Five Ways of Considering Time
By Katherine Lee and Kevin D. Ramsey
Five alumni artists discuss the ways in which they think of time, use time, and incorporate time into their works. Tanaz Eshaghian ’92, Nadia Ghent ’75, Judy Glantzman ’74, Lizzie B. Hutton ’91, and Vincent Katz ’78 describe the ways in which time is an essential part of the creative process.
Tanaz Eshaghian looks through the lens of time at her own life and acknowledges that her narrative is not conventional. “I was not your average Trinity student,” Eshaghian says. “As a mother, looking at how my children are growing up, I see the difference. My kids are in first grade and pre-kindergarten at this nice school in Manhattan, and sometimes I’ll say to them: ‘Your mother was just learning English around your age.’”
Eshaghian left Iran at the age of six with her mother. “When we first left Iran, we went to Europe because Iran and the US had cut off relations and there were no flights to America,” she recalls. “We went to Italy, and then we went to Spain, and then Canada. All the while, we were trying to get a visa to go to the States.” Because of the frequent moves, Eshaghian repeated first grade in three countries. “I went to first grade in Iran, and then I went to first grade in Spain, and then I went to first grade in Canada,” she says, noting that it didn’t bother her at the time because she was simply going with the flow. “My mom likes to tell this story about when we were in Madrid. She came home one day and I was playing with this other little Iranian kid who was staying in this same hotel complex, where everyone was waiting for their visas. We were playing ‘consulate and person requesting a visa,’ and I refused to give him a visa. I would say, ‘No, I’m sorry, your paperwork doesn’t add up. You can go back to Iran and be fine.’”
But the visas did eventually come through, and once the family arrived in the United States, Eshaghian acclimated quickly. “When we finally got to the US, we arrived in Los Angeles—but soon we moved to New York,” she says. “The school in New York put me in second grade for three months, and then moved me to third grade. It was an interesting time. I remember watching The Smurfs the whole weekend straight and picking up some English right away. Watching cartoons is a great way to learn English.
“So that was my experience as a little seven-year-old,” she says, laughing. “Whereas my children are enjoying the standard New York upbringing with play dates, and activities, and school.”
Working now as a documentary filmmaker, Eshaghian is fascinated by her inability to remember much of her own early childhood.
“I don’t recall much of Tehran from my childhood,” Eshaghian says. “It’s a little bit strange. I don’t recall much of anything, and it’s always haunted me. I have some vague memories of a staircase, my house, sort of a memory of my uncle’s home, their dog. That’s about it. I don’t honestly know what’s a memory of my time in Iran and what’s made up, drawn from things I’ve heard or been told.”
Ten years ago, she traveled back to Tehran as an adult—her first time in the country in twenty-five years. “It felt like the first time being there,” she says. “Going to a country where you speak the language and know the culture, but you have no idea where you are—it’s actually amazing. I realized I had this ability to navigate through the place while also seeing things from an outsider’s perspective. It was a very multilayered, satisfying experience. I loved it, even though it played strange games with my notion of time and memory.”
Love Iranian-American Style was a project she started when she was in her mid-twenties, when her well-intentioned but anxious family began to push the idea of an arranged marriage. “My first film was about my Iranian family trying to marry me off in a traditional way after I’d grown up in Manhattan, gone to Trinity, and graduated from Brown,” she says. “My attitude was, ‘You’re kidding, right? How am I supposed to now be that woman?’”
The film explored her thoughts about her own Iranian-American identity as a young woman and what it meant to grow up immersed in western culture while surrounded and supported by her loving, Iranian family. The film also featured interviews with former boyfriends, in which she asked the men why their relationships hadn’t worked out. For Eshaghian, understanding her divided identity required a deep dive—not into her own memory, but into the memories and cultural understandings of the people who surround and support her. And on that journey, she discovered, too, that her “ability to navigate through the place while also seeing things from an outsider’s perspective” was what made her such an effective documentarian.
The inspiration for Eshaghian’s film Love Crimes in Kabul came from considering the effects of cultural expectations of women in even more fraught circumstances. Eshaghian began the project after reading several articles about the practice of prosecuting young women for “moral crimes.”
“In Afghanistan there are very, very strict cultural laws that lead to an ingrained understanding of how you behave...it’s very traditional,” she says. “As a woman in Afghanistan, you usually marry at a young age, and you marry the person your family chooses for you. These women who have committed ‘moral crimes’ have transgressed that tradition. For example, this woman liked her neighbor. She thought her neighbor was cute and so she pursued him, creating a moral mess.
“The perception of transgression is clearly tied to gender,” she says. “When I talked to the women and heard their stories, I thought, ‘This is fascinating, these women are rebels.’ The idea perpetuated in western media of the poor little Afghan victim was not accurate.”
Shaping the narratives for western audiences required a balance of practical timing and an understanding of emotional narrative. When she went to the women’s prison in Kabul for filming, Eshaghian knew she wanted to talk to women who were still awaiting trial. “I’m capturing a particular story in their lives,” she says, “so as the women move on to the next chapter, it becomes a different story. I can tell where the story I’m telling ends and where the new one’s going to begin.”
Other challenges involved finding women who were willing to talk to her, or holding her emotions in check when witnessing injustice. But at least one story had a gratifying end. “I filmed the girl who was in prison for having relations with her male neighbor outside of marriage,” she says. “Both she and the neighbor went to trial, and they decide to get married. The judge says, ‘Since you’re going to get married, you’re cleaning up this mess you’ve created. You’re sentenced to time already served. Get out of here. Go home, start a family.’ So then, they’re starting a family, a new beginning. My part in the story is over.”
From her perspective, Eshaghian believes her role is to craft a narrative that will allow viewers to invest in her subjects’ lives. Even with nonfiction, there are storytelling techniques that can help. “Sometimes there are ways of changing the order of time in a documentary, little things that you can do to help come to an emotional truth of the story even if it’s not the exact order of when things occurred,” Eshaghian says. “You can reverse sequences, come back to earlier interviews, because it helps the audience make sense of who this person is, what their story is. The narrative is emotional and so I’m always most focused on what makes sense emotionally and how to best communicate that to the audience. To me, that’s the point of doing films,” she says. “It’s an emotional medium. It’s not so much about information...identifying what happened first and second...as it is about exploring the life of the subject.”
Musician and Writer
One of the highlights of Nadia Ghent’s career as a violinist was a performance of the John Cage piece Atlas Eclipticalis at Carnegie Hall in 1992. “Cage died just a couple of weeks after the performance,” she recalls. “The performance was of a large-scale piece called Eclipticalis, based on star charts and musical notes corresponding to stars.”
Because of the composition’s unconventional structure, Ghent says the conductor’s role was to direct the timing and unfolding of the piece. The musicians themselves were held in anticipation of how long the entire performance would be.
“The performance was at Carnegie Hall,” Ghent says, “and everybody who plays at Carnegie knows that there’s a certain time limit on anything that happens on the stage that is enforced by the stagehand union. A performance that goes even one second over the allotted amount of time gets hit with huge fines. So all of us were talking about whether it was going to go overtime and wondering if the stagehands would come out and make the performance stop because there was some speculation about the performance going on for six hours.”
Ghent had her own concerns regarding the length of the performance. “The other issue was that, at the time, I was pregnant with my first child and I was really worried about being able to get to the bathroom,” she says. “When one is pregnant, not being able to get to the bathroom can be a constant concern. I was wondering, ‘Can I sneak off the stage? Will anybody notice?’ I mean, that was delusional. Of course people would notice.” She laughs. The performance ended up running just over two-and-a-half hours and, she says, “I remained on the stage the entire time.
“When you play a Beethoven symphony, you know that in a certain number of minutes you’re coming to the double bar and the performance will be over,” Ghent says. “It might go a little slower, it might go faster, but there’s an end to it that’s definite. With Eclipticalis, there was no definite ending to it until it finally did end. It was an incredible experience to be in the middle of that soundscape. It was a timeless experience, because nobody knew when it was going to end, so you had to give yourself over to that sense of nonlinear time.”
Over twenty-six years, Ghent’s love of music endured but required flexibility, resilience, and her own evolution. When her husband accepted a job in Southern California, she was willing to make the move, but was confronted by the realities for a freelance musician: opportunities were fewer and farther between, and the arts culture was unequal to that of New York City. Over time, she found that being around young people as they discovered their own love for music was incredibly fulfilling and she became a music teacher. But then, the family had to move again.
“My husband got a very good job offer back here in Rochester, so we packed everything up and moved,” Ghent says. “Unfortunately, we moved at a very bad time for my children. My daughter was in the middle of high school, and the timing for her, at that point, was just awful, so I really had to put aside a lot of my career—everything that I’d built up as a teacher and as a violinist—and really spent a lot of time helping her. I felt she needed me to be present. Just to be there in case she needed to yell at me or something.”
That was when Ghent found writing. “I realized that I had lost a lot by leaving behind parts of my life,” she says. “I was just sort of sitting here waiting. And I started writing and reading. I took a couple of very interesting online poetry classes. At that time, these massive open online courses were getting really popular, and there was one out of the University of Pennsylvania that caught my eye: Modern and Contemporary Poetry—including poetry and writing by John Cage.”
Ghent instantly felt that she was on familiar territory, even while giving herself over to something completely new. “I had never known that he actually wrote language, words, you know. I only knew him as a composer of music,” she says. “So I really started to experience the whole contemporary music scene from a totally different angle, from the angle of the poets and the writers who were writing, at that same time, and Cage, who sort of bridged both.”
The meeting of old and new jostled her memory and reignited her passion for creative expression. “Studying poetry drew me back to what I had left behind so many years ago,” she says, “and I started writing a lot more and refocusing my intentions.”
Ghent’s current writing project tackles the idea of her various dislocations in both the physical moves and abrupt changes throughout her professional and creative career. “I had never lived anywhere but New York before we moved to California, so that was my first dislocation, and then we did it again and relocated here to Rochester, another dislocation,” she says. “I began thinking about all the places that were significant to me in New York and all the different experiences that I had in different neighborhoods and how that shaped me as a person.”
The project involves physically revisiting those spaces and thinking about those times in her life. “Every month, I’m revisiting an old house or building where I used to live,” she says, “or some significant place where my body had been for a significant amount of time. Then I write about that place, both as a memory, what I remember, and how it exists now in present time. The intersection between what’s remembered and what’s real—that’s what I experience now.”
The intersection between memory and the way she perceives those places in the present can feel abstract and confusing. “In many regards, the remembered place has more presence in my life and my memory than the place as it exists after time has passed,” she says. “There are good memories of a place that one has lived, but even the bad memories give sort of a burnished quality to things. So physically visiting all these places from my past has been very disorienting, because I feel as though I don’t really belong there anymore. Yet so much of my history has been in a place that’s no longer part of my current existence.”
But Ghent finds that articulating some of that feeling has generated useful and profound realizations. “I want to break apart the cliché of ‘You can’t go home again,’” she says. “You know, we can hop from place to place, or career to career, or identity to identity, but there’s something that continues and links it all together—and that’s the ability to look back on what has been left and honor it.
“It’s a way of having continuity with things that have passed,” she continues. “I’ve left behind certain parts of my life. My children are grown up, and they’re leaving to begin their own adult lives. So there’s definitely a sense of wistfulness, going back to those places where they were young. But revisiting those places now feels like retaining what had been very precious and very important and honoring those memories.”
Acknowledging the memories also gives Ghent permission not to be afraid to live in the present as a writer. “Looking back gives me something to capture in language now,” she says. “It’s sort of a mining operation for the present existence here, and in a way that makes those histories less fraught. There’s a lot of negative qualities associated with uprooting and dislocating and leaving, but acknowledging the meaningful within those memories gives more weight to my experience...more than simply thinking ‘I had to end it and do something else.’”
From her time as a violinist, Ghent confirms that a significant part of a musician’s role is in translating classical music for the ears of contemporary audiences. “Even the tonality of music has shifted over time,” she says, “so the note that we call A used to be at a different pitch just 150 years ago. And rhythm was not standardized until around Beethoven’s time. Some of the metronome markings that he would notate in his scores are practically impossible to reproduce. In fact, the metronomes that were produced then didn’t seem to be completely accurate—or perhaps the difficulty was that Beethoven couldn’t hear it.” According to Ghent, the modern instruments used now sound very different from instruments in earlier centuries. “That’s part of the way that music needs to evolve so that we can bring that composer into the present time across a span of centuries.
“Again, this brings me back a bit to John Cage and his idea of using the star charts. In a way, it’s the same concept as the light from stars,” she says excitedly. “The light we see has been traveling for millions and millions of years, and throughout that time so much has changed. Civilizations have changed. But the light is still coming to us, and we see it in our present time—something that began its journey such a long time ago.”
She beams. “In music we’re doing something similar. We’re bringing a language from a different era to our audiences in their language.” How those audiences receive it is just as sublime. “I was pregnant when I was performing that John Cage piece from the star charts,” she says, “and that child is now in the astrophysics PhD program at Berkeley! I tell myself it’s because of early exposure to the whole idea.”
Astrophysics, John Glenn, and my Father by Nadia Ghent ’75
In the city, the stars disappear. Light traveling from the most distant galaxies becomes diffuse, like dust, a pale light scattered across the evening sky. He asks me what I see when I look up, between the Empire State Building and the rooftops, and I tip my head back so far that I think I will fall backwards onto the pavement. He steadies me, holds my hand. He asks how long I think it’s been since that light first started its journey to our eyes, when it was that the starlight began to shine, and I can think of only one thing: how long will he be my father before time runs out? Nothing is containable.
The ancient Greeks looked out into the darkness of their sky that reflected back what they imagined they would see: a dog, a dipper, a bear, a lyre. I see a large man outlined in the light, I see only my father looking for the stars. To the Greeks, that broad stretch of pale dusty luster stretching across the night sky looked like milk spilling from the center of the universe. Once spilled, never contained. And then the Via Galactea becomes our Milky Way, the word “galaxy” traveling through time like that light, thousands or millions of years of distance and language and space. On Saturdays, he takes me to the Hayden Planetarium and brings me home late, when it is already night.
I am anxious about time, and how often he is late. He is always late. Light traveling from the most distant galaxy has been in motion for 14 billion years. Each week I travel between my mother and my father, one eclipsing the other, each week navigating this distance that only lengthens over time. How much time will pass before I know that he is anxious too, the way these few hours of fatherhood will slip through his fingers, hours collapsing into minutes into seconds that are linear, in motion, irretrievable. Each week, I watch for him from the window, waiting. In divorce, there is a custodial parent and a non-custodial parent, and I think of custodians and their brooms sweeping away our broken family.
At the planetarium, we watch the sky show, the illuminated points of light above my head that stand in for stars. Some of the lights don’t work, and there are cracks in the plaster of the domed ceiling. I know the outlines around the constellations are not real, that when he whispers in the dark to me that he would like to be John Glenn, it is not real, that words like milk and galaxy and father will change and soon mean something else, that time will pass and I will not remember what he meant.
He wants to be John Glenn, the hero-astronaut circling the Earth three times in 1962, his plunge on fire back to the sea, the way the spacecraft bobbed on top of the waves. He was brave, he was rescued, he didn’t die. His wife and children and everybody loved him. It was because of friction, my father explains to me, the force of the atmosphere against the heat shield, how hot it must have been inside. What did John Glenn see outside the capsule window before descending? Did he see an infinite dark beyond the blue, how light throbbed towards him and then receded on every orbit? He saw what’s out there, my father says, imagine what he saw, and he has tacked a picture of John Glenn he’s torn out from Life Magazine on his apartment wall. In his apartment there is John Glenn’s picture, a bed, a chair, a plate, a fork, a knife. Imagine what’s out there, he says.
You can be a scientist, he tells me, girls can be astronomers too. You’ll be the Madame Curie of the telescope! You’ll go to the moon in the year 2000! Women will be astronauts and walk on Mars! But I can’t see in the dark, there are cracks in the ceiling, the outlines are not real. When the lights come up, he’s gone.
What is the nature of bodies long in orbit? Even light changes as it travels, and words change meaning over time. Milk becomes galaxy, father becomes absence. Spilled becomes uncontainable scattering across the evening sky. In the city, it’s too bright to see the stars. Imagine them, he says, as we look up beyond the rooftops, as his hand slips out of mine, imagine that you can. They’re there, he says, they’re always there.
Judy Glantzman is a visual artist working in painting, drawing, and sculpture. Her work often references time in its process, in the “incidental,” in personal and political history, and in the interplay between viewer and artist. Recently, Glantzman was the Dartmouth College Winter 2018 Artist-in-Residence.
“When my mom died in April of last year, I was teaching at three different places, five days a week,” Glantzman says. “I would find time to work while commuting on the train. I would fold up these giant pictures, put them in my backpack, and if I was going up to RISD [Rhode Island School of Design], for example, I’d have four hours of train ride during which I could work very quietly on one little teeny drawing for that amount of time.”
The work, unfolded, is a large, continuous work—a patchwork representation of her practice in compartmentalizing. By comparison, Glantzman’s residency at Dartmouth College has been a very different experience: Her studio is spacious, and her day is unlimited.
“Here, I have no time restraints, and what I find that I’m doing more than ever before is that I’m working for twelve or fourteen hours every day,” she says. “There’s nothing for me to do except be in the studio.”
The generous time allowance has changed her approach—and her process—dramatically.
“Prior to coming here, I would do a lot to each piece whenever I could get my hands on it. I had a sense of the limited amount of time I had,” she explains. “Here, I find myself doing less to each of the images, going much slower.” The pace is less frenetic, but she is as prolific as ever. “I have a new clarity about my work,” Glantzman says. “I’ve started carving hands out of wood, slightly larger than life size. I’m making these little drawings on plaster. I’m making giant drawings on paper. The paper pieces are made on a very long roll of beautiful paper, and when I look at them now, I think of them as being a kind of sequence. I’m making ceramic heads, and I think of those as being sort of props for the drawing, so everything is interwoven. It’s one giant piece.”
She shares artist Phillip Guston’s painting philosophy, as a parallel to her own most satisfying processes: “When you’re in the studio painting, there are a lot of people in there with you—your teachers, friends, painters from history, critics—and one by one if you’re really painting, they walk out. And if you’re really painting, you walk out.”
“I love that Guston quote,” Glantzman says. “I think it can be hard to understand, but I feel that for me—and this relates to my age—I used to say that I chose to make the figure as a means of representing emotion, as if emotion was ephemeral, and the figure was a solid thing. Over time I’ve recognized how ephemeral the body actually is, and that it isn’t really a solid thing. It’s undoing itself, changing constantly, and then it will disappear or become something else.”
The practice itself has started to feel more spiritual than corporeal. “My new pieces feel very much as though I am participating in something,” Glantzman says, “but they don’t look like ‘mine.’ They don’t feel like my stamp on something. They’re not reflecting me so much as I’m communing with them.”
The process may seem slow and laborious, but revelation can strike in an instant. “A funny thing happened, because I accidentally had a spill of India ink. I picked it up with a paper towel, and then I had this piece of paper towel, and, for whatever reason, I just kind of threw it at a piece of paper, and it made a beautiful impression,” Glantzman says. “That made me think about the accident or the incident as something I was interested in recording. Because it’s not simply imposing my will on the image, but to make things that people wouldn’t necessarily notice, adding beauty to those moments.”
