Yearly Archives: 2013

Naomi Schor at 70

She was born October 10, 1943

in New York City, during World War II, to two refugees in their thirties who had arrived in America barely two years before and who would not become naturalized citizens for another four years.



At first they spoke to her in Polish so that their child would speak their language. But she was the first child born to a circle of friends, all recent refugees, from all over Europe. There was, as my mother put it, a “revolution” among these friends, who protested that they wanted to be able to communicate to this first child. So they spoke to her in French, which they spoke well though with a marked Eastern European accent . I assume that at that time in 1943, 1944, their English was not very good. Her first words were in French: she asked our friend Nadia Temerson, who, while feeding her, was taking little bites of food to encourage her to eat, “c’est bon, Nadia?”


Naomi Schor boarding the SS.United States to begin her first Fulbright Scholarship year in Paris, October 8, 1965.

Naomi Schor, (center, with her foot tipped up) boarding the SS.United States, July 5, 1967, I think returning from her second Fulbright year in France.


Here are some of her many books and articles that are of continued interest, both for her original theoretical insights, her perceptive and nuanced writing style, and also, as traces of the theoretical and linguistics styles that mark developments not just in her work but in the fields within which she worked, from French Literature to Feminist Theory to Gender Politics to Aesthetics. Continue reading


Quick reminder to subscribers who view posts as emails

In the October 6 post,  “CAA ARTspace Interview with Stuart Horodner February 2013 now online & more,”
there is an embedded YouTube video which cannot be viewed in your email program: the CAA ARTspace Interview can be viewed on the blog online , you can click on the avatar for A Year of Positive Thinking at the top of the email, or viewed directly on YouTube .




CAA ARTspace Interview with Stuart Horodner February 2013 now online & more

Dear A Year of Positive Thinkers: I’m happy to be able to share some recent and upcoming exhibitions, links, and publications:


My interview by Stuart Horodner, Artistic Director, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, held at ARTspace’s Annual Distinguished Artists’ Interviews at the 2013 Annual College Art Association Conference in New York, can now be viewed online. I hope you will take the time to watch! (you may need to scroll back to 0:00:00 to start at the beginning).

Abstract Marriage: Sculpture by Ilya Schor and Resia Schor, an exhibition of my parents’ work which I curated, was held at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, August 16-September 29, 2013.For information about the catalogue, which includes essays by Mira Schor, Glenn Adamson, and Margaret Olin, please contact me by email or PAAM.


Between July 13, 2013 and August 24, I hijacked A Year of  Positive Thinking to write fourteen posts in a series I called “Day by Day in the Studio.” If you begin with the post of July 13, I hope you will click “newer” to go through the series in the chronological order of a studio diary which I tried to expand to address issues of general interest. The last post led to the title of my show>


in October

Mira Schor: Chthonic Garden, an exhibition of new paintings, opens at CB1 Gallery in Los Angeles, October 19 through December 8, 2013. There will be an artist’s talk October 19 at 4 P.M. followed by an opening reception 5-7 PM.

in December

CB1 Gallery’s booth at The Miami Project Art Fair, December 3-8, will feature new paintings by Lisa Adams, photos by LA-based Kiki Seror, a selection of past work and new work by Mira Schor (NY) and paintings and sculpture by Craig Taylor (NY).

Also, “Making M/E/A/N/I/N/G in the 21st Century,” by Mira Schor and Susan Bee, will appear in the November/December issue of Art Papers devoted to art magazines and guest edited by artist and Paper Monument editor Dushko Petrovich.

Later this fall, A Year of Positive Thinking returns to its original goal of writing about art that I love, or whatever in the culture suggests critical reflections.

Best regards,



Day by Day in the Studio 14: August 24

August 24, 1976

Mira Schor, Persephone, August 24, 1976. Ink and mixed media on rice paper, two sides, c. 12 x 9 in.

This week I have fallen in love with a word, the word Chthonic. I have often seen it and knew its basic meaning as denoting the underworld, but looking it up again in relation to a work I did on August 24, 1976, Persephone, I found it exactly described the psychic, creative, and also the economic spaces my paintings have sought to delineate in the past year. Chthonic. How do we fall in love with words these days? I clicked on the link in the Wikipedia entry for Persephone, and , at 2AM, having finally torn myself away from gazing at the definition on the screen, I jumped out of bed to go and gaze at the Wikipedia page some more…Chthonic, “it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land.”

This work from 1976, Persephone  indicates that in those early years of my life as an artist, I already was concerned about the patterns of my productivity in the studio, the summer/winter division in my studio practice, and most particularly the desire and the fear of lying fallow.

