Virtual Memories Show 252:
Seymour Chwast & Ann Rivera

“What’s easier now is that I know the approach I need to take. What’s harder is coming up with ideas.”

Legendary illustrator / designer / artist Seymour Chwast joins the show to talk about what it means to continue beyond “legendary” status. We get into his 60-plus-year career and why he can’t slow down (much less retire), the impact of Push Pin Studios, the (de-)evolution of commercial art, his mutant hybrid of typography and design, the process of overcoming the anxiety that Saul Steinberg made all the great work already, the immediate gratification of woodcuts, the reason he makes classic literary adaptations, his interest in different religions’ notions of Hell, how a gay dance instructor helped him avoid the draft for the Korean war, and more! Then, our very first Virtual Memories Show guest, Ann Rivera, drops in on the way home from MLA 2018 to talk about the future of the humanities, her love for Pete Bagge’s bio of Zora Neale Hurston, whether students should be seen as consumers or constituents, the success of the Yale history department’s revamp, the role of the public intellectual, the problems with academia’s insularity, and the novel she returns to every year. Give it a listen!

“We’re in a state of insecurity because we’ve forgotten our public function. And a big part of that public function is to serve the people we’re working WITH, not speaking TO.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guests

Seymour Chwast is an American graphic designer known for his diverse body of work, and lasting influence on visual culture. Born in 1931, in New York City, Chwast attended Abraham Lincoln High School, before studying illustration and design at the Cooper Union. He is a founding partner of the celebrated Push Pin Studios, whose revolutionary work altered the course of contemporary graphic communication in the 1960s, and continues to affect the field of design worldwide. In 1985, the studio’s name was changed to The Pushpin Group, of which Chwast is the director.

Developing and refining his innovative approach to design over the course of six decades, Chwast’s clients include the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and Print, as well as leading corporations, advertising agencies, and publishers both in the United States and abroad. His designs and illustrations have graced posters, packaging, record covers, advertisements, and animated films, as well as corporate and environmental graphics. He has created backgrounds for productions of Candide at New York’s Lincoln Center, and for The Magic Flute, performed by the Philadelphia Opera Company. Chwast is the author of over 30 children’s books, four graphic novels, and several typefaces. Pushpin Editions, the studio’s publishing arm, produces books on the arts and graphic design.

His work has been exhibited in major galleries and museums in the United States, Europe, Japan, Brazil, and Russia, including the influential “The Push Pin Style,” a two-month retrospective at the Louvre’s famed Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and several one-man shows of his paintings, sculptures, and prints. His posters reside in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Library of Congress; and the Gutenberg Museum, Mainz. In 2015, Washington University’s Modern Graphic History Library acquired a complete collection of Chwast’s posters, which will soon be available for study by students and the general public.

Over the years, the major monographs were published: Seymour Chwast: The Left-Handed Designer (Abrams, 1985); The Push Pin Graphic: A Quarter Century of Innovative Design and Illustration (Chronicle Books, 2004); Seymour: The Obsessive Images of Seymour Chwast (Chronicle Books, 2009).

A member of the Art Directors Hall of Fame, and a recipient of the AIGA Medal, Chwast also holds honorary Ph.D.s from Parsons School of Design and the Rhode Island School of Design. He is a frequent lecturer, with recent speaking engagements at Design Indaba, Offset, Point Design Conference, and the upcoming Typographics. Chwast resides in New York City with his wife, graphic designer and painter, Paula Scher.

Ann Rivera is an assistant professor of English at Villa Maria College in Buffalo, NY. She attended Hampshire College along with your humble podcast-host in the early ’90s, which may help explain our mutual wariness of postmodernism. She has made two previous appearances on The Virtual Memories Show, in 2013 and in our very first interview episode.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation with Mr. Chwast was recorded at his home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. The conversation with Ms. Rivera was recorded at my home with the same equipment. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Mr. Chwast by me. They’re on my instagram.

33_0Virtual Memories Show #178:
Arthur Lubow

“Photography has never been made coequal to the other arts. Yet, you might say it’s superior, because it’s more dangerous.”

Arthur Lubow‘s fantastic new book, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer (Ecco), explores the life and death of a key figure in the history of photography-as-art. We talk about the evolution of photography from documentation to expression, the role Diane Arbus played in that transformation, her sensibility and intellect and how she expressed them both in her photography and her writing, Arbus’ collaborative method of portraiture, her fascination with and sympathy for “freaks”, why it’s counterproductive to look to Arbus’ photos for clues to her suicide, and more! Give it a listen! And buy Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer!

