, which allows us to include material not usually thought of as being “art.” Mary Stein, longtime student of Aikido—and a black belt—inaugurates our feature with an excerpt from her book, The Gift of Danger. And I’d like to thank James Friedman, the sensei at Suginami Aikikai dojo, who welcomed my visit to photograph Mary working out there, as she does five mornings a week. Did I mention that Mary is closing in on being 80 years old?
     We also have an excerpt from Cooking Com Bigode by Ankur Shaw. Philosophy, content and style come together in this little book to make a delightful and really useful treat.
     Sally Anderson writes about her experience of giving away $500 in cash to strangers. It was part of an experimental project connected with Nipun Mehta and
     By way of disclosure, I fess up that we’ve included an ad in our ad-free publication. It’s for a new book published by Whale and Star, The Conversations, Interviews with Sixteen Contemporary Artists. I admit to feeling a little conflicted about its appearance, but I would recommend this book even if it weren’t a collection of my own interviews.
     And, as always, we have a new episode of Rue Harrison’s Indigo Animal. Enjoy! —rw

About the Author

Richard Whittaker is the founding editor of works & conversations and West Coast editor of Parabola magazine. 


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