Category Archives: Interviews

Interview: Jen Dziura

dziura1 dziura2

Jen Dziura is a comedian, writer, and co-host of the popular Williamsburg Adult Spelling Bee, among other New York City verbal, math, and trivia contests (including the Chelsea Vocabulary Tournament, in which Arbiter of Style Austin has participated on several occasions). She has lent her coruscating wit to projects as various as articles for McSweeney’s magazine, a blog called Jen Is Famous, a one-woman show about philosophy, and a stand-up comedy tour for U.S. troops in the Middle East. Occasionally malapert but never jejune, she weaves her love of language into all her material and even claims, in stronger vocabulary than we are permitted on this site, to have experienced a sensual frisson induced by grammatical perfection. Recently she agreed to answer a few questions about words, humor, and the hazards of travel in Djibouti.

AMoS: How did you get your start in comedy, and how did that lead to your gig with the Williamsburg Spelling Bee?

JD: As a teenager, I wrote a humor column for the local newspaper. This got me a good deal of hate mail from the religious right, even in my adolescent years—some people would actually send physical letters to me in care of my high school, and my homeroom teacher would drop them on my desk. I would open them during class and laugh hysterically at the suggestion that Jesus would be dismayed at my burgeoning portfolio of hilarity on topics such as Jell-O, the SAT, gym class, and the Pledge of Allegiance. I think that’s where it all began.

I started performing standup in New York about six years ago. Since then, I’ve done comedy on three continents and at colleges and clubs from Boise to Raleigh-Durham to LA. I produce Ivy League comedy shows for private clubs and recently hosted the “Geeks and Freaks” show for the Hysterical Festival, New York’s first all-women comedy festival. I once did a horrible show at a casino where every time I’d get to a punch line, some old lady would win on the slots or the bartender would make a daiquiri.

The spelling bee was founded by my co-host, bobbyblue, who was inspired by the movie “Spellbound” to create a local adult bee. I competed in the first one as a contestant, and the bar asked me to come back and co-host. We’ve since held well over a hundred spelling bees, and are in our ninth bi-annual season.

It’s due to the spelling bee that I know “chionablepsia” (snow blindness), “strephosymbolia” (transposition of letters or numbers while reading), and “amygdaline” (like an almond or tonsil).

AMoS: Along with spelling and vocabulary tournaments, you co-host a geography bee, a math bee, and a general trivia contest. Which of these subjects are you, personally, best at?

JD: Good question! I like to think I’m the Michael Phelps of vocabulary, spelling, and math. But shorter, and less likely to eat more than one chicken parm hero at a time. I don’t actually know anything about geography; my co-host Meg handles all of that. As for trivia—well, you know the word itself means “trifles, unimportant things.” I like to think I am a master of the non-negligible.

AMoS: What word do you most frequently misspell?

JD: However would I know?

AMoS: Please use the following three words in a sentence: “uberous,” “polyphagia,” “soffit.” No fair using dictionary.com (we’re on the honor system here). We’ll award up to three bonus points for style.

JD: Austin, I’ve never given you words that hard at the Vocab Tournament! No one would come to an event that daunting. I looked up “soffit.” Turns out I don’t know anything about architecture (soffit = the underside of a structural component, such as a beam, arch, staircase, or cornice). I do know, however, that the underside of a structural component is usually the most sensitive part.

[Note: “soffit” does indeed mean the underside of a beam, arch, etc.; “uberous” means “fruitful, abundant” and “polyphagia” means “excessive desire to eat” or “omnivorousness.” Sadly, we can’t award any points on definitions, but we are giving the full three style points to Ms. Dziura for her double entendre. It’s true that we picked perversely obscure words, although we’re pretty sure we once saw Philip Roth use “uberous” in an equally salacious context. But we digress. – Ed.]

AMoS: You once served as a televised expert on “how to be witty.” We try, God knows, but it is so difficult. Can you give us some quick tips?

JD: Write your witticisms ahead of time. Alphabetize them, and memorize them in that order. Nod during whatever your date says, and whenever he or she pauses, recite the next witticism on the list. Warning: this method could cause you to fail the Turing Test.

AMoS: Given that you host the Williamsburg Spelling Bee, keep a popular blog, and contribute to McSweeney’s, do you find that you’ve become a hipster icon? When you walk down Bedford Avenue, do you get mobbed by people in skinny jeans and ill-considered headgear?

JD: If only! I’m not a hipster; I am a professional nerd. Not to make everyone uncomfortable by talking about class in America, but if you grow up lower-middle-class, I can’t imagine why you’d want to shop in a thrift store when you don’t have to. I love new things. Specifically, the exact new thing the mannequin at a national retail establishment is wearing right now. I want that. And I want to look just like the mannequin—tall, smooth, hard, no nipples.

While I spend every Monday evening in Williamsburg, I actually live in Manhattan, half a block from Starbucks, where the baristas know that I want an iced trippio, and I want it expeditiously. I am totally in bed with The Man. I may be wearing a “Here’s Looking at Euclid” T-shirt, but I love capitalism like a fat kid loves cake.

AMoS: Tell us about your experience entertaining U.S. troops in the Middle East. Did your set go over well? Would you do it again?

JD: For three weeks, I toured U.S. military bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Djibouti with three other comics, doing shows for crowds of usually several hundred soldiers at a time (many of them armed!). Before leaving, Armed Forces Entertainment informed me that I was not permitted to tell any jokes about sex or politics. All fine and good. As soon as I arrived on base, however, a commanding officer would say something like “You’ve got some sex jokes, right? ‘Cause that’s all these guys want to hear.”

It was 120 degrees in the Middle East in August. I’ve never felt anything like it. The troops liked to say it was like “putting your head in an oven and throwing a bag of sand in your face.” I could feel the premature aging. I moisturized like a madwoman.

Every mode of transportation involved in the tour was extremely uncomfortable and extremely awesome. We were flown out to the middle of the Persian Gulf in a tiny plane, landed on the top of an aircraft carrier, did a show in the hangar, were flown in a helicopter to another ship where we did a show in the mess hall, were flown back by helicopter, then took off from the deck of the aircraft carrier in another tiny plane, in which you get strapped in the way you are strapped in to a roller coaster, and then the plane is shot off the end of the aircraft carrier with superheated steam. We also rode in a Learjet from Kuwait to Qatar, and were strapped in to the back of a (bathroomless) cargo plane from Qatar to Djibouti.

In Djibouti, even on base, you brush your teeth with bottled water to try to avoid malaria.

I didn’t tell my grammar jokes. I told a lot of new jokes about sand.

AMoS: According to your website, you are famous. Apart from this interview, how do you plan to become more famous in the future?

JD: Damn, do you mean that this interview isn’t going to do the trick?

Alas, interviews with The Abbeville Manual of Style won’t make you famous among the masses—just envied among the cognoscenti. Uberous thanks to Jen Dziura for her time, and remember to check out the 2009 Williamsburg Spelling Bee (starting Feb. 2 at Pete’s Candy Store), New York City Spelling Bee (starting Jan. 31), and Chelsea Mind Games tournaments (starting Jan. 7 with Team Trivia at Chelsea Market). Click the links for full details on each. See you there!

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Interview: "Grammar Girl"

grammargirl

Voilà! The identity of our Secret Interview Subject is now officially revealed, though we suppose we tipped our hand a bit by printing that cartoon a couple weeks back. Mignon Fogarty was a magazine writer, science and technical writer, and entrepreneur until her life was taken over by hosting the weekly audio podcast Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing and by the related tasks that followed. Each Thursday, for five minutes, she contributes a welcome burst of clarity to our misused, misspelled, grammatically benighted world, parsing the chaos while managing to entertain and delight. The enormous success of her show has launched a New York Times bestselling book by the same title and landed her appearances on CNN and Oprah—echelons to which, we can safely say, no grammarian has ascended before. This week Ms. Fogarty has at last attained the true pinnacle of fame: an interview with the Abbeville Manual of Style.

AMoS: Let’s get the big question out of the way first. Where do you stand on split infinitives?

MF: I like to boldly split infinitives, and I love to dispel the myth that it’s against the rules. I’m actually working on a song about split infinitives. I’ve been working on it for over a year, so it may never see the light of day, but that’s how passionate I am about it—I felt compelled to sing. 

AMoS: How did you get started in your career as celebrity grammarian? 

MF: Like all celebrities, my career began with the heartbreak of rejection after rejection. I sneaked away from restaurant jobs for auditions and took all the small off-Oxford parts I could get, hoping to be discovered by the grammar agents who would occasionally come by the shows. Then one day I realized the Internet existed and I could go directly to the audience without the filter of the establishment. And the rest, as they say, is history.

AMoS: Do you feel grammar rules should be primarily prescriptive or descriptive—that is, should they dictate how the language ought to work or describe and adapt to how it does work? 

MF: I constantly struggle with this question. I hate rules that aren’t logical (like the rule against splitting infinitives), but I also don’t think something should become acceptable language just because a boy band put it in a song. I had a lot of fun writing about the word “funnest” when Steve Jobs used it in his keynote address recently. It’s one of those words that is on its way to becoming acceptable, but isn’t there yet. I usually try to find a middle ground, and I also try to follow rather than lead because people come to my website and podcast looking for answers that will keep them from getting in trouble, not answers that will put them out in front on the language wars.

AMoS: What is the grammatical error that grates on you the most? 

MF: I can’t say that there is one error that grates on me the most. The biggest thing that bothers me is when people don’t try. You know how sometimes you read someone’s writing and you can just tell they don’t even care about getting the words right? That bugs me. (And yes, I did just use “they” as a singular pronoun. And start a sentence with “and.” I believe both are fine.)

AMoS: What is the grammatical error you find yourself committing most often? 

MF: I tend to use “like” as a conjunction. Technically, we’re supposed to say “It looks as if it’s going to rain” or “It looks as though it’s going to rain.” I tend to say “It looks like it’s going to rain.” That’s wrong, but I’ve been saying it that way my whole life and it’s a hard habit to break. I’m constantly correcting myself.

AMoS: How do you feel about our sworn arch-nemesis, The Chicago Manual of Style? Not a loaded question or anything.

MF: It bugs me when they change the numbering of the sections from edition to edition. I mean, they’re like the Bible of copyediting. When I cite “Chicago 6.78” it should always mean the section about irony quotes, but now, in the new edition, 6.78 is the section about inappropriate use of an exclamation point! If you’re going to develop a numbering method like that, you should stick to it. 

AMoS: What is the most rewarding part of doing the podcast? What is the most stressful? 

MF: The amount of listener feedback I get is amazing. I used to write for magazines, and I’d hear from a reader maybe once every five or six articles. With Grammar Girl, I hear from tens of listeners every day. It can be incredibly rewarding to hear about how the show is helping people do better at work or at school. I’ve heard from people who say it has literally changed their lives (in a good way), and that is something I never expected.

The listener feedback is also the most stressful part of the podcast because for every wonderful message I get, there are probably two nasty messages from people who disagree with what I say, or found some error  (or perceived error) in the show. The funny thing is that the more nasty someone is, the more likely they are to be wrong. It’s something I’ve talked about with other public grammarians, and they notice the same thing.

AMoS: What are your future plans for “Grammar Girl”? Will your title be like “Dear Abby”—a hereditary institution, passed on to a new generation via some kind of sacred ritual?

MF: Oooh. I like that idea. I’ll have to develop a sacred ritual! Actually, I would like to see Grammar Girl go on for a long time. One of the reasons I decided to use a cartoon character instead of my own picture in the logo is so that the show wouldn’t be dependent on me to keep going. I’ll keep doing it for the foreseeable future, but it’s easy to imagine that someone else might take the reins someday. I can’t imagine still being Grammar Girl when I’m 60! I hope to be enjoying a beach somewhere, throwing a stick for a dog and enjoying time with my family.

*     *     *

Thanks again to Mignon Fogarty for answering our questions, ragging on Chicago, and generally being a rock star to humble editors like us. Also, it sounds like as though she’ll be a literal rock star in the very near future! We can’t wait to hear that ditty about split infinitives, which we fully expect to be the biggest thing to hit the grammar music scene since “Conjunction Junction” shook our world forever.

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Interview: “Grammar Girl”

grammargirl

Voilà! The identity of our Secret Interview Subject is now officially revealed, though we suppose we tipped our hand a bit by printing that cartoon a couple weeks back. Mignon Fogarty was a magazine writer, science and technical writer, and entrepreneur until her life was taken over by hosting the weekly audio podcast Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing and by the related tasks that followed. Each Thursday, for five minutes, she contributes a welcome burst of clarity to our misused, misspelled, grammatically benighted world, parsing the chaos while managing to entertain and delight. The enormous success of her show has launched a New York Times bestselling book by the same title and landed her appearances on CNN and Oprah—echelons to which, we can safely say, no grammarian has ascended before. This week Ms. Fogarty has at last attained the true pinnacle of fame: an interview with the Abbeville Manual of Style.

AMoS: Let’s get the big question out of the way first. Where do you stand on split infinitives?

MF: I like to boldly split infinitives, and I love to dispel the myth that it’s against the rules. I’m actually working on a song about split infinitives. I’ve been working on it for over a year, so it may never see the light of day, but that’s how passionate I am about it—I felt compelled to sing. 

AMoS: How did you get started in your career as celebrity grammarian? 

MF: Like all celebrities, my career began with the heartbreak of rejection after rejection. I sneaked away from restaurant jobs for auditions and took all the small off-Oxford parts I could get, hoping to be discovered by the grammar agents who would occasionally come by the shows. Then one day I realized the Internet existed and I could go directly to the audience without the filter of the establishment. And the rest, as they say, is history.

AMoS: Do you feel grammar rules should be primarily prescriptive or descriptive—that is, should they dictate how the language ought to work or describe and adapt to how it does work? 

MF: I constantly struggle with this question. I hate rules that aren’t logical (like the rule against splitting infinitives), but I also don’t think something should become acceptable language just because a boy band put it in a song. I had a lot of fun writing about the word “funnest” when Steve Jobs used it in his keynote address recently. It’s one of those words that is on its way to becoming acceptable, but isn’t there yet. I usually try to find a middle ground, and I also try to follow rather than lead because people come to my website and podcast looking for answers that will keep them from getting in trouble, not answers that will put them out in front on the language wars.

AMoS: What is the grammatical error that grates on you the most? 

MF: I can’t say that there is one error that grates on me the most. The biggest thing that bothers me is when people don’t try. You know how sometimes you read someone’s writing and you can just tell they don’t even care about getting the words right? That bugs me. (And yes, I did just use “they” as a singular pronoun. And start a sentence with “and.” I believe both are fine.)

AMoS: What is the grammatical error you find yourself committing most often? 

MF: I tend to use “like” as a conjunction. Technically, we’re supposed to say “It looks as if it’s going to rain” or “It looks as though it’s going to rain.” I tend to say “It looks like it’s going to rain.” That’s wrong, but I’ve been saying it that way my whole life and it’s a hard habit to break. I’m constantly correcting myself.

AMoS: How do you feel about our sworn arch-nemesis, The Chicago Manual of Style? Not a loaded question or anything.

MF: It bugs me when they change the numbering of the sections from edition to edition. I mean, they’re like the Bible of copyediting. When I cite “Chicago 6.78” it should always mean the section about irony quotes, but now, in the new edition, 6.78 is the section about inappropriate use of an exclamation point! If you’re going to develop a numbering method like that, you should stick to it. 

AMoS: What is the most rewarding part of doing the podcast? What is the most stressful? 

MF: The amount of listener feedback I get is amazing. I used to write for magazines, and I’d hear from a reader maybe once every five or six articles. With Grammar Girl, I hear from tens of listeners every day. It can be incredibly rewarding to hear about how the show is helping people do better at work or at school. I’ve heard from people who say it has literally changed their lives (in a good way), and that is something I never expected.

The listener feedback is also the most stressful part of the podcast because for every wonderful message I get, there are probably two nasty messages from people who disagree with what I say, or found some error  (or perceived error) in the show. The funny thing is that the more nasty someone is, the more likely they are to be wrong. It’s something I’ve talked about with other public grammarians, and they notice the same thing.

AMoS: What are your future plans for “Grammar Girl”? Will your title be like “Dear Abby”—a hereditary institution, passed on to a new generation via some kind of sacred ritual?

MF: Oooh. I like that idea. I’ll have to develop a sacred ritual! Actually, I would like to see Grammar Girl go on for a long time. One of the reasons I decided to use a cartoon character instead of my own picture in the logo is so that the show wouldn’t be dependent on me to keep going. I’ll keep doing it for the foreseeable future, but it’s easy to imagine that someone else might take the reins someday. I can’t imagine still being Grammar Girl when I’m 60! I hope to be enjoying a beach somewhere, throwing a stick for a dog and enjoying time with my family.

*     *     *

Thanks again to Mignon Fogarty for answering our questions, ragging on Chicago, and generally being a rock star to humble editors like us. Also, it sounds like as though she’ll be a literal rock star in the very near future! We can’t wait to hear that ditty about split infinitives, which we fully expect to be the biggest thing to hit the grammar music scene since “Conjunction Junction” shook our world forever.

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Interview: Bob Duggan of Art Blog By Bob

Over the past year and a half, Bob Duggan has carved out a niche for himself as one of the premier art bloggers on the Web. His daily meditations on the works and artists he loves best range over the whole scope of art history, both Western and Eastern, yet his site is as consistently unpretentious and good-humored as its title, “Art Blog By Bob.” A passionate amateur with a literary bent, he has brought the spirit of John Ruskin to a blogosphere that badly needs it. This week he graciously took time out from pondering the Old Masters to answer a few questions about (surprise!) art. And books, too.


AMoS: How and why did you get into blogging? What was your goal in creating Art Blog by Bob?


BD: Since the 2000 election, I’ve been hooked on political blogs, especially Eschaton and Daily Kos. Seeing the potential for such enlightened and lively discourse on a topic by “amateurs” and professionals interested in talking to laypersons rather than just other professionals, I began looking for blogs covering my other interests, including art history. To my dismay, I really didn’t find that much out there. I discovered lots of contemporary art bloggers, but nothing really touching on the “classic” art that you’d see in museums and in big-name museum exhibitions. One free Blogger account later, I started blogging in March 2007 with no aspiration other than writing for my own enjoyment and maybe picking up some like-minded readers on the way. (A psychoanalyst might argue that Art Blog by Bob is how I’m dealing with my impending midlife crisis; at the very least, it’s cheaper than a Corvette.) I’d like to think I’ve helped fill a neglected niche in my own way. My academic training is in English literature and literary criticism, so reviewing art books and museum catalogues became the next step in the evolution of Art Blog by Bob. Book reviewing in America is a dying art, but thanks to the forward-mindedness and kindness of many museums and publishers such as Abbeville Press, I’ve been able to review books that had little or no chance of ever getting reviewed in the mainstream media.


AMoS: Your mention of literature brings up a point that we’re always interested in at Abbeville (not least because several of us were English majors too): the relationship between writing and art. How do you feel your background in literary study affects your perception of, and taste in, art? What do you think explains the close connection between the two disciplines?


BD: Great question, and one I ask myself often in my more metaphysical moments. I think that my literary background certainly colors the kind of art that grabs me. A highly literary group such as the Pre-Raphaelites, evoking Shakespeare, Keats, Tennyson, and other greats, certainly finds a special place in my mind and heart. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate more modern and abstract kinds of art, but that connection for me from a literary perspective is usually more intellectual. Theories of literary deconstruction fit in nicely with Cubism, Vorticism, etc. For me, Abstract Expressionism screams all kinds of Freudian literary interpretation à la Harold Bloom and his Anxiety of Influence. I’m so steeped in literature that I sometimes have to force myself to turn that off (if such a thing is possible) and look at something in a purely sensory way. I once sat in front of a Rothko for a half hour doing just that.


I think the two disciplines merge wonderfully because the interpretive techniques work so well for both. You can’t say the same for literature and music because the media are just too different, but marks on paper intending to convey meaning—whether they’re letters or brushstrokes—simply enjoy a common ability to withstand the best and the worst such analysis has to offer. Also, you can go all the way back to Vasari and the beginnings of art history and interpret that text as a narrative with built-in intentionality and biases and simultaneously interpret how it looks at art, too. I think that the finest writing on art, going back to people like John Ruskin and Walter Pater in the nineteenth century all the way up to Simon Schama, T.J. Clark, Craig Clunas, Robert Hughes, and others today, approaches the level of poetry in prose more frequently than any other type of nonfiction, which creates an endless loop of interpretation being interpreted. The wheel just keeps going round and round. I’d hate to be there if it ever stopped.


AMoS: It’s interesting that you mention critics like Ruskin and Pater (and Bloom in literature), whose criticism is often a species of personal essay. (Bloom has even been accused of writing concealed autobiography when he’s supposed to be discussing Shakespeare.) Do you follow this model when you blog? Do you find yourself writing about your own life and concerns when you intended to discuss El Greco or Millet?


BD: I subscribe to the theory that all writing and all forms of expression are autobiographical in some way and simply differ in the degree that you conceal it either consciously or subconsciously. One of the things that kept me out of the professional literary criticism track was the falseness of trying to drain all the blood and personality out of analyzing art. Without that human element, I just don’t know why anyone would bother. I pretty freely insert my own life and concerns into my writing on art.  Without that connection, I wouldn’t feel as driven as I am to engage these artists. El Greco’s been dead for a good, long time, but when I’m looking at his paintings and thinking and writing about him, he’s right next to me spiritually. There’s a danger, of course, of making it all about me, as so many bloggers who wallow in solipsism do. But I think that’s a brand of sloppy thinking and writing that’s more a part of our culture and educational system than a symptom of blogging itself.


AMoS: Speaking of the artists you’ve engaged with, which are your favorites? Of those that you didn’t know or like before you started writing Art Blog By Bob, which have you come to admire the most?


BD: I would have to say that the single artist I connect with most closely is Thomas Eakins. Because of all of Eakins’ links to Philadelphia, my birthplace and hometown, his works resonate with me as part of the environment itself. Plus, Eakins lived a tough life, some of which he brought onto himself with his brusqueness, and suffered neglect from the art world at large until well after his death, which, at least for me, makes him an emblem of the blue-collar, underdog mentality that I’ve always associated with Philadelphia. After that, my tastes are pretty eclectic. Michelangelo certainly holds a special place. When my wife Annie and I honeymooned in Italy, I was floored by the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. (Annie was more taken with the David.) J.M.W. Turner, Picasso, Dali, Matisse, John Singer Sargent, Caspar David Friedrich, Rembrandt…I could go on all day with my favorites.


In regards to people I’ve come to appreciate more since writing Art Blog By Bob, a few stand out. After reading the Tate’s exhibition catalogue for their John Everett Millais show last year, I see him more as a distinct artist separate from the Pre-Raphaelites. John Sloan and Robert Henri have risen in my estimation thanks to new studies on the role of The Ashcan School in American art and culture. It seems like I keep finding new favorite artists. For example, right now I’m reading the exhibition catalogue for George De Forrest Brush: The Indian Paintings currently running at the NGA. The essays in that book really connect Brush to his period and the whole arc of art history, from alluding to contemporaries such as Winslow Homer to harking back to classics such as Rubens. Brush studied in Paris with Gerome, who also taught Eakins and many other American artists, so I can’t help but compare Brush with Eakins. Each new artist I discover fits into the larger picture of art history for me like a new piece to the puzzle. I got into blogging as a learning experience, so discovering a new artist or rediscovering someone I thought I knew well is a huge thrill. Next year is the centennial of Francis Bacon’s birth, so a whole slew of Bacon books are on the horizon that will put his work, which I find grotesquely fascinating, into a better perspective.


AMoS: Your blog seems to be defined by those kinds of discoveries and rediscoveries. What are your future plans for Art Blog By Bob? Do you want to keep doing what you’re doing, or do you anticipate taking the site in any new directions?


BD: I really don’t have any long-term goals for Art Blog By Bob other than continuing to enjoy the ride and letting the rest take care of itself. Whether it’s five or five hundred people reading my work each day, I’ll keep putting it out there. When I map out who I’ll be writing on each week, I always try to acknowledge the big names, but I also want to acknowledge lesser-known names who are interesting as individual artists as well as for their role in their period or school. If I could change anything about my current operations, I would include more women and more artists from outside the Western tradition. Reviewing the exhibition catalogue for the Nandalal Bose show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art this year was pure joy for me. Bose participated in and designed the “look” for the most momentous events of modern Indian history—the creation of modern India itself—often right alongside Gandhi. I had never heard of Nandalal before, but now he’s part of my permanent consciousness. Finding that one gem makes me wonder how many other incredible artists from other cultures are out there waiting to be found. Michelangelo et al. will always find a place in my heart, but there’s enough room for an entire world of art in there. I think we’re all capable of containing multitudes if we just stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zones. As Robert Browning wrote in his poem “Andrea del Sarto,” his musing on one of the semi-forgotten names of the Italian Renaissance, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp—or what’s a heaven for?” No matter who did it or where it is from, I’ll keep reaching for the best in art, one of the biggest slices of heaven we may have here on earth.

