How Museums Affect the Brain, the Art of the Cover, and Other News


How Museums Affect the Brain: According to The Atlantic, a team of researchers at the Catholic University of America and the University of Utah have conducted a pilot study that provides evidence for architecture’s power to induce meditation. As Laura C. Mallonee at Hyperallergic explains: “The researchers wanted to find out whether people visiting museums, churches, and libraries experience similar brain activity to those practicing meditation. If they were able to show that architecture facilitates such contemplation, it would mean that the benefits of meditation can be achieved not only by ‘internally-induced (self-directed) methods,’ which such research tends to focus on, but also by outwardly imposed ones.”

The Art of the Cover: While we ran our own cover story this week about the making of artist Duane Michals’s beautiful new monograph, Liv Siddall over at It’s Nice That heaped praise on how The New Yorker produces a new and iconic cover each week: “What’s always boggled my mind is how The New Yorker goes through this gruelling tongue-biting process every week. It’s largely down to cartoon expert and art editor of The New Yorker, Francoise Mouly. Her and cover-obsessive contributor Mina Kaneko spend their time debating and discussing which artist would be up for the challenge of inhaling the essence of New York at that very moment, and translating it into an instantly engaging, witty image. The best part is, once the cover is out into the world, they speak to the artist about the process of making it, and what the city means to them.”

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Cover Story: The Making of Duane Michals’s Monograph

We recently published a major retrospective catalogue on the work of the photographer Duane Michals, called Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals. This is what the cover looks like:


But it could have looked very different; in fact, it did:


By my count, our indefatigable designer Brett Yasko produced at least 75 variant covers over the course of the design process. This is a bit extreme, but it is not as unusual as you might think. A cover is a tricky thing. It needs to be compelling and representative. It has to look good on a shelf and as a tiny thumbnail online. It is also a physical object—will it get dirty, show scuffs or fingerprints, tear easily?

And Michals’s work in particular presents unique challenges. The photographs for which he is best known require close, sustained looking: his small, multi-image sequences unfold over time and space, and his images incorporating handwritten text are complex. His work is the antithesis of “the decisive moment” that would naturally make for an arresting standalone image. So, after talking with me and exhibition curator Linda Benedict-Jones, Brett started with the sequences, and the concept of Michals as a storyteller…

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Duane Michals in Conversation at the New York Public Library

Duane & Linda by Randy Duchaine

Christopher Lyon, Duane Michals, and Linda Benedict-Jones on stage in the South Court Auditorium at the New York Public Library on Wednesday, November 5, 2014. Photo: Randy Duchaine.

Last Wednesday Duane Michals was on stage in the South Court Auditorium at the New York Public Library to discuss his two new books: ABCDuane and Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals. As part of An Art Book, the library’s ongoing series that celebrates the essential importance and beauty of art books, moderator Christopher Lyon offered the audience a brief introduction to Michals’s work and career.

“His activities touch on so many bases,” Lyon said about Michals. “Pioneering art photography. Unmatched portraitist. He’s a masterful editorial photographer, painter, art collectorstoryteller above alland an aesthetic gadfly who entertainingly undermines the claims of photography to represent reality. But I want to suggest that the apparent multi-sidedness of Duane is, itself, an illusion. As Duane made clear in [the text to his book Real Dreams], the key word, he wrote, is ‘expression’ not photography, not writing, not painting. So tonight I’m hoping that this really extraordinary gathering of critics, scholars, and curators will engage in a conversation illuminating Duane’s work and life.”

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Conflict Kitchen Reopens, Art Collector Windfalls, and Other News


Messages of support adorn the exterior of Conflict Kitchen, which reopened today following death threats the eatery received for its current Palestinian menu, which also features interviews with Palestinians on its food wrappers (image via Conflict Kitchen).

Conflict Kitchen, open for business: Last Friday, the operators of Conflict Kitchen, a local restaurant that serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict, made a troubling announcement: “We have received a letter today containing death threats and we will be closed until the credibility of the letter can be established by the Pittsburgh Police.” The threats came after recent scrutiny by media outlets such as Fox News, Breitbart, and the Washington Free Beacon, which characterized the eatery as “anti-Israel.” Additionally, in a letter sent to the Heinz Endowments on October 31, Israel advocacy organization B’nai B’rith International expressed  “dismay and deep concern” about Conflict Kitchen’s current programming, citing a $50,000 grant the Endowments awarded to the eatery to aid its relocation from East Liberty to its current location in Oakland’s Schenley Plaza. Prior to Conflict Kitchen’s closure last Friday, co-founders Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski responded to the recent press in a blog post“The real story on our Palestinian version is that it is the most popular iteration to date, with 300–400 people a day coming to the restaurant. Our public is approaching us with trust, support, and open minds.” Conflict Kitchen reopens today.

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Studio Visit: Inside Artist Lenka Clayton’s Attic Studio in Polish Hill


Lenka Clayton, discussing her art practice, in the attic-turned-studio of her home in Polish Hill on October 17, 2014 © Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo: Bryan Conley.

“I start every project with a structure, with some set of invisible rules,” says Lenka Clayton, sitting behind a desk in the attic-turned-studio of her home in the Polish Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

The 37-year-old artist, originally from Cornwall, England, is relaxed as we talk, sipping tea from a ceramic mug designed by her husband, sculptor Seth Payne, as early morning sunlight illuminates the room. Two floors beneath us, in the living room, Clayton’s father, visiting from England, plays mandolin for her 1-year-old daughter Early. Occasional squeals of laughter can be heard as the music emanates through the house.

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