“What’s important is why and how she was able to produce these amazing photographs, not why she took her own life.”

We also talk about the perils of anhedonia, the missing pages of Arbus’ datebook, Arbus’ anxiety about commercial and critical success, the new sources that Arthur uncovered, who Arbus might have become had she not killed herself, the challenge of writing a biography about an artist, and whether Arbus “exploited” her subjects. It’s a fascinating conversation about a major artistic figure, so give it a listen!

“It was Arbus more than anyone else who helped instigate the change in the artistic status of photography.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

03BOOK2-master315Arthur Lubow is a journalist who writes mainly about culture. He has been a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. About his previous biography, The Reporter Who Would Be King, on the turn-of-the-century war correspondent and novelist Richard Harding Davis, Naomi Bliven wrote in The New Yorker that “the biographer uses his documentation deftly and thoughtfully; we feel we know Davis intimately….Lubow’s work is impressive in every way, but his most impressive achievement is getting Davis’s charm on paper. Charm is always impalpable, and it’s highly perishable when the charmer has vanished. You don’t find Davis’s charm on every page of Davis, but you find it everywhere in Lubow.” The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at the New York Public Library, Lubow is the winner of a James Beard Award and a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities. He lives in New York City and East Haddam, CT.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Arthur’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Lubow by me, portrait of him by Stephen Salmieri.

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Virtual Memories Show:
The Hollow Man

It’s the ONE-HUNDREDTH EPISODE of The Virtual Memories Show! And they said it would never last! To celebrate hitting the century mark, I asked past guests, upcoming guests and friends of the show to interview me this time around!

This special episode includes questions and recorded segments with Maria Alexander, Ashton Applewhite, John Bertagnolli, Lori Carson, Sarah Deming, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Dirda, Robert Drake, Aaron K. Finkelstein, Mary Fleener, Drew Friedman, Josh Alan Friedman, Kipp Friedman, Richard Gehr, Ben Katchor, Sara Lippmann, Brett Martin, Zach Martin, Seth, Jesse Sheidlower, Ron Slate, Tom Spurgeon, Levi Stahl, Maya Stein, Rupert Thomson, Peter Trachtenberg, Wallis Wilde-Menozzi, Frank Wilson, and Claudia Young.

Find out about my reading childhood, my dream list of pod-guests, my best practices for productivity (don’t have kids!), my favorite interview question, my top guest in the afterlife, the book I’d save if my house was on fire, what I’d do if I won a Macarthur Grant. and more! Give it a listen!

The sorrow of the lonely podcaster

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Gil Roth is the host of The Virtual Memories Show and the president of the Pharma & Biopharma Outsourcing Association.

Credits: This episode’s music is Stupid Now by Bob Mould. Several of the conversations were recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro and the self-interview segments on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of me by Aaron K. Finkelstein.

brettmartinSeason 4 episode 1
Changing Channels

“The book is about writers, who thought they would have to take private satisfaction in shit work, suddenly being given this opportunity to work with unfettered ambition. And you see them fall upon this like starving men.”

We kick off 2014 with a conversation with Brett Martin, author of Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad (The Penguin Press). We talk about TV’s third golden age and the outsized personalities that helped drive it, the utter uncanniness of Tony Soprano (and James Gandolfini), how the TV showrunner became the auteur of our age, how Breaking Bad may have ended the notion of “Trojan horse” shows, why Battlestar Galacticadidn’t make the cut in his book, why it’s so tough to end a novelistic TV show, and more!

“I seem to spend a lot of time being hectored by big ego’d men in my career. I anticipate a lot more of that.”

It’s an engaging conversation about the dominant narrative form of this century (at least in terms of ambition and scope), an exploration of the intersection of art and commerce, and a little bit of an inquiry into our age’s rush to consensus and its attendant need to declare something The Best Ever. Brett’s a terrific writer and has clearly thought long and hard about these topics.

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Brett Martin is a correspondent for GQ. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine and many other magazines, as well as on public radio’s This American Life. He has been included in the annual Best Food Writing anthology four times and won James Beard Journalism Awards in 2012 and 2013. Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad was published by The Penguin Press in July, 2013.

Credits: This episode’s music is TV Age by Joe Jackson. The conversation was recorded at the home of a friend of Peter on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded at home on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Brett Martin by me.