Ordinary Story is a monthly series by Rachel Schwartzmann that features musings and conversations on one of our favorite ordinary habits: reading. In the first installment, Rachel reflects on Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad.
Samantha was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “15 Women to Watch in Wine” and has been featured in Bloomberg, Wine&Spirits Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the LA Times, among others. In 2020, Mommenpop Grapefruit won a Good Food Award, and was rated 95 points and named one of the Top 100 Spirits by Wine Enthusiast.
In usual times Chanukah is a holiday to see friends and family, eat, light the menorah together, and play games. Games have always been a customary part of celebrating Chanukah – spin the dreidel being a classic, but you’ll also find puzzles, cards, charades, mahjong, and more.
The women who occupy artist Amber Vittoria’s world take up space. Their forms are undisguised, alive, and moving. They hold your attention with a vibrancy that is unafraid, pushing the female form into something more fanciful. Color, rubbery limbs, big noses, bizarre and lovely postures, tiny heads, heeled boots that seem to appear from tangled and ballooning bodies—all of it is loud and hyperbolic, fantastic in its total disregard for moderation. Vittoria’s work appeals to our imagination, and also, how tired we are, how delicious it is to see potential and extent not expressed as achievement or goals, but with…roundness and Matisse-blues, and bodies that bring to mind, of all things, liquorice and watermelons and CMYK.
Jolley’s work, which often features cats, brings about the feeling of a cat. A cat’s energy in the room. How its gracefulness arrives with quirk, some attitude, solitude. Her characters are eccentric; up to something. They display a sense of comic regality. Who is that woman wearing extra large sunglasses? Where is she going in that extra large coat? Why are rosy cheeks and barrettes twin accessories? What is it about a fuzzy sweater that lets you know this woman writes letters to her friends? What is it about references like E.T., or school uniforms, or cereal boxes, that knock us free of adult panic—that remind us to find a book, a quiet spot, a windowsill. Jolley’s work seems to say, “Look up!” Seems to suggest the possibility of getting weird or resting one’s eyes, because the work will always be there, so for now, take a break. Enjoy the cat who’s wearing a crown—that cat is certainly enjoying his cup of tea.
Zoning out to artist Marleigh Culver’s work comes easy. Her palette is alert to opposites, cool purples, and playful neutrals. She’s got a thing for shades of clay. Her pieces bring to mind a vacation’s memories; the way we’re more prone to look up (blue) and experience true restfulness under a shady tree (green, so much green). Culver’s shapes are open to interpretation and always in the mood for fun. Blobs—beautiful blobs—that bump into each other and contemplative Matisse-like petals that give life to a dreary day. Culver’s work is peaceful, up to its own thing, and isn’t that nice?
Dutch artist, Bodil Jane, is known for illustrating everyday life with an attention to color and curiosities, and mostly, with a flair and quickness for detail—the crease on a pant leg, the shape of a fruit sticker, the thorn on a cactus. Her work is attracted to the art of paying attention and finding a particular note that draws you in. Like the rippled pattern on a seashell or the houseplant that looks especially alive in a purple pot, and now, all that matters is finding a purple pot for your plants. Hers is a world that feels familiar but twisted towards the imaginary.
Interview by Durga Chew-Bose
Here is a list of satisfying stuff. Clean sheets and come summer, the miracle of a cool breeze; the movie ending when it should; socks that don’t slide down; pouring hot coffee over ice cubes; steam when you need it most on your face; a quiet room in a crowded house; a good stretch; a good (much-needed) big, fat laugh; the last puzzle piece, fitting where it should, just so.