Artist(s) John Dempsey/Billy Tokyo

Inventing Selves Through Psychological Cell Division

Dempsey’s website claims “[b]oth artists share a studio” near Chicago’s Loop, but as with so many things, this is a goof. John Dempsey and Billy Tokyo live and work in the same mind. In broad strokes, the difference between the styles of John Dempsey and Billy Tokyo is that Dempsey’s paintings are abstract—arcs and loops given depth by layered media—and Billy Tokyo’s are figurative (“but ‘Pop-py,’” Dempsey insisted) with distorted settings.

Collecting illustration

Our Obsession with the Passion of Possession  

Adam, the first collector, got to label every other creature, creating the first taxonomy. Collectors ever since have catalogued their finds, documented their history, identified subtle differences. By the nineteenth century, people saw collections as symbolic worlds, full of clues to other places and other times.

Variations on the Theme of Silence

Silences that close us off, refusing connection, shoring up the ego at others’ expense—those are dead silences. But the letting-go sort, the silences that hold space or keep vigil for someone else? They are alive.

A Nonprofit Trying to Make Health Care Not a Choice Between Bankruptcy or Suicide

The word “stories” was used often at the annual NABIP Capitol Conference, held in the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, February 25-28, 2024. I went because I have my own stories of frustration with health care, and because I am interested when someone seems ready to try to make things better in the largely incomprehensible and vaguely menacing system we all rely on.

Requiem for an Unwritten Memoir

Opera aficionados and many St. Louisans already knew about her. Somehow, I did not. Being in Bumbry’s presence magnified my own desires to pursue the creative arts, travel the globe, and know more than one language. Very much like another famous St. Louisan Josephine Baker, Grace Bumbry’s life and story shattered the limitations of what is possible for Black Americans.

The Black Women of Gee’s Bend Work Hard and Easy

Mothers sewed these quilts when everyone else was asleep, so there was no time to fuss over the details. For batting, they beat the dirt out of trash cotton or swept the floor of the cotton gin. Quilts were women’s work, therefore practical and unquestioned. How were these women to know, tucked into a paper-clip curve of the Alabama River with scant access to the rest of the world, that their quilts echoed the best and most daring modern art?