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It’s hard to believe that Jennifer Egan (C ‘85), six–time novelist and current president of PEN America, once doubted anything would come of her writing. Yet, for all her laurels today, Egan’s early career follows a familiar plot: Young, bright–eyed college graduate turns up in New York, only to have her hopes quashed by the big city. “I just sort of washed up as a complete mess,” recalls Egan. And for all her fellow classmates in New York, Egan felt alone.
Hands, generally speaking, are the bane of an artist’s existence. Anyone with experience drawing from anatomy knows why: Between five fingers, as many fingernails, and a smattering of knuckles, even the most practiced artists easily lose patience. Yet, Auguste Rodin goes against the grain. “I have always,” declares the famed French sculptor, “had an intense passion for the expression of the human hands.” The Rodin Museum’s latest exhibition delves into his lifelong fascination with that most troublesome body part.
There’s no denying it: It’s been a rough year. From lockdown blues, to stateside political upheavals, to an escalating climate crisis, we’ve had to learn to weather the challenges as they come. In the face of all this gloominess and uncertainty, it’s no wonder that so much recent academic research has a pessimistic bent. The past year has seen a spate of research on darker subjects like death, decay, illness, and depression by prominent scholars—all against the backdrop of recent trends towards doomsaying and reactionary rhetoric in and outside of academia. Pundits all across the board sound the death knell for democracy, civil liberties, and even basic human decency. Whoever you listen to, one thing is clear: the world as we know it is ending. But in the current moment of dystopian thinking, one scholar’s work stands apart from the crowd.
Students are huddling in Stommons, heaters are on full blast in all the dorms, and Locust is swarming with Canada Goose—it’s official: Winter is upon us. If you’re yearning for a little cheer in the long, cold weeks ahead, look no further than Philly’s local art establishments. Take a peek inside the back catalogue for our favorite seasonal picks from the Barnes, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and our very own Penn Museum.
Judging by his vivid, meticulously–shot photos, you’d never guess that Luca Fontes came to photography by happenstance. Yet, the College senior with a Fine Arts and Communications major only caught the bug for his chosen medium in his senior year of high school. He did “a little bit of amateur photography” as a teenager, but everything changed when he enrolled in a digital photo class. “That [was] the first time I started to think of the concepts behind photographs, to think of projects,” Luca says. Since then, it’s been up, up, and away for the Brazilian–born photographer.
Every word of Woman Hollering Creek, Sandra Cisneros’s award–winning collection of short stories published in 1991, was written with the truth in mind. Sure, Cisneros jumps between narrators and outlandish scenarios with practiced ease, but there are real–life memories behind all the heartache and longing of her stories. In all her fiction, Cisneros drives toward “the real truth, especially the truth I’m not aware of.” Woman Hollering Creek is no exception, being born of a balancing act between the conscious and the unconscious—between reality and memory.
As every Penn student knows, the rat race can be exhausting. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the endless cycle of club applications, internships, and homework. If you’ve ever been seized by a sudden desire to let your hair down, know you’re not alone. London-based artist Amanda Ba has tapped into our shared impulse to run with the wolves—or dogs, in this case. Hailing from New York City (by way of Hefei, China), Ba’s paintings collapse the distinction between the human and animal.
The Barnes Foundation’s new retrospective of Suzanne Valadon, the first of its kind in North America, opens not with one of the artist’s many works—but with a painting of Valadon herself. In Gustav Wertheimer’s imposing The Kiss of the Siren (1882), we catch a glimpse of Valadon as a muse. Under Wertheimer’s hand, we see the petite, brunette Valadon doctored into a leggy, fairytale blonde. However, this is not the only deceiving representation of the model turned artist; opposite Wertheimer’s painting, we see portraits from artists including Toulouse–Lautrec. For the most part, these renditions portray the young model as exuberant and eager—but they belie the physical demands of her job, not to mention her precarious station.
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