ARTS & CULTURE 12/04/2017 12:07 pm ET Artist Stages Protest At Met Breuer, Where Her Alleged Abuser’s Work Is On View Jaishri Abichandani hopes protests like “#MeToo at the Met” will help give voice to women in the arts who’ve been excluded, undercut and abused. By Priscilla Frank Priscilla FrankProtestors participating in “#MeToo at The Met Breuer” on Dec. 3. 120 NEW YORK ― At 4 p.m. on Sunday, a group of women and men formed a line alongside the entrance to the Met Breuer, a contemporary outpost of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. Each held a red sign reading “Me Too” in black letters, with red sashes of fabric gagging their mouths. Together they formed a shocking streak of color against the museum’s grey exterior and the evening’s cloudy sky. Mumbai-born, Brooklyn-based artist Jaishri Abichandani, who organized the protest performance, held a slightly different sign. Hers read “I survived … Raghubir Singh. #MeToo.” Singh’s work is currently on view at the Met Breuer, in an exhibition titled “Modernism on the Ganges.” In light of the show, and the countless number of peoplewho have shared stories of sexual assault and harassment at the hands of powerful men in various fields over the last several weeks, Abichandani opted to step forward with her own story of abuse by an influential male figure ― and provide a space for other people in the art world to do the same. She organized the protest on Facebook last month, creating an event titled ”#MeToo at the Met.” Invoking a phrase used by many survivors of abuse over social media, she invited women and male allies to join in the participatory project, including her own friends, fellow artists and members of the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective, which Abichandani founded in 1997. “You have all heard me talk about my experience with Raghubir Singh who has an exhibition up at the Met Breuer,” she wrote on Facebook. “With your help, I would like us to put on a silent performance/protest to ensure that historians cannot erase this part of [Singh’s] legacy, to hold institutions responsible for their choices.” “Help me make his violence visible,” she added. “They can ignore my lone voice, but not a hundred of us.” Priscilla FrankProtestors participating in “#MeToo at The Met Breuer” on Dec. 3. Abichandani said she met Singh in 1995, when she was in her twenties working as a case worker for the Administration for Children’s Services and hoping to break into the art world. She was living in Queens at the time and already familiar with his work; she’d studied his photos in school and the two came to run in similar “progressive, South Asian circles” afterward. So when the late photographer invited her to accompany him to India to work as his assistant for three weeks, Abichandani, now in her late 40s, thought it was “the opportunity of a lifetime.” “I walked into a situation thinking it was going to be professional,” she told HuffPost in a phone conversation ahead of the protest, “and instead he physically, geographically, socially and financially isolated me. I was stuck alone with him in India with no recourse, no support. It was horrible.” “I felt completely coerced into having sex with him,” Abichandani explained, recounting a story she’d shared previously with WNYC. “I made myself clear verbally [that I did not consent]. My body tried to repel him in so many ways. I was completely trapped. There was no way of getting out of the situation.” When Abichandani and Singh returned to New York, she said she put as much distance between them as possible, but he continued to intimidate and harass her. “He used all of his connections, in every possible way, to intimidate me,” she said. “It was complete predation.” Abichandani chronicled what happened with Singh in a diary, which she showed to some of her close friends and family. She said she did not report the abuse to authorities, for fear of retribution from Singh. Priscilla FrankProtestors participating in “#Metoo at The Met Breuer” on Dec. 3. “Modernism on the Ganges” opened on Oct. 11, shortly after Harvey Weinstein’s years of predatory behavior came to light. The wave of news helped Abichandani come to terms with the abuse she encountered so many years ago. “I was finally able to make sense of what had happened to me, what he had done to me,” she said. Not long after that, The New York Times reported that former ArtForum magazine co-publisher Knight Landesman had been accused of routinely sexually harassing women over the course of a decade. In response, over 2,000 artists, writers, curators, gallerists and educators wrote an open letter titled ”#Not Surprised,” taking aim at the art world power structures that tacitly permit and overlook sexual misconduct in the workplace. It reads in part: We are not surprised when curators offer exhibitions or support in exchange for sexual favors. We are not surprised when gallerists romanticize, minimize, and hide sexually abusive behavior by artists they represent. We are not surprised when a meeting with a collector or a potential patron becomes a sexual proposition. We are not surprised when we are retaliated against for not complying. We are not surprised when Knight Landesman gropes us in the art fair booth while promising he’ll help us with our career. Abuse of power comes as no surprise. In response to her initial Facebook post, Abichandani received shows of support from several women artists, many of whom told her they’d experienced similar abuses in the presence of predatory, powerful men as well. (Abichandani said she even received well wishes from Tarana Burke, who originated the “Me too” movement.) “There are so many women who are turning up [to the protest] not just to support me but because this is their experience,” Abichandani said. “I’ve gotten call after call after call from women in the same situation. As artists we have zero protections, no human resources, zero due process. Where are we supposed to go?” Before the protest, Sandra Jackson-Dumont, the chairman of education at the Met, wrote to Abichandani assuring her that the museum “supports the right to free expression” and would not attempt to prevent or shut down her performance. During the event, the Met Breuer’s chief communications officer, Ken Weine, remained outside with the protestors. “Following the opening of the exhibition ‘Modernism on the Ganges: Raghubir Singh Photographs’ at the Met Breuer, an individual alleged in a public forum that she was sexually assaulted by Mr. Singh,” Weine said in a statement to HuffPost. “The Museum was not aware of this allegation previously. The Met is working to enable the protesters’ right to free speech while ensuring that the event is neither disruptive to our museum visitors nor puts any art at risk. We are also looking into planning an open forum to discuss the role of museums in navigating the difficult questions associated with allegations and revelations about artists and works of art.” Priscilla FrankProtestors participating in “#MeToo at The Met Breuer” on Dec. 3. Today, Abichandani is a working artist interested in feminist art history, social practice and South Asian culture. Her work imagines the female body as a site of power, desire, spirituality and conflict, often using craft techniques and ancient Hindu imagery. Abichandani considers the #MeToo performance to be part of her work in social practice. By gathering together a line of sign-wielding, muzzled protesters, she forced men and women walking down Madison Avenue to consider how the choices of major art museums like the Met affect marginalized members of the art community. One passerby, a woman seated in the backseat of a car driving past the popular Upper East Side museum, rolled down her window and yelled “Me too!” before raising a fist in solidarity on Sunday. Another pedestrian stopped to thank some of the protesters individually. “This has happened to about every woman who has ever been young,” she said. “It’s enough.” Christen Clifford, an artist and writer who participated in the protest, said she showed up “to support Jaishri.” She added, “I know what it’s like to hold that pain for so many years. We’re always stronger when we are together.” Ultimately, Abichandani hopes her story gives voice to women of the art world who have been excluded, undercut, objectified, targeted and abused. For her, the number of participants present at the Met Breuer viscerally illustrated the magnitude of the problem ― that there are structural ways the art world limits, silences, devalues and endangers women. Abichandani doesn’t expect her protest to result in the termination of Singh’s show. “I have a very simple goal, which is that when you Google Raghubir, this will come up,” she said. “So his legacy reflects who he is and what he did.” She does hope, however, that the performance will prompt critical discussions that transcend her personal experience. “My larger goal is systemic change for freelance artists,” she said. “It is a systemic problem, we want systemic solutions. What does institutional accountability look like?” RELATED…2,000 Women Are Speaking Out Against Rampant Sexual Harassment In The Art WorldThe Case Of Terry Richardson, And The Predatory Men Who Hide Behind 'Art'This New York Activist Wants To Replace A Statue Of Columbus With Toussaint L’Ouverture Download Priscilla Frank Arts & Culture Reporter, HuffPost Suggest a correction MORE:Sex CrimesPhotographyFemale ArtistsMuseumsArt History Artist Stages Protest At Met Breuer, Where Her Alleged Abuser’s Work Is On View 120 CONVERSATIONS

ARTS & CULTURE 12/04/2017 12:07 pm ET Artist Stages Protest At Met Breuer, Where Her Alleged Abuser’s Work Is On View Jaishri Abichandani hopes protests like “#MeToo at the Met” will help give voice to women in the arts who’ve been excluded, undercut and abused. By Priscilla Frank Priscilla FrankProtestors participating in “#MeToo at The […]

