Episode 168 – Harry Katz


Virtual Memories Show #168:
Harry Katz

“What connected Levine and Herblock was the fire in the belly, the outrage against people try to impose their power over the powerless, who try to disenfranchise people, who try to manipulate the laws for personal gain or prestige.”

61wTtsWb5aL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Harry L. Katz, former head curator of prints and photographs for the Library of Congress, joins the show to talk about his new project on David Levine, his love for Herblock, how his work on the Civil War and baseball differs from Ken Burns’ work on same, what it was like to assemble the LoC’s archive of 9/11 photography and pictures, the process of learning how to see images critically, the tragic story of Arthur Szyk, and more! Give it a listen!

“Baseball was a way for people to avoid talking about religion.”

book-image-noshadowWe also talk about growing up Jewish in New England, why the 1840s and 1850s are (currently) his favorite era in American history, the Boston Atheneum’s post-Civil War project to collect Confederate material, the terrifying experience of seeing Feiffer’s “Munro” cartoon as a little kid, and why the famous and powerful enjoyed being caricatured! Go listen!

“People always see what they expect to see. I first look at face value, then I draw back to start fresh. What is it? What does it portray? What is it made of? If you do that, you’ve got an understanding that’s far richer.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

Author and curator Harry L. Katz was born in Lexington, MA and educated at Middlebury College and Tufts University, where he earned a M.A. in Art History. Between 1983 and 1991, he served as Assistant Curator of Prints and Photographs at the Boston Athenaeum. Between 1991 and 2004, Harry served as Head Curator within the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress (1991-2004). A specialist in American and European works on paper, he curated two dozen exhibitions at the Library of Congress and led the Library’s unparalleled initiative to collect pictorial works representing the events and aftermath of 9/11. Now an independent curator, he is the author of numerous books examining American art and culture including: Mark Twain’s America: A Celebration in Words and Images (Little, Brown and Library of Congress, 2014), Civil War Sketch Book: Drawings from the Battlefront (W.W. Norton, 2012), Herblock: The Life and Works of the Great Political Cartoonist (W.W. Norton and LC, 2009), Baseball Americana (HarperCollins and LC, 2009), Cartoon America: Comic Art in the Library of Congress (Abrams and LC, 2006), Life of the People: Realist Prints and Drawings from the Ben and Beatrice Goldstein Collection, 1912-1948 (Library of Congress, 1999), and Eyes of the Nation: A Visual History of the United States (Knopf and LC, 1997). His work has been featured in such magazines as American Heritage, National Geographic, Civilization and Smithsonian.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. Intro was recorded on the same setup. Photo of Mr. Katz by me.

Episode 115 – Idlers and Belgians

Virtual Memories Show:
Edward Mendelson – Idlers and Belgians

“I have a private test for whether I’m an individual person or whether I’m part of the culture: I go to the supermarket and I look at the supermarket weeklies, and if I recognize the names, then I’m not a person, I’m a product of collective culture.”

moral-agents200Professor Edward Mendelson joins the show to talk about his new book, Moral Agents: Eight Twentieth-Century American Writers (New York Review Books), which profiles Lionel Triling, Dwight Macdonald, Alfred Kazin, William Maxwell, Saul Bellow, Norman Mailer, WH Auden, Frank O’Hara. We discuss the role of individuals in mass culture, the intellectual’s temptation to be a leader, the outdated figure of the Beloved Professor, Orwell’s misinterpretation of Auden, the writer he was terrified to meet, the failures of identity politics, the purpose of Columbia University’s Core Curriculum, his lack of nostalgia for the era of public intellectuals, the way certain books need a year off from teaching in order to recharge, and more. Give it a listen!

“All these writers were tempted by the way they were taken seriously.”

We also talk about why he hates one of my favorite novels, why he agrees with my take on Achilles’ uncanniness in the Iliad, why professors think students are getting dumber year after year, how the economic collapse of the ’70s led to improved colleges across the country, why he thinks Stoner is a study in self-pity, and more! Go listen!

