Arts + Life

Arts + Life

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.

The legal case over transgender rights hinges on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion and sex. But the word "sex" wasn't always going to be part of the bill. And "sex" — which, at the time was meant to mean gender — was not on that list when the bill came to the House.

It's a perennial story: An older student returns to the classroom education he'd long set aside, finally finishing his studies and graduating years later. Typically, that story includes detours like service in war or a family tragedy.

It was the Antiques Roadshow dream: You show up with your weird-looking jug and explain that you paid $300 for it at an estate sale in Oregon. Then the expert announces ...

"It's bizarre and wonderful. You even see a little bit of, like, Pablo Picasso going on here. It's a little difficult to identify precisely when this was made, but I think it's probably late 19th or early 20th century. ...

"Everybody's gotta have a little place for their stuff. That's all life is about. Trying to find a place for your stuff." — George Carlin

It's one of his most famous routines and, like all great comedy, contains more than a grain of truth.

Since he died eight years ago, the keeper of George Carlin's "stuff" has been his daughter, writer and performer Kelly Carlin. She says he kept everything: Scrapbooks. Arrest records. The pink slip to his first car, a Dodge Dart. VHS tapes.

You've been asking for it. We've been cranking on it. And now, it's happening: the Code Switch podcast!

Check out the trailer and subscribe to our podcast so you don't miss the first episode later this month!

So, what's this podcast all about? Everything you come to Code Switch for: deeply reported, urgent, hard-to-pin-down stories about race and culture. Conversations about the messy ways our identities crash into everything else in our lives, whether we realize it or not.

When Louis XV, King of France, first met the woman who would become his chief mistress, she was dressed as a domino, and he was dressed as a plant. It was 1745, and Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, the pretty young woman who would become Marquise de Pompadour, had been invited to a masked ball at Versailles. If this sounds like a chance meeting, it wasn't — her family had been strategizing to orchestrate this very moment for years.

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