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Showing posts from May, 2017

The Part and the Whole

In a seminar with the painter John Walker, I heard him say that with a painting, you should be able to see it all in one go and then also be able to lose yourself in the details. When I was at the Milwaukee Art Museum recently, I saw a painting by Pierre Bonnard -- one of his later ones from the 1930s -- and I thought this statement is truer of no artist more than him.


The painting is from a series that Bonnard produced based on his morning walks around his house in the south of France. It shows a view looking down across olive groves and gardens, with a few figures working in the rows, and a line of tress like a curtain across the background. When you step back from the painting, you see the large, loosely indicated shapes of field, a small house, the bent figure of a man, a woman to the right, an explosion of sky behind the trees. The foreground is tilted and flattened out in a way that reads as an abstract and not a naturalistic space.


We accept this, because it's once you mov…

R.I.P. John Schultz (1932-2017)

Teacher and writer John Schultz has died at the age of 84. He had a long association with Columbia College Chicago, where he helped found a fiction writing program that used a unique pedagogy: the Story Workshop method, which he began using in the classroom starting in the 1960s. John probably taught thousands of students over the course of a long career, and he was mentor and friend to many who went on to become teachers themselves. Most of the people who knew him, including my wife Patricia Ann McNair, spoke about him with reverence and immense gratitude for how he taught them to become writers.

Compared to her, and her colleagues at Columbia College Chicago, and his innumerable former students, I only had a passing acquaintance with John. Yet my first meetings with him came around the time that I first met Patty, during my first visits to Chicago, and for that reason this has claimed a special home in my memory.

I remember a party that Patty held at her apartment at the end of 200…