Edward Mendelson on the Virtual Memories Show

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

At Columbia since 1981, Professor Edward Mendelson has also taught at Yale and Harvard. A recipient of American Council of Learned Societies, NEH, and Guggenheim fellowships, he is chiefly interested in 19th-and 20th-century literature, formal and social aspects of poetry and narrative, and biographical criticism. He is Auden’s literary executor; his book Later Auden (1999) is a sequel to his Early Auden (1981). His book, The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say About the Stages of Life, was published by Pantheon in 2006. His new book is Moral Agents: Eight Twentieth-Century American Writers, from New York Review Books. He has edited a volume of essays on Thomas Pynchon and, with Michael Seidel, Homer to Brecht: The European Epic & Dramatic Traditions. He has prepared editions of novels by Hardy, Bennett, Meredith, Wells, and Trollope, the first five volumes of a complete edition of Auden, and selections of Auden’s poems and prose. His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Review of Books, London Review of Books, TLS, the New York Times Book Review, and many other journals and collections, and he wrote an introduction for a new edition of Gravity’s Rainbow. He has also written about computers, music, and the visual arts. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was the first Isabel Dalhousie Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh.

Credits: This episode’s music is Homesickness by Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Mendelson’s office on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Mendelson by me.

Podcast 105 – Sincere Observation

Virtual Memories Show:
Mimi Gross – Sincere Observation

“My weakness is that I don’t have a set of parameters. My work always looks like a group show. But the connections are real. Anyone who looks can see the connections.”


Artist Mimi Gross joins the show to talk about her art, her life, and the joys of collaboration. Mimi’s been part of the New York art scene for more than half a century, and her paintings, sculptures, sets and designs have been seen around the world. We talk about how she stood out as Mimi Gross when she was “daughter of sculptor/artist Chaim Gross” and “wife of artist Red Grooms”. We also get into the difficulties of having a family while being a working artist, making art in response to 9/11, designing sets and costumes for dance and how that fed back into her other art-forms, the multi-year process of building Ruckus Manhattan, the problems and perks of not fitting into a particular tradition, the experience of building the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation, and the loose definition of success. I also ask my half-assed “Jeff Koons: Fraud or Prank?” question again, but I really get shown up for my lack of knowledge of contemporary art. Give it a listen!

“It wasn’t until I was well over 40 that I realized that not everyone has imagination.”

Mimi Gross on the Virtual Memories Show

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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

About our Guest

Mimi Gross is a painter, set-and-costume designer for dance, and maker of interior and exterior installations. She has had several international exhibitions, including work at the Salander O’ Reilly Galleries, and the Ruth Siegel Gallery, New York City, the Inax Gallery, in Ginza, Tokyo, and Galerie Lara Vincey, in Paris. She has also shown work at the Municipal Art Society and at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York. Her anatomically-themed artwork is on permanent display, courtesy the New York City Parks Department, at the Robert Venable Park in East New York.

Her work is included in numerous public collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, The Brooklyn Museum, the Jewish Museum, le Musee des Art Decoratifs in Paris, the Nagoya Museum of Art, the Onasch Collection in Berlin and the Lannon Foundation, as well as the Fukuoko Bank in Japan and New York’s Bellevue Hospital.

Gross has been the recipient of countless awards and grants including from the New York State Council on the Arts, twice from the National Endowment for Visual Arts, the American Academy & Institute of Arts and Letters, and a “Bessie” for sets and costumes. She held the McMillan/Stewart Endowed Chair in Painting at the Maryland College of Art in 2010-2011, and has taught at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Penland School of Crafts, Syracuse University, SUNY Purchase, as well as other universities and educational institutions, giving workshops and advising students, as a visiting artist.

From 1960-1976, Gross collaborated with Red Grooms on many large, multidimensional installations, including the fabled Ruckus Manhattan. Since 1979, she has collaborated in a fruitful (and on-going) partnership with the dancer, Douglas Dunn and his company, designing sets and costumes for his performances. She also collaborated with the poet Charles Bernstein. Her on-site drawings of the World Trade Center from 9/11 and after are included in the volume, Some of These Daze, published by Granary Books.

Credits: This episode’s music is Shoulda Been a Painter by Karl Hyde. The conversation was recorded on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Lower photo of Ms. Gross by me, no credit given for upper photo (studio shot).