ARTS & CULTURE 12/02/2017 05:47 pm ET This New York Activist Wants To Replace A Statue Of Columbus With Toussaint L’Ouverture Glenn Cantave believes white supremacy in 2017 stems back to 1492. And he’s letting NYC’s mayoral commission know. By Priscilla Frank Photo Josse/Leemage via Getty ImagesPortrait of Toussaint L’Ouverture (1743-1803). 2.9k In 2013, when Glenn Cantave was an undergrad student studying abroad in Bolivia, he did as many tourists do in the country and visited the colossal statue of Cristo de la Concordia, one of the largest depictions of Jesus in the world. For many Bolivians, the statue is a site of national pride. The 133-foot figure towers over visitors clamoring to take his photo, his arms outstretched as if offering a giant hug. But for Cantave, something about it felt wrong. “I have nothing bad to say about Jesus as a guy,” he told HuffPost. “But Bolivia has one of the largest indigenous cultures in South America and the religion of Christianity was imposed on its people. This image of a white man looking down on everyone was very problematic.” The experience shifted Cantave’s perspective on the relationship between men perched on pedestals and the communities obliged to literally look up to them every day. But the monument that angers him most, however, is the one at home: a76-foot statue of Christopher Columbus, a man who Cantave unequivocally calls a terrorist, in Manhattan. “A terrorist is someone who intimidates people for a political cause,” Cantave said. “For him, that cause was the expansion of the Spanish Empire for profit. Columbus threatened and raped and murdered. It is ass backwards that a city like New York, with such a high awareness of terrorism, has a terrorist as a landmark.” Spencer Platt via Getty ImagesGlenn Cantave protesting in October. I met Cantave at Queens Borough Hall, at the first of five public hearings addressing what should become of New York City’scontentious monuments. Cantave attended and testified at four of the hearings. Concern over what should become of the controversial monuments ― which Mayor Bill de Blasio referred to as “symbols of hate”― bubbled over in August when a white supremacist rally protesting the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent, resulting in the murder of counterprotester and anti-racist activist Heather Heyer. Shortly thereafter, protests erupted in New York demanding the removal of a statue of Dr. J. Marion Sims. Though he is known as the “father of gynecology,” he has a legacy of torturing enslaved women, performing “experimental surgeries” on them without anesthesia. In early September, de Blasio announced that he was forming a committee, called the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers, to advise him on what should become of the various controversial monuments strewn throughout the five boroughs. The commission ― co-chaired by Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, and Tom Finkelpearl, commissioner of NYC’s department of cultural affairs ― includes artists, architects, professors, activists and scholars of a cross-section of ages, races and genders. Together, they invited interested citizens of various neighborhoods to take the floor of public hearings and share their opinions on the fates of monuments in question, such as statues of Christopher Columbus, Theodore Roosevelt and J. Marion Sims. In Queens, Cantave addressed a moderate crowd, many of whom were protective of the Columbus statue. Panelists spoke of its historical significance and value to some Italian immigrants. “What this says to me is that my life as a black man does not matter,” Cantave told the room. “My last name is Cantave, it’s a slave owner’s last name. I don’t know my real last name because of Columbus.” DEA / ARCHIVIO J. LANGE via Getty ImagesA monument to Christopher Columbus in Manhattan. Cantave is the founder and CEO of Movers and Shakers, an activist coalition that uses innovative techniques like virtual and augmented reality to advocate for marginalized and oppressed populations. The organization is currently advocating for the removal of the statues that honor these men. Over 120 artists and scholars from around the country published an open letter on Friday with similar demands, requesting the removal of Columbus, Roosevelt and Sims monuments along with statues of Vichy France’s Nazi collaborators Philippe Pétain and Pierre Laval. The letter reads in part: “By far the most controversial of the monuments is that to Christopher Columbus, who served the Spanish crown, and spoke and wrote only in Catalan. Because he was born in Genoa in 1451 – a city that did not become “Italy” until the unification of the country in 1861 – he was adopted as a patriotic symbol by Italian immigrants in the nineteenth century. But the public claim of “ownership” of Columbus by Italian-Americans cannot be allowed to override his key role in the historical genocide of Indigenous peoples of the Americas. By 1600, at least 50 million Indigenous people died in this hemisphere as a result of the Columbian encounter with Europeans, whether from war, disease or enslavement. It takes only a little understanding to see why their descendants do not regard anything associated with 1492 as an object of veneration.” Cantave doesn’t just want to remove the monument to Columbus, though. Instead, he suggests replacing the statue with a tribute to Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the Haitian Revolution in the 18th century. New York has the second highest Haitian population of any U.S. state. Yet L’Ouverture’s significance, Cantave believes, extends beyond the scope of the Haitian diaspora. “In general, monuments reflect financial glory,” he said. “Oppressed peoples don’t have role models to look up to. L’Ouverture’s efforts resulted in the establishment of the first, free black republic. If you had him glorified as a statue and his name in the textbooks, that would change everything.” Cantave believes that manifestations of white supremacy today ― in alt-right chatrooms and at pro-Donald Trump rallies ― stem from the same colonizing mindset Columbus brought to America. “Why is the erasure of black and brown history a recurring theme?” he asked. Earlier this month, he demonstrated the parallels by staging the “Slave Auction 2017” performancein Herald Square, forcing New Yorkers to confront the consequences of Columbus’ historical exploits head on. Protesters formed a procession in the middle of Manhattan, some wearing shackles and others prison uniforms and handcuffs. “Columbus entered the Americas with the intent of enslaving its inhabitants for the economic benefit of the Spanish crown,” the project description explains. Genocide expert David Stannard estimates that Columbus and Europeans under his leadership killed between 70 million and 100 million indigenous people beginning in 1492. Between 1500 and 1866, approximately 12.5 million people were kidnapped from Africa and enslaved in America. “It was only after his men realized that their slaves were not resistant to European diseases did they decide to use forced labor from West Africa,” Cantave said. Cantave will continue mounting protests against Columbus’ monument until a decision has been made regarding its future. He’s also working on a Columbus picture book, White Supremacy 101: Columbus the Hero?, that uses augmented reality to amend the falsehoods embedded in the whitewashed history that is often recounted in schools. Working with a team of illustrators, animators, poets, rappers and historians, Cantave transformed black-and-white drawings into animated narratives that come alive with the help of an iPhone. Each page of the book features a five- to seven-second animation loop generated from academically verified accounts of Columbus’ actions. By Ben ShadisAn image from Movers and Shakers’ White Supremacy 101: Columbus the Hero? augmented reality book. Glenn Cantave His live action protests, including a public presentation of “Slave Auction 2017” and an upcoming event on Dec. 3 in Times Square, involve animated excerpts from his upcoming augmented reality book, blown up as 24-by-36-inch prints. With the book, Cantave hopes to appeal to a scope of readers beyond historians and academics. “A lot of people do not care about Christoper Columbus,” he said. “He’s engrained in our society, but people don’t know what he did. There are people out there who have done the work and told the truth, but if you’re not an academic or a university student, chances are you’re never going to pick up one of their books. We made a talking book. It’s not going to take you more than five minutes to get through.” Cantave plans to raise funds to produce and distribute the book through Kickstarter. Ideally, the picture book will reach people the public hearings didn’t ― namely, younger, working class New Yorkers unable to attend an event on a weekday at 10 a.m. This, Cantave speculates, is partially why the majority of the public hearings’ attendees were older, white and predominately in favor of protecting the monuments. “That skewed the distribution of opinions present,” Cantave said. “Who was my age who was there?” Cantave asked. “It was mostly white senior citizens with conservative opinions,” he added, noting that the only other people in attendance were either engaged in monument work full time or journalists. “The symbols of hate disproportionately affect communities of color and they were not accurately represented. This was supposed to be a display of New Yorkers’ opinions, but it wasn’t.” Most who testified during the five hearings spoke in defense of Columbus’ statue, if not the man himself. As Queens resident Virginia Caputo put it, “We should not live in a vacuum and judge our statues by our values and standards of today. We are a tolerant and progressive city, humanity had a long and complicated struggle to achieve where we are today.” “Rome, the ultimate Catholic city, could take down the Colosseum, a symbol of hate where so many early Christians were brutally treated,” she added. “America, New York City is who we are today because of that long road. Don’t erase that.” Cantave rejects, however, the notion that New Yorkers are solely viewing Columbus from a 21st century lens. “The Spanish empire who put Columbus in power decided he was too cruel as the governor of Hispaniola and put him in jail. This is a matter of objective morality. It transcends centuries,” he said. And as for tearing down cultural relics, Cantave categorically believes that statues glorifying oppressors don’t deserve to be saved. “I’m all for destroying a culture that is governed by white supremacy,” he said. “Black and brown people have been uncomfortable for centuries. The culture needs to shift. Everyone knows who Adolf Hitler is so you don’t see any monuments of him in New York. Let’s be on the right side of history.” RELATED…Princeton Confronts Its Slave-Owning Past With An 'Anti-Monument'The Ugly Business Of Defending Free Speech In 2017Why A $450 Million Painting Of Jesus Worries Art Historians Download Priscilla Frank Arts & Culture Reporter, HuffPost Suggest a correction MORE:U.S. NewsHate SpeechHate CrimesNew York CityNew York This New York Activist Wants To Replace A Statue Of Columbus With Toussaint L’Ouverture 2.9k CONVERSATIONS

ARTS & CULTURE 12/02/2017 05:47 pm ET This New York Activist Wants To Replace A Statue Of Columbus With Toussaint L’Ouverture Glenn Cantave believes white supremacy in 2017 stems back to 1492. And he’s letting NYC’s mayoral commission know. By Priscilla Frank Photo Josse/Leemage via Getty ImagesPortrait of Toussaint L’Ouverture (1743-1803). 2.9k In 2013, when […]

ARTS & CULTURE 11/28/2017 11:27 am ETUpdated3 days ago Princeton Confronts Its Slave-Owning Past With An ‘Anti-Monument’ Titus Kaphar’s work for the Princeton & Slavery Project tells a story of buried history. By Priscilla Frank TItus Kaphar studioTitus Kaphar with “Impressions of Liberty.” 930 For over a century and a half, Princeton University neither acknowledged nor investigated its historical ties to slavery, despite the fact that the first nine presidents of the school owned slaves at some point in their lives. This month, that changes. Students, faculty and anyone else walking past Princeton’s Maclean House will lock eyes with an object ― a sculptural relief, to be exact ― depicting the face of Samuel Finley, the fifth president of Princeton, along with the faces of the man, woman and child he possessed as slaves. The work is part of the Princeton & Slavery Project, an initiative launched by history professor Martha A. Sandweiss in 2012. The ongoing research projectfocuses on the slave-holding practices of Princeton’s founding trustees and faculty members, taking into account how the university (and New Jersey at large) profited from and grew out of slave labor, a practice that was not abolished in the state until 1865. “I was ignorant. I was curious,” Sandweiss told HuffPost of her desire to dive into Princeton’s ties to slavery. “Since Princeton was founded in 1746, I knew there would be a story. Every institution was implicated, but nobody had investigated it.” Sandweiss, previously a museum curator and director, launched an undergraduate research seminar on the subject of slavery at Princeton in 2012, examining how the university’s paradoxical embrace of liberty and servitude echoed the contradictions that have always marred early American values. Over the next few years, students and faculty collaborated to piece together a dark history of the school their predecessors had failed to reckon with. The initiative has uncovered stories of women like Betsey Stockton, a former slave of former university President Ashbel Green who went on to become a prominent educator, and Moses Tyler Pyne, who wasone of Princeton’s most generous benefactors andwhose family owned a sugar trade business reliant on the slave economy. Oliver Morris via Getty ImagesThe President’s House on the Princeton University campus. Thanks to her experience in the art world, Sandweiss realized early on that when strict historical inquiry fell short of producing a full story, her team could turn, at times, to other forms of creative expression to fill in the blanks. History is tethered to documents and dates, but art, she felt, offers space to imagine, extract and interpret. “I really understand what the boundaries of history are,” Sandweiss said. “I live and die by footnotes. That means that I can’t imagine what’s inside people’s heads unless they left me a record. I can’t invent dialogue unless people left their own words for me to find. I thought it would be interesting to work with creative artists that aren’t bound by the same rules that I am.” Sandweiss relied on these contemporary artists to communicate the pain, mystery and loss that facts could signal but never quite explain. And in 2017, a Princeton selection committee ― co-chaired by Princeton University Art Museum’s director, James Christen Steward, and University Architect Ron McCoy, and made up of members of the Campus Art Steering Committee and other stakeholders ― invited a range of artists to submit proposals for a work that would incorporate the Princeton & Slavery Project’s findings. Artist Titus Kaphar was selected from the invited applicants, his artistic practice falling eerily in line with Princeton’s vision. Kaphar’s “Impressions of Liberty” was installed on Princeton’s campus in mid-November. “Kaphar’s work does something that academic history can’t,” Sandweiss said. “It just brings history alive in a different way.” Although the Michigan-born artist, who’s painted activists in Ferguson, Missouri, and composite mugshots of women named Destiny, wasn’t previously aware of the university’s experience with slavery, he wasn’t surprised either. “There are very few corners of the country that weren’t in some way impacted by slavery,” he said. “We like to imagine that the ‘North’s’ hands are totally clean. And that’s not historically accurate.”There are very few corners of the country that weren’t in some way impacted by slavery.Titus Kaphar Finley, a former Princeton president, owned slaves until he died in 1766. After his death, Finley’s possessions were auctioned off on the university’s campus, including furniture, books, grain, farming utensils ― and two women, a man and three children. One of the documents Sandweiss and her team unearthed was an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Journal published July 31, 1766, announcing the sale of Finley’s estate. It describes the man, women and children to be sold: “The Negro Women understand all Kinds of House Work, and the Negro Man is well fitted for the Business of Farming in all its Branches.” This brief announcement is the only surviving description of the individuals Finley enslaved. The auction itself took place on a spot on campus near the President’s House, also known as Maclean, marked by two Sycamore trees― dubbed “liberty trees” ― which were reportedly planted in 1766 to honor the repeal of the Stamp Act. The fact that people were sold on land adorned with “liberty trees” was not lost on Kaphar. His sculpture, positioned in front of the President’s House, is a continuation of Kaphar’s “Monumental Inversions” series, which the artist describes as “an investigation into the American tradition of monument making.” The exploration is certainly timely; this year, monuments across the nation are being called into question for being offensive or inconsistent with American values today. Bronze tributes to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, which haunted black Virginians decades after the Civil War, and a statue of Dr. James Marion Sims, a New York doctor who experimented on enslaved black women in the mid- to late-1800s, are among the contested figures. Sandweiss understands Kaphar’s sculpture as a monument, in that it commemorates a person, place or event. However, Steward, thedirector of the university’s art museum, sees the piece as more of an “anti-monument.” “Monuments often purport to speak timelessly and to engage in a fixed notion of history,” he said via email. “Monuments are often erected to memorialize fallen heroes or otherwise reinforce a particular idea of the past. In that light, I think Titus Kaphar’s work is more ‘anti-monument,’ drawing our attention to forgotten histories and to the idea that history itself is being constantly rewritten. It is that understanding of history as fluid (and as a tale of both who is depicted and who is omitted) that indeed drew us to his work.” Another difference: while most monuments are fixed permanently, Kaphar’s will only be on view until Dec. 17. Steward believes that by not aspiring to permanence, the work “can heighten our sensitivity to a past that can never be fixed in time or place.” Whether or not Kaphar’s work should be categorized as a monument, it certainly illuminates the strange role monuments play in our culture, their ability to reach back into history and reshape it. “There is something slightly propagandistic about monuments and the way they play with timelines,” saidAlva Noë, a philosophy professor at University of California, Berkeley. “They have the ability to shift time.” Andrew Lichtenstein via Getty ImagesA Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond, Virginia. Noë recalled discussing the Robert E. Lee memorial in Charlottesville, Virginia, with a woman he met in the Netherlands. She believed removing the statue would be erasing a crucial trace of the Civil War. “But that monument wasn’t built until 60 years after the Civil War,” Noë said. Such statues were built in the era of Jim Crow laws as “explicit symbols of white supremacy,” though this context has faded out of public knowledge. Monuments often suggest that history is as clear and unchanging as their bronze bodies. Their imposing and authoritative presence consecrates them as emblems of power and shapers of our collective historical memory. Kaphar, in his early 40s, offers an alternate model that he contends better represents history’s fluidity, complexity, thorniness and ambiguity. A figure that doesn’t lionize or condemn, but represents, and in doing so, promises to remember. It is temporary and in flux, dependent on the viewer’s perspective. Typically, monuments take up physical space, echoing the way historical figures take up space in our historical memory. Kaphar’s “Impressions,” however, is a relief within a relief within a relief, a series of carvings that recede into nothingness like a cave or a gasp. The sculpture’s emphasis on negative space recalls not so subtly the glaring absences in our nation’s shared story that Kaphar has long been interested in. If history has a body, Kaphar has long been digging it up and ripping it open, exposing what’s been swallowed, hidden or purposefully forgotten. His art historical interventions before “Impressions” examine American and European traditions between 1700 ­and 1900, highlighting what ― and who ― is deemed worthy of being immortalized through paint. As if orchestrating corrective surgeries, Kaphar shreds, carves, peels and paints over portraits to illuminate and address the latent discrimination embedded in our visual language. “I taught myself how to paint by going to museums and looking at images like this,” Kaphar said in a recent TED talk, referencing a painting by Frans Hals. The image features five people standing before a tree, one of whom is black. “There is more written about dogs in art history than there is about this other character right here,” the artist said, pointing to the black figure. “I can find out more about the lace that the woman is wearing in this painting, about the manufacturer of the lace, than about this character right here. About his dreams, about his hopes, what he wanted out of life.” TItus Kaphar studio”Impressions of Liberty.” With his Princeton sculpture, Kaphar similarly teases out the relationship between what is visible and unseen. Finley’s bust is carved out of a sheet of sycamore wood, the same type of wood as the “liberty trees” that surround it. The material, Kaphar expresses in his artist statement, “appears more akin to skin than grain.” Finley’s silhouette, with its powdered wig and regal posture, resembles so many of the white men whose portraits reside in gilded frames. Yet, unlike other art historical subjects, Finley’s insides are carved out. In that sunken place inside his edges reside a man, woman and child who Finley owned as slaves. Little is known about their lives, a fact that, Kaphar wrote to HuffPost, “did not surprise me.” Their bodies, etched in white, glow each evening when the sun sets and shift ever so slightly as viewers shift their gazes. The sculpture greets passersby on eye level; their reflections materialize from various vantage points. The figures remain, however, inescapably fixed to Finley’s encroaching self. Monuments are typically, as Noë and Steward reiterated, physically imposing, structurally inviolable and ideologically accessible. They cement a human being into history, ensuring that this singular vision of the past is the one carried forward into the future. Kaphar’s “Impressions of Liberty” proposes a different way to summon the past into the present without solidifying a singular perspective from which to view it. His piece leaves space for contradictions, ambiguity, ugliness and unknowns, providing the viewer the responsibility to read the image, sit with it, let it make its impression. Finley’s bust is neither didactic nor fixed, instead it gently beckons passersby to come closer, ask questions and take a second look. The past isn’t always as it seems. American history is not all worth glorifying, but it is worth staring in the face. We might not need another hero. We might not need another monument. But we should look and listen to the stories we have buried. In their representations, we just might see ourselves. Titus Kaphar’s “Impressions of Liberty” is on view until Dec. 17, 2017, at Princeton’s Maclean House. RELATED…The Ugly Business Of Defending Free Speech In 20172,000 Women Are Speaking Out Against Rampant Sexual Harassment In The Art WorldObama Chose Queer, Black Artist Kehinde Wiley As His Official Portraitist Download Priscilla Frank Arts & Culture Reporter, HuffPost Suggest a correction MORE:RacismNew JerseyArchitectureMuseumsArt History Princeton Confronts Its Slave-Owning Past With An ‘Anti-Monument’ 930 CONVERSATIONS

