All My Stars (9)
March 3, 2016
One in a weekly series in which Joanne McNeil recommends books, films, exhibitions, and more. You can also subscribe to the All My Stars newsletter here.
A friend of mine told me I had to see the Martin Wong exhibition at the Bronx Museum. I missed the press about the show opening last fall and wasn’t familiar with the artist. Busy with other things, I didn’t even look him up before I got the train. I had no idea what was in store and straight up said “wow” quietly to myself when I walked through the gallery, before getting teary because here is another artist of immeasurable talent that AIDS has taken from us.
The exhibition is up for another two weeks. Do not miss if you are anywhere near New York. Here’s a long review (NYT log-in required) with many images including a picture with the caption “Firefighters, at the museum for a routine inspection, discovered Mr. Wong’s ‘Stevy,’ one of the artist’s paintings that depict firefighters in love”
Something else extraordinary: Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. I can’t believe I’ve gone so long without reading her and now I can’t wait to read the rest of her novels. I couldn’t put it down (tbh that’s partly why I took the train to the Bronx to see a retrospective of an artist I knew nothing about.) I think in a handful more years we will start talking about Butler like Philip K. Dick or William Gibson — like a writer we can reference widely and assume everyone has read. She’s that necessary. Just this past weekend there was a conference on her work in Atlanta and Clockshop in Los Angeles launched a year long project with citywide exhibitions and events in her honor. Parable of the Sower is such a vivid book about what it really means to survive in a disaster, how humans connect in chaos, and the force of the will to survive. It is the book to read about surviving after the second term of President Trump (the dates even match up.) There are so many wise observations about power and exploitation and I loved every character in it.
The most recent episode of my favorite podcast You Must Remember This takes the hour to consider the life of Dorothy Parker, with emphasis on her time in California. It’s part of a series on the Hollywood Blacklist. Some of my favorite episodes are on stars I already knew about, because of biographies I burned through in high school. But Karina Longworth is such a smart and compassionate host, and adds observations that cut through the smoke and mirrors glamour of her subjects. The podcast ends on a sad note. Parker died alone, in obscurity, lost most of her money but not all of it. She had just enough to give a cause she believed in. With no heirs, she left her estate — about $20,000 — to Martin Luther King Jr. He died the following year, so the estate was passed on to the NAACP (which, she also requested in her will in the event of his death.)
After listening to the podcast, I read a bit further, and learned things were so bleak at the end that Parker’s ashes were sitting in a file cabinet unclaimed for 15 years. The NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Hooks found out about this, claimed the ashes and in 1988 set up a memorial for her at their Baltimore headquarters.
It is just so moving, because I can’t imagine she might have ever guessed the rights to her work might be worth anything. Let alone even today, many years later, the organization would continue to honor her.
CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators