Arts + Life

Arts + Life

Over the past few days, we've seen image after image of Muhammad Ali: triumphant in the ring, joking on talk shows and shakily lifting the Olympic torch at the 1996 Atlanta games. He's remembered these days as an athlete and a humanitarian, and that was, definitely, Ali. But so was the defiant, incisive Ali.

Muhammad Ali: A Poet In And Out Of The Ring

Jun 6, 2016

I don't believe it's odd or unreasonable, at a time like this, to wonder if our culture still breeds heroes.

Sure, there are people out there now defying expectations, performing heroic feats, fighting just wars, and redefining our perceptions of human capacity and invention.

But Muhammad Ali is gone, and he was certainly the last of his kind.

It's strange to describe the apparent purchase and forgiveness of nearly $15 million in medical debt as "impish," but bear with me.

I Am Still The Greatest

Jun 6, 2016

I have always believed in myself, even as a young child growing up in Louisville, Ky. My parents instilled a sense of pride and confidence in me, and taught me and my brother that we could be the best at anything. I must have believed them, because I remember being the neighborhood marble champion and challenging my neighborhood buddies to see who could jump the tallest hedges or run a foot race the length of the block. Of course I knew when I made the challenge that I would win. I never even thought of losing.

Robert Cenedella, the titular painter in the briskly entertaining new documentary Art Bastard, is a New York artist who has spent years battling the New York art establishment. To be clear, he is a bastard, in that he was born to parents who weren't married. But also in that he's an inveterate troublemaker — a mocker of other artists — who can be a thorn in the side of even people who are trying to help him.

NBC hyped its new Maya & Marty variety series, starring Maya Rudolph and Martin Short, as a sort of whimsical variety show. What actually emerged Tuesday night, on the other hand, was a slack Saturday Night Live imitator for the prime-time summer nights where reruns used to live.

How does an artist know when a work is finished? Sometimes it's a deliberate decision. Other times, the decision is made by fate or circumstance. Now, an extensive exhibition at The Met Breuer Museum in Manhattan is exploring great works of unfinished art.

The Unfinished show has an intriguing subtitle: "Thoughts Left Visible." The exhibit showcases works made over some 600 years, which offer glimpses into the creative process and sometimes reveal artists' anger or despair.

We were very excited to be invited to participate in the Vulture Festival in New York on May 22, where we taped this live episode in front of a fantastic crowd. We wanted to have reliable weapons at our disposal, so in addition to our great producer, Jessica Reedy, who handled all the logistics and other tricks of her trade, we brought Audie Cornish to be our fourth chair.

The original Roots miniseries, based on the 1976 Alex Haley novel tracing his own family tree from African tribal life to American slavery and freedom, was a phenomenon.

ABC showed it over consecutive nights in January 1977, not because it was expected to earn huge ratings but because network executives were afraid it wouldn't. So they crammed the entire miniseries into an eight-day prime-time marathon, which aired, by coincidence, during a massive winter storm that snowed in much of the Northeast.

Artist Georgia O'Keeffe didn't spend her entire career painting large, lavish flowers.

The curator of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M., says that comes as a surprise to many people. Now, the museum has purchased The Barns, Lake George, a rarely seen 1926 abstract painting that makes the point and helps the institution tell more of her story.

Things are going well for Marc Maron. He has a new comedy special; he has interviewed both President Obama and Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels on his podcast, WTF; and his IFC show, Maron, is in its fourth season.

"The way kids speak today, I'm here to tell you." Over the course of history, every aging generation has made that complaint, and it has always turned out to be overblown. That's just as well. If the language really had been deteriorating all this time, we'd all be grunting like bears by now.

At London's annual Chelsea Flower Show, the flora is fit for a queen: shaped in her likeness and crafted in honor of her 90th birthday. The new princess has her own chrysanthemum too.

But this year's event, which opens Tuesday, kicks off with a warning from the Royal Horticultural Society: Britain has a "lost generation of gardeners."

Playwright Dominique Morisseau is kind of the unofficial poet laureate of Detroit. She has written three plays about her hometown and her latest, Skeleton Crew, looks at four African-American automobile workers struggling with the economic downturn in 2008. The play is currently running off-Broadway, where it's gotten rave reviews.

In the late 1940s, in the small, coal-mining township of Bethel, Pa., Marie Sayenga was raising two children — one named Bill — on a secretary's salary.

"Mama was widowed when I was 4 years old," retired teacher Bill Sayenga says to his daughter Ellen Riek during a recent visit to StoryCorps. "She had no education beyond high school. Raised my sister and me on almost no money. And bought a house so that her kids would have a proper place to grow up."

A new oil painting has just arrived in what may be the world's most clandestine art gallery — the fine arts collection at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.

This commissioned work isn't your typical still life; the tableau is a busy clutter of gear — photos, blueprints, weapons and ammunition.

Kenya Barris, creator and showrunner of the ABC comedy series Black-ish, wasn't raised in the same privileged world as his own children. Instead, he grew up in a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles. But after his father was injured on the job, Barris' family received money through a legal settlement and they were able to move to a different part of town.

Looking at art is the core museum experience. I remember, when I was a kid, seeing Van Gogh's Starry Night for the first time. I stood for what seemed like hours, staring at the thick paint and swirling colors in a quiet gallery at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

On a recent March morning at his home in a New Jersey suburb, Anthony Mendez was on his living room couch with his 9-year-old daughter. He was watching the previous night's episode of Jane the Virgin, studying his own performance as the show's unseen narrator.

Pages