Sunday, June 16, 2024


“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
-Lao Tzu

We live in an endless cycle of disruption and adaptation. Humans are perhaps one of the most expert species when it comes to the ability to hide this truth from ourselves, but every moment of every day is constantly changing and entirely unscripted. In truth, the only thing we can count on is that we can’t count on anything at all. In exceptional times like we are living in now, there is a tendency to wake up to this ever present reality, to look around and see that nothing we face from day to day is stable or under our control. Our reactions to this often uninvited revelation vary widely.

Dan Hill is an expert on facial coding and sensory logic. His book, First Blush: People’s Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art examines, among other things, how long the average viewer spends looking at a master work of art. The answer is four seconds of viewing, five seconds to look at the description card and sometimes an additional second to look back at the art itself. The book is the largest study ever done in eye tracking in art as well as facial coding – i.e. the emotions revealed by facial muscle activity. One finding from this work is that the window of genuine response to a piece of art is within that initial four seconds. Hill says artists need to consider this and realize that reaching their viewer is akin to landing an airplane on a helicopter pad. Installation pieces tended to fare better in the study in terms of occupying people’s attention for longer. To hear more from Dan Hill and his fascinating research that has major implications for anyone creating or curating art, listen to the complete interview.

Fady Joudah is a poet and a doctor. He is currently a hospitalist and is trained and certified in internal medicine. Joudah once worked with Doctors Without Borders and he thinks perhaps this in part helped prepare him for medicine in the time of pandemic. When we spoke, the COVID-19 outbreak had not yet peaked in Houston, Texas where he lives and works. He questioned the current popular notion of medicine being “front line” and cited various examples of those who question the use of battlefield language in the medical field. He questioned why hospital janitors and nurse assistants are forgotten in this sort of rhetoric which uplifts doctors and nurses in a heroic manner. To hear more about his thinking on this as well as his poetry – Joudah is the author of four books of poetry – listen to the complete interview.

A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:

We choose how to approach a moment like this – how we process the knowledge that uncertainty is the only sure thing.

Interviews are available on iTunes as podcasts, and for Android please click here. All weekly essay pieces in a shareable format are here. The full archive of interviews here.

Books to Read

What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. Dan Hill’s book First Blush: People’s Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art can be found here. Fady Joudah’s books of poems are available through Milkweed.


Smack Mellon invites artists to submit to their open call for the 2020 exhibition Bound up Together: On the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment curated by Rachel Gugelberger. In their own words, “Smack Mellon seeks submissions for works that acknowledge the achievements of the 19th Amendment, examine suffrage from a historical perspective and consider its complicated history.” For more information and to apply, visit the website. Deadline for submissions is April 15.


Weekly Edited Grant and Residency Deadlines – review the list here.

Brainard Carey is an author, artist and educator. He is the director of Praxis Center for Aesthetics. He has written six books for artists; Making it in the Art World, New Markets for Artists, The Art World Demystified, Fund Your Dreams Like a Creative Genius, Sell Online Like a Creative Genius and Succeed with Social Media Like a Creative Genius.

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