ARTS & CULTURE 11/28/2017 11:27 am ETUpdated3 days ago Princeton Confronts Its Slave-Owning Past With An ‘Anti-Monument’ Titus Kaphar’s work for the Princeton & Slavery Project tells a story of buried history. By Priscilla Frank TItus Kaphar studioTitus Kaphar with “Impressions of Liberty.” 930 For over a century and a half, Princeton University neither acknowledged […]

ARTS & CULTURE 11/22/2017 09:00 am ETUpdatedNov 23, 2017 ‘Call Me By Your Name’ And The Bittersweet Beauty Of Queer Cinema In the Oscar hopeful, Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet underscore the mysteries of young gay love that made “Moonlight” and “Carol” shine. By Matthew Jacobs Sony Pictures ClassicsArmie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet in “Call Me by Your Name.” “Call Me by Your Name” is, at first, a movie about looking. From his bedroom window, the scholarly 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) watches as Oliver (Armie Hammer), a poised 24-year-old graduate student, arrives in the fertile Italian countryside ― another visitor, there for another lethargic summer. Upon meeting, Elio leads Oliver up a winding staircase and into the room where he will sleep for the next six weeks. Their interactions are as lukewarm as the wide shots that frame them. Exhausted after traveling from America, Oliver doesn’t want dinner, and he doesn’t seem anxious to make a new friend, either. He’s snoring almost as quickly as Elio points to his bed. There’s a trigger in the teenager’s eyes, though ― a confusion, perhaps a spark of interest. Even when the scene lingers on Elio’s face, it’s hard to discern his exact thoughts, which is fitting; it’s hard for Elio to discern Elio’s exact thoughts, too. And then the day dawns, the light of morning bringing clarity, maybe. Sunshine beams across the lush lawn as Oliver joins Elio and his parents for breakfast, untutored in the ways of soft-boiled eggs and village geography. Elio peers across the table. The camera mimics his eyes, landing on a small, silver Star of David dangling from Oliver’s neck, shown in sudden close-up and framed by the V of his unbuttoned collar. A pang of desire ripples across the screen, announcing Elio’s quiet enchantment. This is a familiar sensation for queer people all too acquainted with the psychological warfare waged by the closet, which often ensures that adolescent glances remain just that. Hollywood’s fraught relationship with gay tenderness is slowly evolving, as evidenced in “Call Me by Your Name,” the adaptation of André Aciman’s lauded 2007 novel. Opening in limited release on Friday and primed for the ongoing Oscar derby, Luca Guadagnino’s sensual film uses the torturous politics of the closet as a backdrop, but more than most of the queer cinema that has preceded it, his also clings delicately to the celebration of first love. It doubles down on two recent movies that won similar critical admiration: 2015′s “Carol” and 2016′s “Moonlight.” Sony Pictures Classics/A24/The Weinstein CompanyClockwise from top: “Call Me by Your Name,” “Carol” and “Moonlight.” In some regards, it’s unfair to compare these three films when so many of their specifics are different. “Carol” revolves around two white women in cloistered 1950s New York, “Moonlight” chronicles a black boy hardening into adulthood in contemporary inner-city Miami, and “Call Me by Your Name” concerns erudite globetrotters in 1983, when Reagan conservatism was sweeping America. But together they are paragons exemplifying the framework that now bolsters gay romance on the big screen. None of the central characters die; no one is abjectly punished for their desires. Each movie ends with a twinkle of bittersweet hope ― something that can’t be said for most queer stories throughout history, even excellent ones like “Brokeback Mountain,” “Philadelphia,” “A Single Man,” “Heavenly Creatures” and “My Own Private Idaho.” “Call Me by Your Name,” “Moonlight” and “Carol” boast another similarity: They do not spoon-feed emotions to their audience. There is no grand swoon or quirky meet-cute that unites Elio and Oliver, nor Chiron (played as an adult by Trevante Rhodes) and Kevin (André Holland) in “Moonlight,” nor Carol (Cate Blanchett) and Therese (Rooney Mara) in “Carol.” Each courtship builds slowly, through glances. What isn’t said is often more important than what is. Most flirtations are clandestine anyway: a kiss stolen near a private lake, a beachside encounter late at night, a road trip removed from any familiar faces. For these characters, romance operates in tandem with, and as a result of, self-discovery. Because the movies depart from predictable Hollywood norms, they’ve been erroneously labeled “cold.” “Dominant culture needs emotional translation for certain kinds of stories that aren’t their own, and to feel stroked and emotionally protected and given the right kind of recipe of emotional reactions,” Todd Haynes, the director of “Carol,” told HuffPost last month. “If it’s not given to them, it’s cult. It’s like, ‘I will feel for these characters if I have a customary, expected reaction, but if I’m not getting it, then it’s a problem.’ We all have to feed dominant society to make it feel better.” Elio and Oliver’s affair peaks only when the end of the summer nears. Oliver, the pupil of Elio’s academic father (Michael Stuhlbarg), who facilitates an annual internship at the family’s villa in northern Italy, has been careful not to overextend his welcome. “If you only knew how little I know about the things that matter,” Elio tells Oliver, finally hinting that the thing he knows least is how to express his attraction. That crucial sentence recalls Carol’s sentiment toward Therese: “What a strange girl you are, flung out of space.” And it invokes a teenage Chiron, speaking to Kevin in the gleam of twilight: “I wanna do a lot of things that don’t make sense.” These lyrical words form the essence of these stories, just as they outline the essence of every gay person’s subdued cravings. Nothing makes sense, especially when it’s buried in cloaked glimpses at breakfast tables. “I knew the emotional journey they were going through,” Guadagnino, known for epicurean dramas like “I Am Love” and “A Bigger Splash,” told Deadline. “Butterflies in the stomach is the most beautiful feeling you can feel, no?” Sony Pictures ClassicsArmie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet in “Call Me by Your Name.” The characters in “Call Me by Your Name,” “Moonlight” and “Carol” can’t appear outside their crush’s window, like Shakespeare’s Romeo or like John Cusack in “Say Anything.” They won’t crash a wedding to prove their devotion, à la Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.” Nor will there be impassioned speeches about true love, as in “Notting Hill” or “Casablanca” or “When Harry Met Sally” or “Pride and Prejudice.” No corny cue cards, no “you complete me.” Those gestures are too overt, too public. Instead, devotion crescendoes in tiny increments. A performatively defensive Elio tells his parents it’s impolite that Oliver’s preferred adieu is an offhand “later!” At a nightclub, his eyes stay glued on Oliver dancing with a woman. He scribbles notes that say things like “can’t stand the silence.” He pops up from a lake wearing Oliver’s Star of David around his neck. On average, these signifiers would be grander in a tale of heterosexual love, where best friends can agonize over will-they, won’t-they predicaments, and sages can help to galvanize a budding pursuit. Because the wait was tortuous, there are few swoons as powerful as that of Elio and Oliver’s first kiss, planted after Elio decides he can’t settle for underhanded flirtations any longer. And there’s no finale like the finale of “Carol,” in which Carol smiles softly as Therese glides toward her, confirming that, yes, they’ll give the relationship a shot after all, despite so many cultural roadblocks. Borrowing the subtle language of queer yearning, these personifications of self-acceptance spark some of the most moving moments in modern cinema. “When those two characters hug for the first time in the [third chapter of ‘Moonlight,’] you can see Trevante’s hand linger on the back of André Holland’s shirt,” director Barry Jenkins told HuffPost last year. “You can get right in there to see how mesmerizing and terrifying it is for Chiron to finally look this guy in the eye after 10 years. […] It was really important to me to just show the tenderness. […] There was something about the nature of this environment and the corporeal quality of two men touching each other.” Even as more same-sex pairings touch each other onscreen, gay visibility is still a battlefield. It’s telling that only one queer movie per year breaks through the indie noise. In 2017 alone, the collective attention paid to “Beach Rats,” “Battle of the Sexes,” “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” “God’s Own Country,” “Princess Cyd” and “Thelma” trails that of “Call Me by Your Name,” which was anointed the chosen one after its rosy Sundance premiere in January. Even so, these films ― including the AIDS-themed “BPM” ― sculpt characters who refuse to be victims. To wit, “Call Me by Your Name” is about the beauty of exploration. “We wasted so many days,” Elio tells Oliver after their mutual endearment has fully blossomed. The closet robbed them of their already limited time together. As Sufjan Stevens sings in “Mystery of Love,” a ballad featured in the movie, “How much sorrow can I take? / Blackbird on my shoulder / And what difference does it make / When this love is over?” The summer must end, and heartbreak will follow. But that intoxicating enchantment is forever. In many ways, the story is just beginning. Everything’s an aching close-up. “Call Me by Your Name” opens in limited release Nov. 24. It expands to additional theaters throughout December and January. RELATED…Prepare To Fall In Love With The Gay Romance 'Call Me By Your Name'To Be Young, Gay And Black: The Beautiful Importance Of 'Moonlight'My Week With 'Carol,' The Year's Most Enchanting Movie Download ALSO ON HUFFPOST Matthew Jacobs Entertainment Reporter, HuffPost Suggest a correction MORE:Lgbtq SexualityMoviesMoonlightCarolArmie Hammer ‘Call Me By Your Name’ And The Bittersweet Beauty Of Queer Cinema CONVERSATIONS