Mira Schor, page from exhibition catalogue, “Mira Schor: Paintings,” Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1975.

Other resemblances to the mythological character were that I lived in the summer with my mother, in the role of the Demeter of myth, who made art downstairs while I worked upstairs, and under her protection I could immerse myself in my work and in the earth and the sea, and in the winter I lived in the city, the academy, the art world, as good a stand in for Hades as any as we use that name to denote the underworld. I need both, neither one nor the other alone would suffice. I get strength from solitude, from the rhythms of the tides and the simple pleasures of my small back yard and one large English oak tree, but I stride out into the crowded streets of New York City with a passion for the cultural richness and pride in the competitive forces packed into such a compact space, my place of birth and my home.

The duality is cast also as that of dream and wakefulness. The summer work in the chthonic space is the dream, the winter existence is one of wakefulness, of “reality.” But as the first line of the Japanese Noh play Atsumori suggests,

I recopied this line by hand in an annual diary every year for over thirty years until the world pulled away that kind of time

The duality extends to what I want my paintings to contain and express. I would not give up visual pleasure for theory, even this summer when, through this retrospective process of considering works made on specific summer days over decades, I have begun to think of the period during which “theory” most influenced me, from the early 1980s until the turn of this decade, as a period of the sacrifice of one part of my character as an artist, a period that perhaps is over although there is still a professional imperative to “keep up” with wherever the academy wants to apply its methods, language, doxa, and rewards to. But I also know that is ridiculous to claim this was a sacrifice since it was also my character and my desire that drove me. Even in the period I think of now as the dream period, I was involved with a feminist critique of power and the politics of challenging the canon of American modern art. There was never a moment that was not text- and history- based and politically engaged. I have always sought out the artwork and the theory that was seemingly most antithetical to my own practice, because it seemed necessary to keep the work from lapsing into sollipsism and sentimentality. I will not give up the critical and intellectual or the visual and intuitive, so I see that the task ahead is to continue to insist that both ways of being as an artist can and even must exist in the same works and in the same practice. So, like Persephone, I do live in two worlds. Often, as in the 1976 drawing, the duality is born out in the two-sidedness of the drawing, and this summer I have found myself making paintings that are reversible: the space is divided by a horizontal median line where the Chthonic meets the surface of the earth and the air above, but the painting can be viewed with the Chthonic below or above, because, thinking of the opening line of Atsumori, which is the dream world? The country, the ground, the summer? Or the city and winter?

In this case, time is reversible:

And even a painting whose title is Underground Garden, representing the fertility of the chthonic ground,

can also be viewed “upside down” so that the figure falling into the earth can also appear to rise up into it,

This summer my work has followed the line of the earth as a demarcation between sky and ground, austerity and fertility, public and private. I have focused on reversals and reversibility, where ground, and by that I mean underground, the matter of earth itself, the Chthonic, not the line of demarcation upon which we stand, can also be sky and the sky above can become the ground below.

I had started the summer wanting to address in my work the terms of contemporary economic existence I had sketched in a drawing earlier in the year, as the illustrated version of a short text I wrote for the Brooklyn Rail:

Mira Schor, Austerity Utopia, 2013. Sketchbook scan, c. 12 x 17 in.

While keeping the visual premise of maintaining that line of demarcation between earth and air as the common ground linking painting to painting by that line rather than by any standard installation height, I found myself unexpectedly shifting to what seemed to me a more radiant engagement with nature than I had intended when the central theme would be the difficulty of thriving in a time of radical inequality and austerity, again blurring the distinctions between the dream and the real.

*This is most likely the last of my Day by Day in the Studio posts although, for once in a blue moon, I get to spend a few weeks more in the dream of the summer studio. I thank my subscribers and readers for their patience and I look forward to plunging A Year of Positive Thinking back into the world later this fall.


Day by Day in the Studio 13: August 15

Tomorrow August 16, the exhibition Abstract Marriage: Sculpture by Ilya Schor and Resia Schor opens at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. This exhibition brings to fruition a project I first thought of about five years ago. People have suggested to me that this will be a very emotional experience for me. Of necessity, in order to function, I have tried to discount this and see it simply as work to be done, but, as the works are installed, I am overwhelmed.

I wonder if people who look at art or who look at the artworld, and that includes young artists at the beginning of their life as an artist, know how much, practically speaking, it takes to get anything, however modest, done as or for an artist, how much psychic energy it takes to believe in artworks and to make others believe in them, particularly the degree of intensity of belief that at least one person must feel for artwork in order for it to survive after an artist’s death.