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Many thanks to Bob for lending his time, and for tossing out Whitman and Browning references so we don’t have to. As always, we encourage our readers to make Art Blog By Bob a part of their daily Web diet—and never more so than this month, when you might see another Abbeville contest hosted there…

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Interview: Eric Anderson of Bookscreening

A few weeks back we encouraged our readers to take a look at Bookscreening, the book trailer blog that we predicted could become the “next big nice simple thing” in the world of publishing. Since then, we’ve put our money where our mouth is (as it were; no actual money or speech was involved) by offering several of our own videos for viewing on their site—an offer they’ve graciously accepted (see here, here, and here). Now, intrigued by Bookscreening’s concept and impressed by its sleek new design, we’ve conducted a Manual of Style interview with Eric Anderson, the site’s founder and editor. The topics we covered ranged far and wide, from the great books of the past to the publishing trends of the future to the magic of cats seen up close. 

AMoS: When was Bookscreening founded and why did you decide to create it?

 

EA: We founded Bookscreening in the beginning of summer 2008. For the past year, we have been interested in the growing medium of book trailers, but it was a hit-or-miss search when we wanted to watch them. Authors and publishers post them on YouTube and Vimeo, but they quickly get lost in the noise. We created Bookscreening with the hope that it could become a hub for anybody interested in watching previews of upcoming book releases.

 

As a hub, we felt that getting viewer’s feedback on the trailers would be an important component to pushing the medium forward. Authors and publishers that just track sales numbers related to rolling out a book trailer are only seeing a small part of the picture. How do you know if you’ve made the right kind of trailer for the book? How well does it resonate with potential readers? At its core, a book trailer conveys what the book is about, but through its style, tone, and production, what is the overall impression it gives the audience? Our hope is that more and more viewers will comment on the trailers, letting the creators know what works and challenging them to think more critically about what they are producing.

 

AMoS: To what genre(s) do you see the book trailer as being particularly well-suited? Are there genres to which you believe it’s essentially unadaptable?

 

EA: From a production standpoint, Children’s Books and Graphic Novels translate most easily into trailers. Because there are already illustrations to work with, the producers of the trailer can spend less time storyboarding, or searching for stock photography, and focus on inventive ways to communicate the message of the book. Art and photography books, like those published by Abbeville, share that same strength.

 

In terms of audience, we see the majority of trailers currently being created for Youth Fiction, with Romance and Thriller novels a close second and third.  Visually compelling, digital media is probably the best way for an analog medium (the book) to reach out to audiences that increasingly live mainlined into digital networks. Which is why we believe that despite an initial repulsion to book trailers as a marketing gimmick, even unlikely genres will begin to use video as a means to connect with readers or even as an extension of the work. We think about the creative possibilities for literary and experimental fiction and get excited for what could be. I’m not sure if there is any genre that wouldn’t benefit from video in some form.

 

AMoS: What do you see as the future of the book trailer or book video? Will these soon become standard in bookstores? On TV and the Internet?

 

EA: While there are efforts to implement video previews in bookstores, it is hard to imagine how the audio and visual overload of video displays would be appropriate in that context. And more and more people have the internet in their back pocket, so the relevance of in-store kiosks with their sticky keyboards and broken trackballs has a limited life. A more realistic scenario for the future is that books themselves will interact with mobile devices, enabling customers to watch book trailers as they peruse the shelves.

 

The returns on investment in TV advertising are waning, too, so unless you’re looking for a late night TV spot to sell books about the occult or a miracle cure for everything, there is probably not much of a future for book trailers there. Although, hats off to Alvin Eicoff for his Mysteries of the Unknown commericials for Time Life Books, I begged and begged for that set as a kid.

 

The future of book trailers is web-based, but how will they reach their audience? Some publishers will have more resources at their disposal to straddle the boundary between the digital and analog worlds within the traditional retail space (as in the book to mobile scenario). However, the democratization of publishing, through print-on-demand, e-books, etc. means that more and more little fish are looking for a way to cut through the noise.

 

Social networking and Web 2.0 holds a great deal of potential for authors who want to target a specific audience of readers and generate big buzz with a tiny budget. Authors are uploading their videos on Facebook, MySpace, their personal websites, and now even Amazon is hosting video previews on their product pages. Like anything, though, continual inventiveness will be key to staying ahead of the curve. If the art and production side of book trailers continues to progress, we envision that videos accompanying summaries of books online will become an expectation rather than an exception, with the videos acting as an additional, moving book cover.

 

AMoS: If you had to make a book trailer for The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, what would that look like? How about Principia Mathematica?

 

EA: “A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day.” –Emily Dickinson

 

The power of poetry lies in its words being spoken out loud and the interpretations of those words based on uniquely personal experiences. A video about the poems of Emily Dickinson should focus on the voice, and what better voices than those of contemporary poets such as Pinsky, Glück, or Graham who have each tried to re-introduce us to Dickinson’s work? No attempt to replace the images or music of the imagination, but a respectful nod to the interpretive nature of poetry and Dickinson’s own reclusive, eccentric nature with the speaker alone in an empty, whitewashed room, reading a selection of her poems from the book.

 

As for Principia Mathematica, I’m not going to touch that with a slide rule. Although, there is an example where the message is less about what it would be like to read the book (probably like listening to a lecture on philosophy generated by a TI-81 calculator), and more about generating an appreciation for the work—its place in history as a foundation for modern mathematics that blew the minds of the mathematicians, logicians and philosophers of the time. Perhaps ending with the line, “This trailer…strike that…your entire modern life as you know it…brought to you by Principia Mathematica.”

 

AMoS: What is the most stylish book trailer you’ve ever seen? (Abbeville videos excepted, of course.)

 

EA: How could we not mention Abbeville’s “Cats Up Close” montage, which is one of our favorites (regardless of the graphic scene involving Kevin). But alas, if we must choose from non-Abbevideos, our vote would be for “Atmospheric Disturbances” by Rivka Galchen. It is deceptively simply, consisting entirely of animations derived from the book’s cover art and accompanied by a beautiful piano track. All supporting the simple line “Last December a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly like my wife.”

 

AMoS: What lies in the future for Bookscreening? Any exciting new features or partnerships with other media?

 

EA: Some very exciting things will be happening this fall for the Bookscreening.com team. One of which will be the mid-October launch of our multi-media production studio—LivingJacket.com. 

And on Bookscreening.com, keep an eye out for our upcoming series of articles on book trailers—history, style, production—along with a few other surprises.

A delightfully teasing note to end on. Many thanks to Eric Anderson for his time and stay tuned, along with us, to Bookscreening!

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Interview: Scott Esposito of The Quarterly Conversation

As we all know, this Internet of ours is a cesspool of subliteracy, a heaving welter of celebrity gossip, prank videos, and asinine comment threads trailing like endless filaments of drool into the digital abyss. But there are always a few noble exceptions, and since 2005 The Quarterly Conversation has been one of them. With its decorous name and erudite style, TQC stands as as one of the Web’s true bastions of civilized discourse on literature and the arts. Each issue contains featured articles on writers and their works (current topics include a little-known literary predecessor of Borges and Simone Beauvoir’s recently published journals), reviews of new books, interviews, and five to ten works of original art. The editor, Scott Esposito, recently took the time to answer a few questions about his online projects, his offline reading habits, and the distinction (or is there one?) between high and low art. 

AMoS: What do you see as TQC’s “mission”? What niche is it attempting to fill, either online or in the culture at large?

SE: Our mission is to provide in-depth coverage of literature that can be read by educated laypeople. I don’t know that this is a niche audience that we’re trying to reach, although judging by the general disinterest newspapers now have in covering literature, I suppose some people think it is.

AMoS: You keep a blog called Conversational Reading, which is a kind of adjunct to TQC. How do the two sites relate to one another? Which (if either) is the more rewarding project for you personally?

SE: I started Conversational Reading in August of 2004. The Quarterly Conversation started about a year later, and it grew out of many relationships and ideas I derived from sources directly attributable to my blog. In other words, without the friends and education I found through my blog, TQC would have been impossible.

TQC is by far more rewarding because I get the chance to work with an amazing group of people. Also, as editor I read everthing we publish; suffice to say, I think it’s all worthwhile reading—just by editing our book reviews I’ve discovered so many wonderful books and writers. The blog is a lot of fun to do, but it doesn’t provide the same sustained level of rewarding interaction as TQC does.

AMoS: TQC publishes 5 to 10 works of original art per issue. What kind of relationship do you hope to create between the writing and the art you publish?

SE: There’s not really a relationship. If someone’s making interesting visual art I’m happy to give that people some exposure, and I’m sure some of our readers like to discover artists through us, but I’ve never really considered the two as integrated.

AMoS: What would you say has been TQC’s most controversial review or essay to date?

SE: I really can’t say. I know we’ve published some contentous stuff—Barrett Hathcock’s revisitation of the Brad Vice plagairism incident; Dan Green’s contrarian essay on Orhan Pamuk; Garth Risk Hallberg’s rebuttal to James Wood on Underworld—but I don’t think any of these pieces raised a controversy. Either that’s not why our readers go to the site or they’re keeping their opinions to themselves.

AMoS: How do you assess the state of the arts in this country today? Still vibrant, or drowned out by popular culture as some have argued?

SE: It’s tough to say. You can find declarations of the sorry state of book reviews/the arts/reading/etc. going back decades (and probably even well into the 19th century and further). So I really don’t know how our era stacks up to previous ones. There’s also the matter of measurement: how do you measure vibrancy of the arts? Is it some kind of comparison of the general penetration of “high” art compared to “low”? (And are those labels even useful?) Or do you think about the overall level of interesting art being produced and not bother with the people consuming it? Or is it something else entirely?

AMoS: Who are your own favorite writers and artists? Favorite works?

SE: We could be here for a while. George Eliot, Northrop Frye, Bakhtin, Wayne Booth, David Foster Wallace, Borges, Kafka, DeLillo, Sebald, Proust, Puig, Bolano, Tristram Shandy, Doctor Faustus, The Good Soldier, the Decameron

AMoS: Where do you see TQC headed as a publication in the next 5 years?

SE: I hope we do exactly what we’ve been doing, but more of it.

AMoS: Finally, the house question: when you hear the word “stylish,” who or what comes to mind?

SE: Fashion models?

Hmm…so far no one’s taken the bait on that style question yet. We’ll have to strive a little harder to make “Abbeville” and “stylish” synonymous in the public’s mind—and more importantly, in the minds of tastemakers like Scott. Until then, we thank Scott for his time and wholeheartedly recommend The Quarterly Conversation to our readers.

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Interview: Raymond Hammond of The New York Quarterly

The Abbeville blog has MOVED! You can now read this interview here.

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Interview: Charles Pfahl

Pastel Self-Portrait 3 (from www.charlespfahl.com)

Charles Pfahl is well known as one of the foremost representational artists of his generation. Whether in pastel self-portraits or complex depictions of savagely beautiful “archetypes,” his work is charged with dreamlike intensity intensity and splendor. He is the recipient of both the Isaac M. Maynard Prize and the Andrew Carnegie Prize from the National Academy of Design, among many other awards and honors. His paintings can be found on his website (http://www.charlespfahl.com/) as well as in institutions and collections across the country, including the Winterman Museum, the Columbus Museum of Art, and the private collection of Oprah Winfrey. In a recent conversation with The Abbeville Manual of Style, Mr. Pfahl recalled his background as an artist, dissented amiably from our tentative interpretations of his work, and touched on subjects as diverse as Caravaggio and the late Tim Russert’s eyebrow.

AMoS: What are your preferred materials and techniques, and what first attracted you to them?

CP: My grandmother studied painting. When I was 12, she sent me to her teacher in Akron, Ohio, and I was introduced to oil painting and it has been my preferred medium ever since.

AMoS: Which works are your personal favorites?  If you had to salvage one of your works from a fire, flood, locust swarm, etc., which would it be?

CP: Archetype is my favorite; however, it is way too large to salvage in an emergency. My second favorite is The Offering but because of the weight of the frame it would be much too heavy to carry.

So, if there were a fire, or other disaster, I’d grab my wife, my cat, and my dog.

AMoS: Which of your past works would you do differently if you were attempting them now?  Any old works that you “disown” completely?

CP: I try to mentally disown all of my past works—or I would never be able to part with them.

I suppose I would do many of my early paintings differently now, but there is no painting in particular that I would want to go back and change.  In retrospect, there are always paintings that I am not happy with—but at the time I painted them, I didn’t feel that way or I would never have shown them to anyone—and I certainly would never have sold them.

AMoS: Many of the images from your “Childhood” series feature baby dolls and stuffed animals experiencing various forms of suffocation or decay.  In these images, are you exploring your childhood in particular or the nature of childhood and memory more generally?

CP: In Childhood the plastic represents water, not suffocation. And to me there are no (intentional) images of suffering in the painting. That is not what I saw when I painted it. The images in Childhood have more to do with design and color. I think the suffering is in the eye of the viewer. I can’t help what other people see in my work.

Childhood is an exploration of my childhood combined with the general nature of childhood and memory.

Childhood (click through for larger image)

AMoS: The toy motif from “Childhood” also recurs in “Archetype”, a grotesque and powerful work akin to a Crucifixion. To whom does this “Archetype” belong? Your own imagination? The artist’s imagination?  The collective unconscious?

CP: Archetype is part of the collective conscious.  For this painting only, there is a detailed explanation of its meaning posted on my website because I wanted to remind—or inform—people that The Great Mother appears in all mythologies,  and that the fish head itself is specific to Native American mythology. The painting has religious undertones, but the image is entirely mine as it relates to the Great Mother in her many different forms. (I feel that a website image does not convey the true beauty of this work due to its size.)

Archetype (click through for larger image)

AMoS: In a couple of your self-portraits you look neither happy nor tormented, but rather grimacing or vexed. Can you tell us about what aspects of yourself these portraits express?

CP: I chose a particular expression of wonder or surprise in the self-portrait Anubis.

Usually, after staring at myself in a mirror for a long time, an expression just appears, and I go with that.  As I am not too concerned about how I look in my self-portraits, I try not to force an expression—and I wonder how many people know what their expression is at any given moment? In any case, I am not looking at myself as me. I am just the model.

(To me sometimes the late Tim Russert’s lifted eyebrow seemed to indicate that he was angry. He was probably unaware that a raised eyebrow indicated anger to some of his viewers.)

AMoS: Which artists have had the greatest influence on your work?  Which artists do you admire but feel distant from?

CP: John Koch, Caravaggio—and many other artists—were major influences in my early work.

I admire the work of Antonio Lopez Garcia.

Another favorite is Louise Bourgeoise.

(Everything I see influences my work.)

Artists who work in a totally different medium—like Joseph Cornell, Charles Burchfield or Rodin—are different but I don’t feel distant from them.

I am inclined to connect with a particular painting or work rather than the artist.

AMoS: As an artist, what is your work routine like?

CP: I usually work every day. I get up and go and work till the end of the day.  My work is limited only by the amount of daylight there is and my desire to paint. As I get older, I work harder because I have fewer distractions.

I have a simple routine: I get up, drink a couple of cups of coffee, take a long walk, and then I go to my studio and work. (Of course, I rake leaves when that is needed and I do other things around the house, but my focus is always my work.  I am more inclined to stay home and paint than to go out into the world unless it is absolutely necessary.)

AMoS: We’re told you sold a painting to Oprah.  Which one was it and how did you react to that?

CP: Oprah Winfrey bought Prometheus, and I was delighted.

AMoS: Finally, when you hear the word “style,” whom or what do you think of?

CP: I think of Armani or Aston Martin. I don’t think of style in relation to painting.

We didn’t ask Mr. Pfahl whether he thinks of it in relation to independent publishing companies that also happen to begin with “A,” but we do thank him sincerely for his time and insights. Our next interview will have more of a literary bent, as we trade witty, allusive bon mots (well, so we imagine) with Raymond Hammond, editor of the poetry journal The New York Quarterly. Stay tuned!

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Interview: Edgar Allen Beem of Just Looking

Image courtesy www.yankeemagazine.com

Edgar Allen Beem is a freelance writer and erstwhile art critic for the Portland Independent and Maine Times. His blog Just Looking: A Critic’s Eye on New England Art is hosted by Yankee magazine. In keeping with our unofficial New England theme this week, we invited Mr. Beem to answer a few questions about the perennially beautiful art of that region, as well as his own life and writing.

AMoS: Are you an artist yourself? If so, in what medium or media do you work?

EAB: No, I am not an artist, though I do have a modest talent for caricature. Other than Fairfield Porter, I can’t think of an artist offhand who wrote significantly about art. Many artists have a hard time seeing the value and beauty of art that is not at all like their own. Porter was one of the representional painters who kept realism alive during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, but he was not blind to the genius of Willem De Kooning.

AMoS: How did you get started as an arts writer?

EAB: I began writing art reviews in 1978 for The Portland Independent, a short-lived alternative weekly. Peter Cox, the editor-publisher of Maine Times, saw my writings and offered me a job as the culutural reporter and art critic for Maine Times. Alas, neither Peter nor Maine Times is with us any longer.

AMoS: You’re the author of two books called Maine Art Now (1990) and Maine: The Spirit of America (2000). What qualities distinguish the art of Maine from other New England art, and what qualities distinguish New England art from other regional art?

EAB: For the most part, the most significant art in the world does not have regional identities. Art is a transcendent, international enterprise, a search for meaning through visual means. That said, Maine has attracted artists since the mid-19th century because of its natural beauty. There is still a strong, traditional painterly landscape tradition along the coast and up into the mountains. Of course, there have been and are fine artists working in all of the New England states, with significant art scenes on Cape Cod and Cape Ann, the White Mountains, Old Lyme, the Berkshires, etc, but the strongest contemporary landscape painting still comes out of Maine.

AMoS: Do you have a favorite artist or favorite work of art? Favorite New England artist in particular?

EAB: As a Maine native and chauvinist, I am most drawn to native Maine artists because, rather than imitate or describe the natural beauty of the state, they tend to internalize the realities of life in Maine and express them in abstract and conceptual ways. Among my favorite artists are Charlie Hewitt (a native of Lewiston-Auburn), Celeste Roberge (a native of Biddeford whose sculpture is on the cover of Maine Art Now), Alan Bray (a native of Dover-Foxcroft), Eric Hopkins (a native of North Haven), Dozier Bell (Lewiston), William Manning (Lewiston), and Michael Waterman (Portland). That said, I think sculptor John Bisbee, who grew up outside Boston and now teaches at Bowdoin, has created some of the most exciting and important sculpture in Maine since Louise Nevelson left Rockland for New York.

My single favorite Maine painting is Parson Jonathan Fisher’s 1824 “A Morning View of Blue Hill Village.” If it ever disappears from the Farnsworth Art Museum, you’ll know where to start looking for it.

AMoS: How has the art world (and the art market) changed since your career began? What trends do you foresee shaping it in the future?

EAB: Over the 30 years I have been writing about art in Maine and New England I have observed how the art scene and art markets seem to rise and fall with the economy. Maine Art Now probably should be re-titled Maine Art Then, as it chronicles the flourishing of the art scene during the go-go years of the 1980s. That scene died way back after 1988 and had begun to re-gain momentum with a lot of new players when war, energy prices, and the collapse of the credit market started to slow things down again in recent years.

AMoS: You recently called photography the “hottest art medium today.” Do you find that the comparative ease and availability of digital photography are “pushing aside” other, more traditional media, such as painting? That is, are young artists focusing on one at the expense of the other?

EAB: No, I don’t think photography is pushing aside painting or other media. I just think the question, “Is photography art?” was definitively answered in the affirmative in the 1980s. The art market is always looking for the new and the next and what it found was a lot of very talented visual artists working in photography—both film and digital. The question being asked now, as the traditional print markets for photojournalism dry up, is: “Is photojournalism art?” More and more photojournalists are looking to exhibit and sell their prints as newspaper and magazine art budgets decline.

AMoS: Your column in Yankee is focused on regional art, but which contemporary international artists excite you most?

EAB: I’m generally most excited by artists whose work is holistic, meaning not just about the object but taking the entire experience of perception into account. So I’m a big fan of artists such as Christo, Olafur Eliasson, and Robert Irwin who create or alter whole environments.

AMoS: Finally: when you hear the word “stylish,” whom or what do you think of?

EAB: Alex Katz. Style is his subject.

As it is ours, Mr. Beem. Thank you again for graciously lending your time, and we encourage all Abbeville readers (Yankee or otherwise) to make Just Looking one of their go-to weekly reads.

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Interview: Ben Crawford and Moti Shniberg of MutualArt.com

Though still currently in its beta phase, MutualArt.com is poised to become the Internet’s largest art mecca and the next big thing in the art world, period. Among its myriad features and programs are an archive of over 150,000 art-related articles from top-quality publications, a Partner Program that allows galleries and other art organizations to reach their audiences over a centralized platform, and a cornucopia of news and investment advice pertaining to the global art market. The site is “members only” and fully customizes its features to each member’s preferences. Recently The Abbeville Manual of Style was pleased to conduct its first interview, via email, with the CMO and CEO (respectively) of MutualArt.com, Ben Crawford and Moti Shniberg:

AMoS: How did MutualArt.com get started? What were your goals in creating the site?

MS: I had the original inspiration for MutualArt.com when I was three years into building the Artist Pension Trust. I had become well enough acquainted with collectors, curators and artists to realize how fragmented the sources are for information on the art world. I felt that it would be possible to dramatically improve the situation using new technologies that allow aggregation of huge amounts of information and customization, reflecting the fact that for every person interested in art, there is a different definition of what art is interesting….

AMoS: Your site advertises its ability to customize the art information it supplies to the user’s personal preferences. Can you give some examples of this customization?

MS: Every MutualArt.com member can set up their own preferences, so that new content is presorted and items that match their interests are flagged as “recommended.” Preferences that can be selected include categories of art that interest them, museums and galleries they support, even individual artists they follow. This is a unique feature of MutualArt.com, which means that followers of art glass, ethnographic art, digital art or Old masters are all equally catered to.

AMoS: How might MutualArt.com benefit each of the following: an artist, a gallery owner, a collector, an arts publisher (like Abbeville)?

MS: To support artists, we have made MutualArt.com access free to them, in cooperation with the Artist Pension Trust. For gallerists and publishers, we offer partner programs allowing you to publish exhibition and event information, artist information, articles, catalogs, etc. on our platform at no charge, as well as giving you other benefits. For collectors, we offer a single destination where they can research art that interests them, and educate and thus empower themselves, as well as receiving information tailor-made for them about exhibition openings, art fairs, benefits and so on around the world, and a very useful guide to which galleries represent or sell which artists.

AMoS: You recently reported “strong, continued demand” for Impressionist and Modern art. As a market analyst (or as an art lover), what do you think accounts for this demand?

BC: Considering the prices obtained recently by some living artists, works that have stood the test of time (if only seventy years) seem relatively affordable and less risky. There are obviously fewer top quality works coming onto the market than in decades past, so that makes competition fierce and drives up prices. It also means that talented artists with lesser reputations are receiving increasing market recognition.

AMoS: Any predictions on which artists today will become the Van Goghs and Picassos of tomorrow?

BC: If one looks at the number of exhibitions, or even attendance figures at museums, there are younger artists who have already attained the ranks of Van Gogh and Picasso. Even  the prices being obtained are re-casting the canon: last year, Van Gogh’s last completed work failed to attract a bid at $25 million; this year a Jeff Koons piece completed less than ten years ago sold for more than that.

AMoS: MutualArt.com notifies its members of upcoming art events, such as galas and gallery openings. Has the company thrown any big bashes of its own?

MS: Our mission is to be the one-stop central source for all art event information, no matter where you are or where you’re travelling to. We cover literally thousands of art events at any one time. It’s a fabulous source for art lovers, but especially for people who like to socialize in the art world, or who want to see gallery shows when they first open, in case they want to buy pieces before they’re sold out.

AMoS: Are you planning any new services for your users in the future?

MS: Absolutely. The site we have up now is only a beta site. We have many, many more features in production, which will be launched over the next years.

AMoS: Finally, just for fun: favorite artist and favorite work of art?

BC: As the neutral platform supporting every aspect of art, it would be inappropriate for us to play favorites—sorry.

No problem, Mr. Crawford—playing favorites and passing judgments is probably best left to us, anyway. Our thanks go out to both you and Mr. Shniberg for lending us your time, and our enthusiastic recommendation goes to MutualArt.com, which seems to have thought of everything as far as art information and resources are concerned. We look forward to following the site and taking advantage of its ever-growing list of services. And hey, it sounds like Van Goghs are a bargain these days—maybe we’ll snap a few up?

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