ARTS & CULTURE 11/22/2017 09:00 am ETUpdatedNov 23, 2017 ‘Call Me By Your Name’ And The Bittersweet Beauty Of Queer Cinema In the Oscar hopeful, Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet underscore the mysteries of young gay love that made “Moonlight” and “Carol” shine. By Matthew Jacobs Sony Pictures ClassicsArmie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet in “Call […]

ARTS & CULTURE 11/22/2017 09:00 am ETUpdated6 days ago ‘Call Me By Your Name’ And The Bittersweet Beauty Of Queer Cinema In the Oscar hopeful, Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet underscore the mysteries of young gay love that made “Moonlight” and “Carol” shine. By Matthew Jacobs Sony Pictures ClassicsArmie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet in “Call Me by Your Name.” “Call Me by Your Name” is, at first, a movie about looking. From his bedroom window, the scholarly 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) watches as Oliver (Armie Hammer), a poised 24-year-old graduate student, arrives in the fertile Italian countryside ― another visitor, there for another lethargic summer. Upon meeting, Elio leads Oliver up a winding staircase and into the room where he will sleep for the next six weeks. Their interactions are as lukewarm as the wide shots that frame them. Exhausted after traveling from America, Oliver doesn’t want dinner, and he doesn’t seem anxious to make a new friend, either. He’s snoring almost as quickly as Elio points to his bed. There’s a trigger in the teenager’s eyes, though ― a confusion, perhaps a spark of interest. Even when the scene lingers on Elio’s face, it’s hard to discern his exact thoughts, which is fitting; it’s hard for Elio to discern Elio’s exact thoughts, too. And then the day dawns, the light of morning bringing clarity, maybe. Sunshine beams across the lush lawn as Oliver joins Elio and his parents for breakfast, untutored in the ways of soft-boiled eggs and village geography. Elio peers across the table. The camera mimics his eyes, landing on a small, silver Star of David dangling from Oliver’s neck, shown in sudden close-up and framed by the V of his unbuttoned collar. A pang of desire ripples across the screen, announcing Elio’s quiet enchantment. This is a familiar sensation for queer people all too acquainted with the psychological warfare waged by the closet, which often ensures that adolescent glances remain just that. Hollywood’s fraught relationship with gay tenderness is slowly evolving, as evidenced in “Call Me by Your Name,” the adaptation of André Aciman’s lauded 2007 novel. Opening in limited release on Friday and primed for the ongoing Oscar derby, Luca Guadagnino’s sensual film uses the torturous politics of the closet as a backdrop, but more than most of the queer cinema that has preceded it, his also clings delicately to the celebration of first love. It doubles down on two recent movies that won similar critical admiration: 2015′s “Carol” and 2016′s “Moonlight.” Sony Pictures Classics/A24/The Weinstein CompanyClockwise from top: “Call Me by Your Name,” “Carol” and “Moonlight.” In some regards, it’s unfair to compare these three films when so many of their specifics are different. “Carol” revolves around two white women in cloistered 1950s New York, “Moonlight” chronicles a black boy hardening into adulthood in contemporary inner-city Miami, and “Call Me by Your Name” concerns erudite globetrotters in 1983, when Reagan conservatism was sweeping America. But together they are paragons exemplifying the framework that now bolsters gay romance on the big screen. None of the central characters die; no one is abjectly punished for their desires. Each movie ends with a twinkle of bittersweet hope ― something that can’t be said for most queer stories throughout history, even excellent ones like “Brokeback Mountain,” “Philadelphia,” “A Single Man,” “Heavenly Creatures” and “My Own Private Idaho.” “Call Me by Your Name,” “Moonlight” and “Carol” boast another similarity: They do not spoon-feed emotions to their audience. There is no grand swoon or quirky meet-cute that unites Elio and Oliver, nor Chiron (played as an adult by Trevante Rhodes) and Kevin (André Holland) in “Moonlight,” nor Carol (Cate Blanchett) and Therese (Rooney Mara) in “Carol.” Each courtship builds slowly, through glances. What isn’t said is often more important than what is. Most flirtations are clandestine anyway: a kiss stolen near a private lake, a beachside encounter late at night, a road trip removed from any familiar faces. For these characters, romance operates in tandem with, and as a result of, self-discovery. Because the movies depart from predictable Hollywood norms, they’ve been erroneously labeled “cold.” “Dominant culture needs emotional translation for certain kinds of stories that aren’t their own, and to feel stroked and emotionally protected and given the right kind of recipe of emotional reactions,” Todd Haynes, the director of “Carol,” told HuffPost last month. “If it’s not given to them, it’s cult. It’s like, ‘I will feel for these characters if I have a customary, expected reaction, but if I’m not getting it, then it’s a problem.’ We all have to feed dominant society to make it feel better.” Elio and Oliver’s affair peaks only when the end of the summer nears. Oliver, the pupil of Elio’s academic father (Michael Stuhlbarg), who facilitates an annual internship at the family’s villa in northern Italy, has been careful not to overextend his welcome. “If you only knew how little I know about the things that matter,” Elio tells Oliver, finally hinting that the thing he knows least is how to express his attraction. That crucial sentence recalls Carol’s sentiment toward Therese: “What a strange girl you are, flung out of space.” And it invokes a teenage Chiron, speaking to Kevin in the gleam of twilight: “I wanna do a lot of things that don’t make sense.” These lyrical words form the essence of these stories, just as they outline the essence of every gay person’s subdued cravings. Nothing makes sense, especially when it’s buried in cloaked glimpses at breakfast tables. “I knew the emotional journey they were going through,” Guadagnino, known for epicurean dramas like “I Am Love” and “A Bigger Splash,” told Deadline. “Butterflies in the stomach is the most beautiful feeling you can feel, no?” Sony Pictures ClassicsArmie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet in “Call Me by Your Name.” The characters in “Call Me by Your Name,” “Moonlight” and “Carol” can’t appear outside their crush’s window, like Shakespeare’s Romeo or like John Cusack in “Say Anything.” They won’t crash a wedding to prove their devotion, à la Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.” Nor will there be impassioned speeches about true love, as in “Notting Hill” or “Casablanca” or “When Harry Met Sally” or “Pride and Prejudice.” No corny cue cards, no “you complete me.” Those gestures are too overt, too public. Instead, devotion crescendoes in tiny increments. A performatively defensive Elio tells his parents it’s impolite that Oliver’s preferred adieu is an offhand “later!” At a nightclub, his eyes stay glued on Oliver dancing with a woman. He scribbles notes that say things like “can’t stand the silence.” He pops up from a lake wearing Oliver’s Star of David around his neck. On average, these signifiers would be grander in a tale of heterosexual love, where best friends can agonize over will-they, won’t-they predicaments, and sages can help to galvanize a budding pursuit. Because the wait was tortuous, there are few swoons as powerful as that of Elio and Oliver’s first kiss, planted after Elio decides he can’t settle for underhanded flirtations any longer. And there’s no finale like the finale of “Carol,” in which Carol smiles softly as Therese glides toward her, confirming that, yes, they’ll give the relationship a shot after all, despite so many cultural roadblocks. Borrowing the subtle language of queer yearning, these personifications of self-acceptance spark some of the most moving moments in modern cinema. “When those two characters hug for the first time in the [third chapter of ‘Moonlight,’] you can see Trevante’s hand linger on the back of André Holland’s shirt,” director Barry Jenkins told HuffPost last year. “You can get right in there to see how mesmerizing and terrifying it is for Chiron to finally look this guy in the eye after 10 years. […] It was really important to me to just show the tenderness. […] There was something about the nature of this environment and the corporeal quality of two men touching each other.” Even as more same-sex pairings touch each other onscreen, gay visibility is still a battlefield. It’s telling that only one queer movie per year breaks through the indie noise. In 2017 alone, the collective attention paid to “Beach Rats,” “Battle of the Sexes,” “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” “God’s Own Country,” “Princess Cyd” and “Thelma” trails that of “Call Me by Your Name,” which was anointed the chosen one after its rosy Sundance premiere in January. Even so, these films ― including the AIDS-themed “BPM” ― sculpt characters who refuse to be victims. To wit, “Call Me by Your Name” is about the beauty of exploration. “We wasted so many days,” Elio tells Oliver after their mutual endearment has fully blossomed. The closet robbed them of their already limited time together. As Sufjan Stevens sings in “Mystery of Love,” a ballad featured in the movie, “How much sorrow can I take? / Blackbird on my shoulder / And what difference does it make / When this love is over?” The summer must end, and heartbreak will follow. But that intoxicating enchantment is forever. In many ways, the story is just beginning. Everything’s an aching close-up. “Call Me by Your Name” opens in limited release Nov. 24. It expands to additional theaters throughout December and January. RELATED…Prepare To Fall In Love With The Gay Romance 'Call Me By Your Name'To Be Young, Gay And Black: The Beautiful Importance Of 'Moonlight'My Week With 'Carol,' The Year's Most Enchanting Movie Download ALSO ON HUFFPOST Matthew Jacobs Entertainment Reporter, HuffPost Suggest a correction MORE:Lgbtq SexualityMoviesMoonlightCarolArmie Hammer ‘Call Me By Your Name’ And The Bittersweet Beauty Of Queer Cinema CONVERSATIONS

ARTS & CULTURE 11/22/2017 09:00 am ETUpdated6 days ago ‘Call Me By Your Name’ And The Bittersweet Beauty Of Queer Cinema In the Oscar hopeful, Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet underscore the mysteries of young gay love that made “Moonlight” and “Carol” shine. By Matthew Jacobs Sony Pictures ClassicsArmie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet in “Call […]

ARTS & CULTURE 11/28/2017 02:56 pm ET How A 90-Year-Old Bookstore Got Into The Business Of Totes New York’s Strand Book Store has been making its iconic tote bags since the 1980s. Today, it boasts more than 100 designs. By Jillian Capewell Damon Dahlen/HuffPostStrand designer Topher MacDonald with several of the tote bags he designed. 290 Those who are familiar with New York’s Strand Book Store can likely recall its slogan: “18 miles of books.” It’s right there on the store’s ubiquitous red oval logo, seen citywide on tote bags carried by well-read locals and tourists alike. But today, the 90-year-old Manhattan institution selling new and used books boasts closer to 23 miles of the printed word. (It’s measured, by the way, by book spines, exactly how they sit on the shelf.) “I think 18 miles has such a nice ring to it,” senior designer Topher MacDonald said, recalling an old store awning that originally read “8 miles of books.” Eventually, “somebody tacked a 1 on top of it because [the store] had gotten too big,” he added. However long the Strand’s stock is, the phrase is beautifully evocative. For a book lover catching sight of the slogan on a tote ambling around Central Park, it conjures images of never-ending stacks, more stories and curious plots than can be devoured in a lifetime. Indeed, it’s the humble canvas tote, first sold at the Strand in the 1980s, that allows a bibliophile on-the-go to subtly transmit that image — and an image of themselves, too. Current store co-owner Nancy Bass Wyden — the granddaughter of store founder Ben Bass — told HuffPost that the first iteration of the Strand tote was designed by a former longtime floor manager named Richard Devereaux. It had simple block letters, spelling out the store’s name, address and phone number on canvas. That design persisted until the ’90s, when the bookstore’s now-famous red oval logo replaced it. The newer design, attributed to another floor manager’s girlfriend at the time, features the bookstore’s name in Strand Gothic (the store’s own font). The initial tote was relatively small; it held only two or three books at a time. But it grew,and the designs became more varied,as the Strand began ramping up its merchandise section around 2012. “My dad [Fred Bass] kind of resisted for many years. You know, ‘What are you doing to this place?! We should just have serious books!’” Bass Wyden said. He came around to the idea, she said, because it pleased customers. “That was, and is, the most important thing to him,” she said. Damon Dahlen/HuffPostTopher MacDonald holds up one of his designs, titled “NYC Readers,” at the Strand Book Store in New York City on Nov. 2, 2017. The Strand has now offered over 100 original tote designs, ranging from political to whimsical. Walking around the store, you can spot canvas homages to Frida Kahlo and Michelle Obama laid out on tables, or get lost in an intricate hand-drawn city scene printed on a bag. There are totes with useful additions like zippers or small phone-sized pockets. Books and tote bags go together naturally — one is an object to be carried, the other carries it. So it makes sense that Strand customers would gravitate toward the bookstore’s bags. The appeal of a tote, however, goes beyond mere utility. On the surface, any Strand tote signals that its owner enjoys books. Perhaps the owner would also like to be seen supporting independent bookstores — an ever-more-political stance as Amazon and its ilk cast a long shadow over small businesses. Perhaps they have a connection to New York City; whether they live there, visit there, or know someone who visits there, they proudly flaunt the affiliation. Once you start looking, it’s easy to spot a Strand tote or three on an average crowded subway. Their sheer ubiquity means the bags inevitably lose a factor or two of cool. In 2011, Vol. 1 Brooklyn riffed on the associations begotten by various literary totes, suggesting the typical Strand tote owner “probably [doesn’t] actually live in New York. Either that, or you’re a freshman at NYU.” Still, for lit lovers who are unconcerned with urban cachet, there are plenty of options. Customers can buy a bag to communicate even more specific facts about themselves: I love cats. I am a feminist. Shakespeare is my personal superhero. I will not f**k someone who doesn’t own any books. “We know that people that love books, love cats,” Bass Wyden said, reiterating a likely facet of many habitual readers’ personalities: They enjoy the indoors. “We always try to keep that in mind, you know: cozy, fireplace, coffee, tea.” Hand-drawn designs — a trend seen popping up on book covers themselves ― have also proved popular, which Bass Wyden suggested was a result of the “backlash from technology” and living in an increasingly digital world. Damon Dahlen/HuffPostMacDonald’s “Lost in the Stacks” design for the Strand. Each tote mentions the Strand’s name in some way, usually showcasing that same red oval logo. (The Strand merchandizing team briefly tried a few other designs, replacing the “miles of books” slogan with the phrase “Where books are loved,” but ultimately went back to the original.) Nearly 50 of the designs are credited to MacDonald, who began working out on the art department floor around five years ago. His handiwork ranges from delicate, multicolor illustrations of New Yorkers going about their day to an image of an extensively detailed library with ceiling-high bookshelves and cats around each turn. MacDonald says the idea of a “weird, introvert fantasy world” inspired one of his latest designs: a dusty shelf stocked with a compass, a bell jar, a skull, books and other oddities, all presided over by a black cat. “Stay Curious,” it reads. Ultimately, the designs come out of a collaborative process, with Bass Wyden and other staff members contributing ideas to a department called Studio Strand, which also consists of designers Greg Locke and Alison George and manager Meagan Henry. MacDonald, who hand-draws designs on a tablet, said that the collaboration can lead to little visual “Easter eggs” on the totes. MacDonald included his dog in a tableau of the city’s canine population. On another bag, the Japanese character for “book” takes the place of the “A” in “Strand” — another fun wink for those in the know. At first glance, the store’s “Victorian Reader” seems to depict a straightforward scene of old-timey New York, with older building facades, horse-drawn carriages and people in the street with their noses in books. Damon Dahlen/HuffPost”Victorian Readers,” another tote MacDonald designed, features a number of intricate details you might miss at first glance. Upon closer inspection, the attention to detail — creepy detail ― emerges. There’s a Headless Horseman statue and a violent barber inspired by Sweeney Todd. A carriage is being driven by a skeleton. Two identical twins ride eerily by on a tandem bicycle. “I think [Bass Wyden was] just like, ‘Wouldn’t it be creepy if there were some abandoned shoes in the street?’” MacDonald recalled. “It’s fun to create these opportunities for everyone. Like, what happens if you put a cobweb over here, or what happens if you put, like, a skull at the top of a building?” he continued. “Just making it as immersive as possible.” Elsewhere in the design, a frustrated writer tosses his papers out the window. In another window, Bass Wyden’s grandfather peers out at the scene below. The design has been in the merchandise rotation for several years. “It really is all of that detail that really makes it, you know, resonate for so long,” MacDonald added. Damon Dahlen/HuffPostMacDonald and Strand co-owner Nancy Bass Wyden show off tote bags on sale at the Strand Bookstore in New York City. With an in-house design team, the bookstore can also adapt quickly to emerging trends and new catchphrases. When “Hamilton” was selling out nightly, a “Young, Scrappy and Hungry” bag popped up on shelves. When the coloring book craze seized bookstores around 2014, Strand answered with a tote featuring outlines of New York staples: a pigeon, the MetroCard. The bookstore also offered “F**k 2016” pins and “Make America Read Again” totes: bold statements in a bold election year that allowed people to wear not just their love of reading, but their frustration, on their sleeves. “I kept saying, ‘Don’t order too much! He’s not gonna be around!’” Bass Wyden said with a laugh, referring, of course, to now-President Donald Trump. The resistance is alive, well and for sale at the bookstore, where Ruth Bader Ginsburg totes lie on a table near others that read, “Nevertheless, She Persisted.” A tote with the saying “A well-read woman is a dangerous creature” features what looks like a straightforward floral motif against black canvas, but upon further inspection, there are bees sprinkled throughout ― subtly underscoring the “dangerous creature” note. Other totes are collaborations with beloved artists like Art Spiegelman and Adrian Tomine. Damon Dahlen/HuffPostThere are hidden bees in MacDonald’s “Well Read Woman” tote. Other designs have come from happenstance. Bass Wyden said a manager who collected autographs and drawings asked painter David Hockney to draw him a picture when he visited the store in the ’70s. Hockney drew a bag of books, which eventually became a tote. “I thought that was funny, to put a tote on a tote,” Bass Wyden said. For bookstore purists, the growth of the Strand’s in-store merchandise ― increasingly catering to an in-and-out kind of customer rather than one content to spend hours among the stacks ― might seem at odds with the store’s history as a haven for literature and those who love it. It’s understandable that seeing space occupied by bags advertising the store’s lengthy selection of books, instead of the books themselves, could chafe a certain kind of reader. But if a bookstore must diversify its offerings to offset changing publishing trends or to reflect customer tastes, the creations tailored for bibliophiles at the Strand seem like a practical, and charming, way to meet in the middle. In a way, the many canvas bags on offer echo the varied customers drawn to the store in order to peruse its curated tables and outdoor carts — creative, singular, true New York originals. RELATED COVERAGEThe Humble Victor Diner Mug, An Icon Of AmericanaTom Gauld's Deceptively Simple Comics Hold A Mirror To Human Hypocrisies50 Of The Best Indie Bookstores In America Download ALSO ON HUFFPOST Jillian Capewell Entertainment News Editor, HuffPost Suggest a correction MORE:New York CityBooksArtLiteratureDesign How A 90-Year-Old Bookstore Got Into The Business Of Totes 290 CONVERSATIONS

ARTS & CULTURE 11/28/2017 02:56 pm ET How A 90-Year-Old Bookstore Got Into The Business Of Totes New York’s Strand Book Store has been making its iconic tote bags since the 1980s. Today, it boasts more than 100 designs. By Jillian Capewell Damon Dahlen/HuffPostStrand designer Topher MacDonald with several of the tote bags he designed. […]

Jillian Capewell Entertainment News Editor, HuffPost Jillian Capewell has an extensive mug collection, a One Direction spiral notebook, and a pretty good grasp on the en dash. She loves podcasts, capybaras and Carly Rae Jepsen and lives in Brooklyn. Load More Stories

Jillian Capewell Entertainment News Editor, HuffPost Jillian Capewell has an extensive mug collection, a One Direction spiral notebook, and a pretty good grasp on the en dash. She loves podcasts, capybaras and Carly Rae Jepsen and lives in Brooklyn. Load More Stories