It is hard enough to maintain that belief in yourself as an artist and to act upon it in the face of the many rejections that most artists encounter, but to maintain that belief in artists who have died is even more difficult. You have to surmount the stasis their oeuvre and reputation fall into: as in a game of musical chairs or spin the bottle, the person’s reputation at their death is set at a mark, and then, unless the artist was already world famous and iconic and even if that is the case, the oeuvre is as much a burden as it may be a joy to the heirs and the reputation generally begins to recede from that mark achieved in lifetime. If the mark is slight, no matter the quality of the work, the person left with the responsibility of the work must go against the tide of history and of the market to maintain the work and bring the reputation back to the mark or forward to transform the recognition of the work. It is very hard to do. You become the custodian not just of the artist’s qualities and talents but also of that artist’s doubts and even the verities of their reputation. It’s hard enough for the artists to do in their life and harder to do for those who continue.

Several of my friends are artists whose parents were artists: like me they carry the double burden of belief, in their own work and in their parents’ work. Mimi Gross has done an incredible job developing The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation, Susan Bee has curated exhibitions of the work of her father Sigmund Laufer and her mother Miriam Laufer. I spent several years editing The Extreme of the Middle: Writings of Jack Tworkov. Tworkov’s wife Wally and then his daughters Hermine Ford and Helen Tworkov had worked for over twenty years to have these writings edited and published. Jack died in 1982. Selections from his writings were included in the catalogue of Jack Tworkov: Paintings, 1928-1982, held in 1987 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. I began serious work on the texts in around 2003, The Extreme of the Middle was published by Yale University Press in June 2009. I did the work because I loved Jack and believed fiercely in his work and his writing.

My father died in 1961. My mother did everything she could to keep his work secure and his name in the world. She died in 2006. Included in Abstract Marriage are works by my father that were last exhibited in the retrospective of his work held at the Jewish Museum in New York in 1965 and that are unknown relative to other aspects of his work and works by my mother that have never been exhibited before.

In the next few days I hope to write a post about my parents’ show, but today I mark Jack’s memory with a drawing I did on his birthday, August 15, in the summer of 1982, as he lay dying at his home in Provincetown. The drawing is called For Jack’s Leaving. Jack loved the bay of Provincetown, the sand flats, the daily swim. In the drawing, I depicted that moment when the outgoing tide pulls water out of the bay through shallow channels, rivers two or three inches deep running out through the sand flats. The figure goes through a narrow channel towards the open sea, like a reverse of birth.

In his diaries, Jack wrote on his birthday August 15, 1953

August 15, 1953

Technically my birthday. The idea had crossed my mind today that I am in every way a self-made man. Even my name and my birthday are self-made. To be fair, I simply mean that my birthday was only a rough approximation like my name.

Typically scrupulous, he later corrected himself, he had written that entry into his journal a couple of days early. But then, on August 22, 1953, he reflected on the great cultural leap he and his sister Janice Biala made after they were brought to America as children.

Janice and I are the first in our line. Our parents are as distinct from us, as the American Indians. It is impossible to convey to a western mind what my mother is. The distance between her and me can only be counted in centuries. But not only time stands between us but differences in adaptation as vital as that between sea and land animals. In fact I think of Janice and me as having become land animals in one jump. As if our parents had been utterly sea animals. Yet we are only land animals of one generation with all the weaknesses that implies. I was brought up to regard timidity as if it were the first rule of life. And the cancer of indolence was planted in me in the cheder. I was brought up the first ten years of my life for another environment. My mother is to this day sealed in that environment, and she has no crack, no window, to look out upon the world. My own distinct situation, the inner break from my mother, did not become apparent to me till so late in life. Did I become aware too late? If I were willing to take all the risks could my life still become vigorous? Or is that question itself a sign of my still unsolved problem? Should a man dream to change the caste of his life when he is past fifty. Does maturity mean to live with one self whatever the self is?

The summer my father died, the Tworkovs invited my mother and me to spend a month with them in their house in Provincetown. Jack wrote in his journal of my father’s death but also of how the work of the artist lives on after his death:

August 8, 1961, P’town.

No place in this notebook have I so far noticed the death of my beloved friend Ilya. His image hovers in my mind. His lovely gayety, the sparkle, the aliveness of his eyes, the humor that played on his lips like honeybees on flowers. Now Resia is here and Mira. We sat long over our coffee this morning talking about people and gradually we drifted into talking about Ilya, each of us displaying our love for him as if he were alive and with us. Even through her unbearable grief her face suffuses with light when I praise Ilya. […] She said something remarkable recalling Ilya. She said, the test of a work is does it speak for the artist after he’s gone. In life the artist persuaded us by his personality, but after he’s gone only his work is left to persuade us.