ARTS & CULTURE 11/17/2017 02:59 pm ETUpdatedNov 18, 2017 Why A $450 Million Painting Attributed To Leonardo Da Vinci Worries Art Historians The artwork has been hotly debated for years, but its sale signals one thing absolutely: a “very unequal, even obscene distribution of wealth in the world.” By Katherine Brooks and Priscilla Frank 2.8k Ahead of Wednesday’s record-breaking auction at Christie’s, during which a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci sold for a throat-clenching $450 million, art critic Jerry Saltz voiced some doubts. Saltz, in an essay for New York magazine, called the portrait of Christ “dead” and “inert,” suggesting that the artwork ― which had been predicted to fetch only $100 million ― is “a sham.” It’s “no Leonardo,” he wrote. Saltz, neither a historian nor an expert in old master work, went on to suggest that Christie’s sale would end poorly. “No museum on Earth can afford an iffy picture like this at these prices.” And then “Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World)” a 500-year-old portrait of Christ thought to be a copy when it was plucked from an estate sale for a measly $10,000 in 2005, sold for nearly half a billion dollars to an undisclosed private buyer. Suddenly, the controversy surrounding the painting’s authenticity ― its whereabouts over these last few centuries and whether multiple restorations had indelibly altered its surface ― became white noise. Christie’s had managed to rocket past previous auction benchmarks, brokering a historic sum for the seller, Russian billionaire Dmitry E. Rybolovlev’s family trust. TOLGA AKMEN via Getty Images”Salvator Mundi” is a portrait of Christ that’s been attributed to Leonardo da Vinci circa 1500. Perhaps a museum lacked funds to secure the questionable picture, but a nameless member of the 1 percent surely possessed pockets deep enough. To most people, $450 million is an unimaginable sum. As Hrag Vartanian at Hyperallergic pointed out, that’s more money than the total estimated cost of the new Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City: $422 million. (It’s also reportedly more money than the Koch brothers are expecting to spend in the 2018 election cycle: $300 million to $400 million.) “This is a very small step for mankind, but a big step for the art market,” Frank Zöllner, a German art historian and professor at Universität Leipzig, who’s written a book on Leonardo, told HuffPost in a statement over email. “A heavily damaged painting by Leonardo, which was created with the substantial involvement of his workshop after 1507 or even later, achieved a record price, which is significantly higher than the sums that are called for modern masters.” “Of course, [‘Salvator’] is the symbol of a very unequal, even obscene distribution of wealth in the world,” Zöllner added. TIMOTHY A. CLARY via Getty Images Art experts expressed concern with the $450 million price tag, well above the previous record for a painting sold at auction ― $179 million for Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger,” set in 2015. “I am deeply shocked by” the price, Stephen Campbell, an art history professor at Johns Hopkins University who focuses on Renaissance art, explained. “As a colleague said to me today, the 1 percent — who owns half the planet’s wealth — are looking for the last few places to deposit their wealth. This is a very limited, overvalued sector of the art market. … The pricing could be controlled in such a way that a public institution could afford it. This is not a celebratory moment.” Campbell’s unease stems, in part, from the painting’s murky history, a pressure point for a portion of the scholarly community. Campbell saw “Salvator Mundi” in person six years ago. At the time, he was impressed by the lineup of experts willing to vouch for the work, as well as with the scrupulous condition report Christie’s released elucidating the painting’s entire conservation history. The report notes that X-rays and infrared reflectography revealed the signature pentimenti, or visible changes, that helped confirm the painting’s attribution. “That being said,” Campbell continued, “there is very little Leonardo visible in the painting that was seen yesterday.” Campbell estimated that only 20 percent of the painting’s surface was rendered in Leonardo’s 16th-century Italian workshop. The rest was carefully reconstructed by conservators, including Dianne Dwyer Modestini. And even that scant 20 percent is in question; there’s a possibility it was executed by Leonardo’s assistants, meticulously trained to mimic his style, and not by the old master himself. The true hand of the artist, Campbell said, is impossible to definitively discern. “Most post-1500 [Leonardo] paintings are hybrids,” Campbell said. As a result, “when art historians say Leonardo, they’re talking about a category,” he explained. “It’s a ‘Leonardo effect.’” Campbell is not the only historian with suspicions. Art adviser Todd Levin and Sotheby’s senior international specialist Philip Hook have also expressed measured doubt about the work and its provenance. The painting that once hung in the collection of Charles I of England now appears cracked and worn, overpainted and slightly reimagined. Its whereabouts from 1763 to 1900 are unknown. It resurfaced, only to be sold in 1958 for £45 and disappear once again ― until it popped up in 2005, courtesy of art dealer Alexander Parish. Between 2013 and 2017, the then-consortium-authenticated painting sold once for over $75 million, and again for $127.5 million. “The attribution of this painting is hotly debated among Leonardo scholars and Renaissance art historians as it always happens with the discovery of new works by a major artist,” Francesca Fiorani, associate dean for the arts and humanities and professor of art history at the University of Virginia, told HuffPost. “Time will tell if the attribution of this panel to Leonardo will stick or whether in a few years the painting will look very different.” In a statement to HuffPost, a representative for Christie’s cited Luke Syson, curator of Italian paintings before 1500 and head of research at the National Gallery in London; Keith Christiansen, chair of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Vincent Delieuvin, ‎curator of 16th century Italian painting at the Musée du Louvre; and Martin Kemp, emeritus professor of the history of art at the University of Oxford, among others, as experts willing to endorse the work as Leonardo. Kemp reiterated his support of the attribution during a phone call with HuffPost on Thursday. “There were some self-seeking publicity people, journalists, who tried to denigrate the painting, which was so expensive ― that was so valued. But they weren’t serious objections,” Kemp said. As evidence of Leonardo’s handiwork, Kemp homed in on several aspects of the work, including the mysterious orb that appears in Christ’s hand. “It wasn’t like an ordinary sphere,” Kemp recalled of his time gazing at the painting in person. “It looked like rock crystal. … It’s not the normal ‘Mundi’ sphere. This is the sphere of the fixed stars, of the cosmos. So Leonardo transmuted it from being a savior of the world to being a savior of the cosmos. That’s the kind of genius he was capable of.” pic.twitter.com/WrJlHVJdjH— Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) November 16, 2017 As for the sum paid to secure the “Salvator,” Kemp agreed it’s “astonishing.” But the painting, which he described as the “spiritual equivalent to ‘Mona Lisa,’” is, he said, “worth what someone’s willing to pay for it.” “The people who are paying these sums of money undoubtedly would have undertaken due research,” he added. “It is largely a restoration, and it is a damaged picture, but so are a lot of old master works. It’s not the best I’ve ever seen, and it’s not the worst.” At the end of the day, Campbell concluded that the doubt surrounding the alleged Leonardo doesn’t matter, because, for all practical purposes, the attribution of the artwork was confirmed by the Christie’s sale. “As a colleague of mine said, ‘Nothing makes a Leonardo more than a hundred- million-dollar price tag,’” Campbell said. “The valuation works in reverse to justify the attribution.” Ultimately, Campbell said that he could accept the painting as a Leonardo, but he could not reconcile with its price. “It’s become a trophy, a market fetish. It’s being taken away from the interest of scholars,” he said. Lynn Catterson, a part-time lecturer at Columbia University who specializes in the Renaissance, the historical art market and 19th-century Florence, similarly described the painting’s value as “ridiculous and endemic to a planet whose economic disparities are worse than severe. And that is leaving aside issues of authenticity and provenance.” As Tim Schneider wrote for Artnet News, Christie’s revised fee structure saddles buyers capable of purchasing works over $4 million with a 12.5-percent premium, which ultimately carried the final $400 million bid for “Salvator” to a total payout closer to the half-billion mark. For cultural institutions with limited budgets, the premium allows private buyers to outbid them at auction, leaving cultural touchstones in the hands of the ultra-rich. This year’s Global Wealth Report, published on Tuesday, confirmed that 1 percent of the world’s population owns half the world’s total household wealth. Just as money has the power to shape democracy, so does it threaten to rewrite art history. If a seismic price tag becomes a more powerful indicator of masterworks than scholarly consensus, provenance and authentication, the sale sets a frightening precedent for, as Saltz put it, #FakeArtNews. “Most people do not seem to realize that an attribution is an opinion and, as such, legally is not binding,” Maurizio Seracini, an art diagnostician who’s worked extensively with Leonardo’s work, said. “Nevertheless, investors are purchasing art at incredible prices based just on opinions! No wonder why the production of fakes is booming internationally!” A $450 million valuation is then, by most accounts, unbelievable. However, if any artist could posthumously pull it off, Leonardo might be the most probable candidate. “On one level, a staggering figure in the art market reminds me of global financial disparity,” Bronwen Wilson, a professor of Renaissance and early modern art at UCLA, said. “But I also find myself ruminating on Dan Brown, video games and lineups to see Leonardo’s works ― for the ‘Mona Lisa,’ ‘The Last Supper,’ and exhibitions ― which is to say that there is also something about Leonardo’s particular purchase on the cultural imagination that plays a role in this instance.” The cult of Leonardo extends far and wide. He’s become the mythical manifestation of interdisciplinary genius, a superhuman amalgamation of artistic talent, scientific acumen and unbridled curiosity. And there is still another Leonardo work in private hands: “The Madonna of the Yarnwinder.” As Campbell mentioned, it will be interesting to see what happens if and when this final masterpiece hits the auction block. Perhaps “Madonna” won’t match the hefty price tag of “Salvator,” suggesting soaring auction prices have reached their tipping point. However, if values continue to inflate, the art market’s steel bubble will continue to serve as a glorified piggy bank for the 1 percent. Hey, Jerry: pic.twitter.com/sqoaEsKqBV— Benjamin Godsill (@mrgodsill) November 16, 2017 This post has been updated to clarify the effect of Christie’s buyer’s premium. RELATED…'Lost' Leonardo Da Vinci Sells For Record $450 Million At AuctionLeonardo Da Vinci's Long-Lost Painting Of Christ Could Fetch $100 MillionExperts Believe Leonardo Da Vinci Traced The 'Mona Lisa' From This Nude Drawing Download Katherine Brooks Senior Arts & Culture Editor, HuffPost Priscilla Frank Arts & Culture Reporter, HuffPost Suggest a correction MORE:Business And FinancePaintingIncome InequalityMuseumsArt History Why A $450 Million Painting Attributed To Leonardo Da Vinci Worries Art Historians 2.8k CONVERSATIONS

ARTS & CULTURE 11/17/2017 02:59 pm ETUpdatedNov 18, 2017 Why A $450 Million Painting Attributed To Leonardo Da Vinci Worries Art Historians The artwork has been hotly debated for years, but its sale signals one thing absolutely: a “very unequal, even obscene distribution of wealth in the world.” By Katherine Brooks and Priscilla Frank 2.8k […]

ARTS & CULTURE 10/03/2017 01:38 pm ET One Neighborhood’s Short Film Festival Reflects A Greater, Unstable World A unique array of short films are headed to Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Shorts Festival this fall. By Katherine Brooks Nitehawk This fall, the fifth edition of Nitehawk Cinema’s Shorts Festival hits the Brooklyn theater, bringing with it yet another slate of genre-defying short films. In an age when feature-length movies are finding homes in digital spaces, Nitehawk asks cinephiles to head to its physical location to experience the bite-sized stories short filmmakers are creating today. Because short films appear on a fewer platforms, neighborhood film festivals that celebrate them one are worth the trip. And those stories pack a punch. Short films tend to be, well, shorter than those feature-length originals stuffed in your Netflix queue. They also tend to be more experimental, beholden to a smaller budget and produced in a shorter time span. That quicker pace is advantageous; it allows filmmakers to respond more swiftly to the tenor of today, whether they want to engage directly with the politics dominating our screens or reflect more subtly the chilling fallout of recent traumatic events. For the filmmakers screening new shorts at Nitehawk this November, it amounts to both. “More than ever before, the agility of short filmmaking allows filmmakers to address the increasingly unstable world in a remarkably relatable way,” Caryn Coleman, Nitehawk’s director of programming and special projects, told HuffPost. “The short films in the Nitehawk Shorts Festival are certainly a part of this array of voices that aren’t simply imbued with the political climate but of the more humanizing aspects we need reminding of, such as culture, family and love.” Ahead of the festival, which HuffPost is covering as a media partner, Coleman treated us to a preview of the many shorts on deck. Check out a sampling of the films you can see in-person beginning Nov. 7, below: 1. “Yes, God, Yes” Nitehawk The rundown: Natalia Dyer (of “Stranger Things” fame) plays a Catholic school student in the early throes of sexual maturity, drawn to the internet and a body she’s yet to fully explore. For fans of: Teen movies like “Saved!” Directed by Karen Maine. Find tickets to the Nitehawk screening here. 2. “The Rabbit Hunt” Nitehawk The rundown: Watch as a family in the Florida Everglades hunts, prepares and eats rabbits from the nearby industrial sugar farm fields, carrying on a survival tradition that dates back to the 1900s. For fans of: Uncanny documentaries. Directed by Patrick Bresnan. Find tickets to the Nitehawk screening here. 3. “The Tables” Nitehawk The rundown: A portrait of two Ping-Pong tables in New York’s Bryant Park, and the varied people the outdoor destination attracts. From an out-of-work and homeless 60-year-old man to an incognito regular who tours internationally as a professional table tennis player, the people who frequent the tables form a distinct kind of community. For fans of: Feel-good sports films. Directed by Jon Bunning. Find tickets to the Nitehawk screening here. 4. “The Gardener” Nitehawk The rundown: In some gravely, polluted, near-future world, a man tends to his vegetables. For fans of: Dystopia or climate fiction. Directed by Joel Fendelman. Find tickets to the Nitehawk screening here. 5. “Undress Me” Nitehawk The rundown: Here’s where the horror begins. After spending the night with a man she met at a college party, an anxious freshman undergoes a horrific transformation. For fans of: Inventive horror films like “It Follows.” Directed by Amelia Moses. Find tickets to the Nitehawk screening here. 6. “Unpresidented” Nitehawk The rundown: We take it back ― here’s where the horror begins.A man rehashes why he bet on Donald Trump winning the 2016 U.S. presidential election. If you feel like the unwilling participant in an achingly familiar discussion of Hillary versus Bernie versus Trump versus the world, you are not alone. For fans of: Political satire like “Wag the Dog.” Directed by Jason Giampietro. Find tickets to the Nitehawk screening here. 7. “Curtis” Nitehawk The rundown: A quiet film about Curtis and his life as a concerned older brother. For fans of: Movies about family obligations and life as a sibling. Directed by Tannis Spencer. Find tickets to the Nitehawk screening here. 8. “And The Moon Stands Still” Nitehawk The rundown: A beautifully animated version of “The Witcher” fairy tale, by Aleksey Tolstoy. For fans of: “Coraline.” Directed by Yulia Ruditskaya. Find tickets to the Nitehawk screening here. 9. “Gina Is A C***” Nitehawk The rundown: Two women complain about their sickly sweet colleague, appropriately named Gina. For fans of: Comedies like “Office Space.” Directed by Kati Skelton. Find tickets to the Nitehawk screening here. 10. “Creswick” Nitehawk The rundown: A woman struggles as her aging father admits to experiencing haunting moments in his rural home. For fans of: “Goodnight Mommy.” Directed by Natalie Erika James. Find tickets to the Nitehawk screening here. The fifth annual Nitehawk Shorts Festival will take place Nov. 7-12 in Brooklyn, New York. Stay tuned for details on a HuffPost-hosted panel called “Why Shorts?” Download Katherine Brooks Senior Arts & Culture Editor, HuffPost Suggest a correction MORE:BrooklynHorror MoviesDocumentaries (Movies)Film FestivalsShort Film One Neighborhood’s Short Film Festival Reflects A Greater, Unstable World CONVERSATIONS

ARTS & CULTURE 10/03/2017 01:38 pm ET One Neighborhood’s Short Film Festival Reflects A Greater, Unstable World A unique array of short films are headed to Brooklyn’s Nitehawk Shorts Festival this fall. By Katherine Brooks Nitehawk This fall, the fifth edition of Nitehawk Cinema’s Shorts Festival hits the Brooklyn theater, bringing with it yet another […]

ARTS & CULTURE 09/20/2017 09:23 am ET The Tech Bros Will Not Save You Four 2017 novels disrupt our obsession with Silicon Valley, and our romance with capitalism. By Claire Fallon Isabella Carapella “We live,” declared Bernie Sanders in a 2015 speech at Liberty University, “in the wealthiest country in the history of the world.” But, he added, not everyone was benefiting: “Almost all of that wealth and income is going to the top 1 percent.” The senator from Vermont, just a few months into a surprisingly successful campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in the 2016 election, was hammering at his favorite issue ― one that would strike such a chord among a subset of the Democratic electorate that he mounted a serious challenge to the nomination of Hillary Clinton. Income inequality in the U.S. has been mounting, and that means nearly all but the wealthy have seen wages stagnate and savings dry up. There are a couple ways to handle living on the wrong side of a rapidly widening wealth gap in today’s society. One ― the Sanders approach ― is to agitate for income redistribution, sturdier social safety nets and worker protections for all. The second option is to fantasize about somehow, however improbably, winding up on the other side. This has the advantage of being an uncomplicated solution: We can easily dream of being Cinderella, transported from peasant to royalty in the space of a day and elevated beyond the concerns of inequity. After an election steeped in economic populism from the left and the right, it’s clear that America’s love affair with capitalism and Silicon Valley solutions is fraying; what’s less clear is whether a viable alternative exists, even in the fanciful world of fiction. In four provocative new novels, four women authors ― Alissa Nutting, Doree Shafrir, Courtney Maum and Catherine Lacey ― complicate our optimistic romance with the tech mogul and the uber-capitalist economy, and struggle to find a meaningful path forward for women and society at large. **** America might not have royalty, but we do have the 21st-century version: billionaires, especially tech founders. They’re Cinderella and the prince all in one, vaulted to unimaginable wealth and power from modest backgrounds. The only thing standing between the modern man and one percent-dom could be an app that makes disappearing text messages, or a Keurig for cold-pressed juice. For women, it’s a bit more complicated. The vast majority of tech founders and venture capitalists are men, and advancing in this male-dominated space can be a process fraught with sexual harassment and dismissive stereotyping. Women (and, to an even greater extent, black and Latino people) navigate a tech world that professes open-mindedness, meritocratic values and an idealistic desire to save the world ― and that too often operates with damaging self-absorption and self-regard. Women in this world, and consumers generally, rely partly on their hope that these earthly demigods will love us enough to use their nearly limitless power and resources to make us happy. No wonder, as Anne-Helen Petersen wrote in 2015, hordes of readers and moviegoers were seduced by “the class fantasy” of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Christian Grey’s seemingly boundless resources eliminated any form of want, offering us a vision of a life untroubled by mess or discomfort. He even, she points out, offers Anastasia a life free of the burden of choice. “Someone controlling [her] taste and offering her means, however circumscribed, is something like freedom,” wrote Petersen. “Freedom from thinking, from deciding, from choosing: all the things that characterize our exhausting and overstimulated existence within capitalism.” His company, which Grey founded and turned into a wildly successful corporation between the ages of 21 and 27, is a virtual shell. We have only the vaguest idea of what he actually does; the point is that he makes A LOT of money, money he can use to swaddle his lover in luxury. Ceding all control to a wealthy, professedly benevolent force is both tempting (how much easier would life be if we didn’t have to struggle for every gain?) and terrifying (what if that force isn’t so benevolent?). And while Fifty Shades seduced millions of women by leaning into the temptation of it all, it didn’t answer the other question. The only fly in Anastasia’s ointment is that Christian, a BDSM enthusiast, wants to punish and bind her rather than marry her; the resolution is that she’s allowed to keep his wealth and good looks because she ends up enjoying their sexual escapades and he ends up wanting to commit. That’s the fantasy of the capitalist fairy tale: Everything that can go wrong, will instead go incredibly right. Men win wealth with their wit and drive; women are gifted it in recognition of their beauty and lovability. Private helicopters for everyone! All well and good for a bit of escapism, but what if things went the other, far more likely, way?America might not have royalty, but we do have the 21st-century version: billionaires, especially tech founders. **** In her viciously funny new novel Made for Love, Alissa Nutting rewrites the Fifty Shades romance without the happy ending ― and it makes the capitalist fairy tale look more like a dystopia. Nutting’s heroine, Hazel, has lost everything. After about 10 years of marriage, she’s left her husband, the powerful tech founder Byron Gogol (whose company strongly resembles Google, not only in name but in scope and ubiquity). She entered the partnership with nothing, and she’s left with nothing, including the Gogol gadgets and perks that came with the marriage. Worse, since she was valuable to his public image, she knows her husband won’t let her go easily; she’s essentially in hiding, and every piece of tech could betray her whereabouts to him. Out of options, she shows up unannounced at her father’s home: a trailer in a senior citizens’ community in Florida, where her dad is currently holed up with his expensive new sex doll. In case it’s unclear that Made for Love was meant to satirize Fifty Shades of Grey, Nutting goes so far as to reproduce, in nearly identical beats, the foundational meet-cute of James’s series. Hazel’s ambitious friend scored an interview with the 27-year-old mogul, who was at their college to deliver a commencement speech, but she caught a nasty flu and had to send Hazel in her place. During the interview, Gogol seemed surprisingly intrigued by the awkward, dowdily dressed young woman in front of him. “This super-rich person really likes me,” she thought, flattered. He swept her off her feet in a blur of free clothes, silent uniformed staff and focused attention. When Byron proposes, a battalion of lawyers bring Hazel a hefty prenup to sign, but, broke and aimless, she doesn’t flinch: “Hazel remembered thinking this exact thought: There is no way I can lose.” She has even fewer reservations than Anastasia, who hesitates before, essentially, coming to the same conclusion: She has nothing to lose that’s worth losing, and so much to gain. So far, so Fifty Shades. But Nutting foresees a sinister side to this blinding desire for a life of ease. As she makes clear, Hazel does have things to lose ― her freedom, her access to affection and analog pleasures, her sense of self. For consumers seduced by apps and gadgets that make every facet of our lives a little easier ― or, at least, a little newer and shinier ― the often-ignored risk is similar. We believe that Google, Facebook and Uber have a pure desire to make the world better, because the alternative is facing a more complicated, unsettling reality. We’re persuaded to give up our privacy to companies that then convert our personal data into profit. We see no downside to calling up an Uber instead of taking a pricier cab or less convenient bus, not realizing that those better regulated transit options might not stick around forever in our absence. Like many abusive partners who initially bowl over their targets with charm, flattery and gifts, it turns out that Byron chose a vulnerable, poor student with little family precisely because she had little to lose. He wanted someone easily controlled ― and, in a move that ties together the personal and the political, he wanted to use that control to maximize his profits. Gogol plans to roll out a brain chip technology, and Hazel’s husband was using her as a guinea pig. Though he insists he would never use the information maliciously, the reality is that the chip takes away her ability to keep anything private, or to truly leave him. She, and any other future users, are utterly at the mercy of his good intentions. This technology could have very dangerous uses ― and unfortunately it seems Byron has every plan of putting it to those uses. **** The lover-as-test-subject strategy is still more explicit in Catherine Lacey’s achingly lost second novel, The Answers. The protagonist, Mary, is a lonely 20-something woman in New York City. She’s estranged from her family, and spent her first few post-collegiate years trying to escape herself by vagabonding around the world. When she falls ill in some mysterious, female way ― something that, like fibromyalgia and other complaints suffered mostly by women, has amorphous symptoms and is never taken seriously by doctors ― she tries an alternative treatment. To pay for the staggeringly expensive therapy, she answers a vague ad and winds up being cast in a research project funded by mega-famous movie star Kurt Sky. The experiment promises to manufacture a perfect relationship by casting different women to perform different roles: intellectual stimulation, conflict, sex, quiet coexistence. Mary will be his Emotional Girlfriend; in exchange for a hefty salary, she’ll meet him at appointed times and listen supportively as he shares his hopes, fears and secrets. The experimenters are the real puppet masters, we slowly realize; though it’s Kurt’s money, the scientists who have developed the scheme have their own sinister plans to build and monetize a technology based on the research. It’s unclear whether the consumers will actually benefit; though Kurt and his roster of hired girlfriends all think they’re benefiting from the research process, either emotionally or financially, the real result is that they’re all damaged. The lonely actor/director finds himself wooed by Mary’s performance of understanding, but when he realizes her supportive silence and quiet affirmations don’t indicate a true reciprocation of his attachment, he has to get rid of her. It’s too painful for Kurt to know that the authentic relationship he thought he’d found was just a woman doing her job ― even though that’s exactly what he’d asked for. Kurt seems like an entitled sap, but he’s only human. When a more frictionless path to pleasure is offered, it’s natural to be tempted, and our unbridled capitalist economy thrives on incremental improvements to consumers’ convenience and comfort. But there are costs. Some pleasures, like successful relationships, are born of that irritating friction. As Kurt learns, we can’t take out the flaws and the hiccups without sapping the result of its authentic sweetness. **** Sloane Jacobsen, the heroine of Courtney Maum’s sophomore novel Touch, suffers a still more acute crisis of faith in technology’s comforting power. A famous trend forecaster who has just been hired to consult full-time at Mammoth, a massive tech conglomerate much like Google or Apple, Sloane has made her reputation by predicting tech innovations such as the swipe (you know, like Tinder). Her long-time partner, French intellectual Roman Bellard, has coasted off her insights to come up with a buzzy new idea: neo-sensualism, a post-touch and post-sexual philosophy that promises greater satisfaction from virtual sex. While her new employer, Mammoth CEO Dax Stevens, is a fan of Roman’s work, Sloane has begun to question it. She senses a shift in the other direction, a reaction away from overly slick digital life toward animal comforts. This partly has to do with her own needs. She’s begun to crave the domestic warmth she left behind to be one-half of a power couple so shiny and well-armored that the two have barely even touched each other in years. At Mammoth, Sloane begins to lead brainstorming workshops with the developing teams, looking to pitch products geared toward child-free adults like herself and Roman. But through these conversations with confused young professionals, she realizes that the wellspring of loneliness among modern singles might be more acute than she guessed. Tired of bashing herself against the smooth, unyielding wall of Daxter’s (and Roman’s) technological future fantasy, Sloane finds herself considering, instead, embracing another fantasy: sex, romance, pregnancy. “It doesn’t make me old-fashioned to want affection!” she snaps at her partner during a dinner. “It doesn’t make me old-fashioned to want children!” Rather than be swept into the tide of the capitalistic tech fantasy, she walks away, gets a non-tech-focused job, and starts a family. Sloane’s is a fairly neat solution to a tech world takeover. In fact, she happily takes on perhaps the most eerie bit of tech innovation in the book ― her A.I. personal assistant and smartcar, named, oddly enough, Anastasia ― even after she dramatically abandons the digital sphere. She finds the simulated companionship comforting. Anastasia knows how she likes her coffee and makes it for her; Anastasia asks politely about her day and makes the appropriate, soothing responses. That the virtual assistant is actually a creepy repository of an immense amount of information about her ― and specifically designed to overcome any qualms by artificially smoothing away small discomforts ― doesn’t faze Sloane in the end. When she needs to hire an assistant and her old employee isn’t available, the job doesn’t go to another person, but to Anastasia. “She was an admission that there was a lot of good about technology,” Maum writes. “She was a modern compromise.” We all long to see good in Silicon Valley’s products, even those of us who sometimes feel uneasy about how much tech companies have infiltrated our private lives. But which part is the good part? In Maum’s view, it’s technology that makes us feel like we’re connecting with people, the old-fashioned way ― even if that feeling is a lie. **** The tech satire Startup, Buzzfeed writer Doree Shafrir’s first foray into fiction, takes a still less fatalistic, though more disdainful, view of tech itself. The central antagonist, 28-year-old Mack McAllister, created a wellness app called TakeOff that quickly, well, took off, and he’s about to close on another round of venture funding on the strength of a new feature that will predict a user’s wellness needs. The creepy omniscience of this app ― for which Mack promises investors won’t store user data to fuel an algorithm that only works if Takeoff does store user data ― seems like a pretty major problem, but that’s not the primary concern of Startup. If anything, the startup bros Shafrir lampoons are devastatingly ineffective, myopically focused on minor lifestyle apps, like an app for crowdsharing strollers, rather than meaningful steps forward for science. That’s when they’re not tagging each other on Instagram, guzzling green juices, making appearances at sober raves and sniffing out possible hook-ups. The men of Startup are too distracted by their own dicks to take over the world. Mack might be greedy, but he’s hardly clever or focused enough to build a company that might threaten consumers’ privacy and wellbeing. The real threat in Startup is the outsized status and entitlement men gain through succeeding in the capitalist arena. Where the HBO show “Silicon Valley” zings Silicon Valley for the self-serving high-mindedness of its ethos, Startup lacerates the hypocrisy of posing as idealistic do-gooders while fostering workplaces that serve as playgrounds for white bros and battlegrounds for women, people of color and other less powerful constituencies. Mack, in distinct contrast to Nutting’s bionically efficient Byron, uses his tech work as a dating pool rather than vice versa. He’s been having a fling with TakeOff’s beautiful blonde Engagement and Marketing Hero, Isabel, but when she cools on the romance, he can’t help but act on his wounded feelings, getting on her case in meetings and eventually restructuring her role. Mack doesn’t see himself as a villain, but he’s recklessly using his power to harm an employee ― and with rising young tech journalist Katya on the case, the truth can’t be hidden forever. The recent spate of such scandals at startup giants and venture capital funds alike has revealed, argued Maya Kosoff in Vanity Fair recently, that “Silicon Valley is just as venal and sexist as Wall Street ever was,” though, she added, “one difference between Wall Street and Silicon Valley is that the former at least acknowledges that they often behave like jerks.” The refusal to acknowledge this is Silicon Valley’s secret weapon: As a society, we’re inviting the enemy into our homes, if not our beds, not realizing they’re the enemy at all. RELATED…In A World That’s Stranger Than Fiction, Are Americans Still Reading Books?'Handbook For Mortals' Author Accuses YA Community Of Keeping Out New Voices24 Books That Will Help You Understand America **** Our unwitting complicity in our own exploitation doesn’t excuse those who take advantage, but it does present immense obstacles to undoing the damage. While all four authors lay bare how the Silicon Valley iteration of the capitalist fantasy can fail, consume or destroy us ― and the particular vulnerability of women to it ― each writer struggles to offer a convincing pathway to liberation. Their female protagonists are victimized by tech titans, and they discover that the answer isn’t as simple as submitting in exchange for material gain. But is there anywhere else to go? In Touch, Maum offers a Pinterest-worthy, emotionally pleasing conclusion, in which the heroine transitions smoothly into a morally uncompromised but still high-status, high-earning career while enjoying a sexual renaissance and a fulfilling family life. There’s some comfort, too, in the trend she forecasts: Young people around the world are growing exhausted with the saturation of digital entertainment and going, metaphorically at least, to the woods because they wish to live deliberately. But ― ironically, for a book that urges us to embrace the messiness of reality ― Touch delivers an ending that resembles the shabby-chic Anthropologie version of Fifty Shades of Grey’s gleaming Restoration Hardware aesthetic. Sloane only gives up things that she never wanted to begin with; she winds up with the best of everything. Nutting, for her part, isn’t convinced that having the best of everything is anything more than a logical fallacy. The unremitting perfection of a luxurious lifestyle, stripped of rough edges by an unholy marriage of cutting-edge technology and money, is itself what saps their joy. At first dazzled by Byron’s ergonomically optimized home, the Hub, Hazel learns almost immediately that no experiences seem to carry weight there: “[E]ven on that first visit, ‘living’ felt like a generous term for what happened inside The Hub.” When her sex life with her husband fades, he suggests in a businesslike manner that she use a Gogol device to masturbate to orgasm daily. “She’d tried out the machines, and they were effective,” writes Nutting. “But too effective? They worked in seconds and made climax feel like a reflex.” Even after Hazel leaves Byron, his megalomaniacal quest to reclaim his wife, and to use his technology to exploit millions of consumers, remains terrifyingly in motion. Nutting’s solution is perhaps the weakest and yet most superficially satisfying twist in the book: a woman CEO. After a quiet divorce, Byron remarries his long-time righthand woman, Fiffany, who has been sniffing after him for years. But then, Byron dies in a freak accident ― engineered, Hazel is convinced, by his ambitious new wife ― and Fiffany quickly takes over the company. “[I]n killing him, she’d probably saved the world a little,” writes Nutting. “One of her new VPs was already discussing what speculative changes the company might undergo with her leadership … She’d likely be bowing out of several of Gogol’s weapons’ contracts and wanted to increase the company’s humanitarian initiatives.” “Hail the new CEO,” Hazel applauds, as she watches the news on TV. How satisfying, that the perpetually downtrodden woman might get enough power to actually fix the worst excesses of capitalism. It’s a neat button on the clear parallel, from Fifty Shades to Made for Love, between the patriarchy and the capitalist system ― two systems that purport to offer comfort and happiness to the vulnerable, but that were actually created to benefit the powerful. It takes a woman, Nutting suggests, to slam on the brakes of a mechanism designed by and for men. It’s such a satisfying fantasy that Made for Love isn’t the only one to indulge in it. Startup offers a similar savior arc for the women of the tech scene ― three victims of male manipulation (Isabel, her employee Sabrina, and journalist Katya) ultimately work together to take down Mack. They don’t need to suffer the indignities of being subject to male egos anymore; they have female solidarity. The book closes on the image of the three women sharing a bottle of wine in Isabel’s expensive Brooklyn apartment, contemplating their futures. Giving the levers of power to women feels like a win, or at least a cathartic way to end a book that catalogs the misogyny and power-hungriness of Silicon Valley. The problem is, putting a woman in charge doesn’t fix anything. We know that because we’ve seen it. In the past few years, the female executive or #girlboss arose as an almost instantly discredited feminist brand. There was Sheryl Sandberg, who worked her way to the top of the industry through intelligence, talent and a whole lot of luck and privilege ― the latter of which became abundantly clear with the publication of her blinkered advice guide for ambitious women, Lean In. Entrepreneur Miki Agrawal launched Thinx, a period underwear startup, with a pro-woman, empowering message. In March, she had to step down as CEO after allegations that she’d exploited employees and fostered a culture of sexual harassment in her office. Bootstrapping millionaire Sophia Amoruso, founder of the fashion startup Nasty Gal (which filed for bankruptcy this year), suffered a major blow to her reputation when former employees alleged that she’d fired women who became pregnant and had other health issues. It’s seductive to think that letting women run our tech conglomerates would make them instantly kinder, gentler and less geared toward rapaciousness. But women aren’t inherently better people than men, they’re just less likely to have the power to behave badly with impunity, and less likely to have been encouraged to assert their predatory instincts. Often the women who make it that far turn out to be just as unscrupulous as their male counterparts. Often having that kind of power, and the temptation of that much money, turns out to be corrupting. Many women have their own privileges and biases, even internalized sexism. Suffice it to say, depending on women to be virtuous enough to save the world from itself won’t really get us anywhere. Maybe nothing will. In The Answers, Lacey’s Mary doesn’t seem to feel much optimism. When she leaves, she first relies on technology to ease her lonely life ― ordering in everything she needs from her phone and browsing the Internet for hours ― but then tries to reclaim herself by shutting the phone off for weeks. Another woman, Kurt’s Anger Girlfriend, seeks Mary out, hoping they can join forces to seek revenge on Kurt, but Mary doesn’t see the point. She can’t find relief in technological pacifiers, or love, or female solidarity. Nor does she see another solution to the issue she’s diagnosed: a messy, ever-changing world populated by people who long for impossible neatness and stability. Little wonder we retreat into fantasies about winning the lottery or marrying chiseled billionaires. In such a hopelessly muddled world, it makes more sense to yearn for the simple comforts of love and money than to chase after elusive fixes to our true, deeper angst. Lacey’s heroine, in the end, most perfectly embodies our confused society, frustrated with the state of things yet at a loss for solutions. And as much as we’d like to think so, fixing our problems won’t be as simple as getting a woman put in charge of Uber. Made for Love, by Alissa Nutting Ecco, $26.99 Published July 4, 2017 Touch, by Courtney Maum G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $26.00 Published May 30, 2017 Startup, by Doree Shafrir Little, Brown and Company, $26.00 Published April 25, 2017 The Answers, by Catherine Lacey Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26.00 Published June 6, 2017 Download ALSO ON HUFFPOST PHOTO GALLERY BEFORE YOU GO 19 Nonfiction Books That Will Expand Your Mind PHOTO GALLERY 19 Nonfiction Books That Will Expand Your Mind The Tech Bros Will Not Save You 19 Nonfiction Books That Will Expand Your Mind 19 Nonfiction Books That Will Expand Your Mind 1/ 19 "Sex Object" by Jessica Valenti Feminist blogger Jessica Valenti knew she would receive backlash for naming her memoir &ldquo;Sex Object.&rdquo; Despite the fact that no woman appreciates being demeaned to the status of an object, Valenti predicted that trolls would object to the name, claiming Valenti wasn&rsquo;t attractive enough to deserve the dehumanizing title. And she was right. This is but one infuriating circumstance Valenti explores <a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062435086/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?amp=&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0062435086&ie=UTF8&linkCode=as2&linkId=8ed139d7da67b8214367c725ad3264fb&tag=thehuffingtop-20" target="_blank">in her essay collection</a>, which recalls with vulnerability and force the experience growing up a sex object first, a human being second. Readers might be surprised at how many of their own repressed memories bubble up reading Valenti&rsquo;s account, how many times instances of misogyny have been laughed off or brushed under the rug. -Priscilla Frank Dey Street Books Claire Fallon Books & Culture Writer, HuffPost Suggest a correction MORE:Entertainment OriginalsBooksSilicon ValleyFifty Shades Of Grey The Tech Bros Will Not Save You CONVERSATIONS

ARTS & CULTURE 09/20/2017 09:23 am ET The Tech Bros Will Not Save You Four 2017 novels disrupt our obsession with Silicon Valley, and our romance with capitalism. By Claire Fallon Isabella Carapella “We live,” declared Bernie Sanders in a 2015 speech at Liberty University, “in the wealthiest country in the history of the world.” […]