Glantzman feels those micro-moments are worth preserving, as a way of observing and elevating the unnoticed, gone-in-an-instant flashes, and cataloging them into human experience worth remembering.
“Artists provide a revelatory way of seeing something that already exists in the world,” she says. “Art itself is a means of slowing down time to allow perception to happen—to receive all the impulses or information or colors or shapes that you are experiencing.”
Those relationships take time to process and transfer to paper or canvas.
“In an observational drawing,” Glantzman says, “you’re sitting in front of something and you’re trying to record it. You have to slow your eye down, just to take in visual information. This shape here relates back to this other shape. These colors are black and white, and relate to this gray in a different way—whatever the sets of relationships are.”
Even when describing an object literally, each observation—whether voiced aloud or transferred to paper—can set off endless bursts of connection, resonance, and communion. For Glantzman, this journey represents some of the joys and challenges in creating art.
Recently, a former college classmate gave Glantzman an enormous, ten-by-thirty-foot roll of paper. “At first my reaction was that I didn’t think I could handle one more thing in my studio, but I don’t know why, I put it down on the floor, and I started to draw these little bronzed baby shoes that were mine. I had the shoes on the floor, and I’m working on this thing on the floor—it just felt like the thing to do. I didn’t have any expectations for this, so I could play as much as I wanted.”
Resisting the urge to define and set rigid limitations from the beginning allowed Glantzman to discover powerful themes—about history, time, her own childhood—in the undercurrent of her own work. “I noticed that I was making the shoes in a circle,” she says, “and it looked like a clock, like the shoes were walking around a clock. I just loved that metaphor. I’ve made a series.
“As for my next projects or themes: I feel that racial injustice is something I want to be able to talk about in my work,” she says, “but I don’t want to stand in for somebody else’s experience. I’ve been watching these PBS shows, looking back at the Freedom Riders. Looking at it from today’s perspective, there are two things that happen: I think, ‘Nothing has changed,’ and at the same time, I think, ‘Well, that was also a different time.’ In other words, there’s distance.”
Glantzman suggests this historical distance can provide directive, questioning, or renewed and resonant perspectives. She strives to create similar responses in a viewer’s experience of her work.
“When you have this ability to stand back from your own work, it becomes a thing in the world, and that creates a kind of a distancing,” she says. “The goal and the hope is that my work becomes less about me and more about my way of seeing the world around me. Or trying to develop a language that will ask questions about the world around me, rather than giving an answer.”
Dark Prayer, 2016
Eleven years ago, poet Lizzie B. Hutton experienced a seizure for the first time and lost about a month’s worth of memory. She knew that she wanted to write about the experience, but she has found it difficult, in the years since, to properly express her understanding of the event. “The immediate aftermath felt like remembering a dream: I could remember an ephemeral quality, but I also knew I wasn’t grasping it in its specificity,” she explains. “It’s very hard to write about. It’s writing about an absence, a gap. I write around the edges of it, and I try to describe it, but what I’m essentially trying to do is write about something that no longer exists, even in my own mind.
“Because even though I know it happened, and I can name the date when it happened, every time I remember it, I remember it differently. Even though it’s fixed to a date, it’s not fixed in my memory,” she says. “I came to understand how my memory is actually changing minute-by-minute, and my memory of what that experience even was still changes minute by minute. And of course, that moving-target aspect became a real rabbit-hole in my writing.
“I had this project on a laptop, which was then stolen,” she says. “Some was backed up, but some of it was not, and this then became its own metaphor. Literal loss, computer data. That really stalled me on the project. Not just because I’d lost some actual writing, but because I now also wasn’t sure if I could recreate what I’d lost, which was what I had been writing about in the first place.”
She describes how her mind then flooded with an abundance of questions, even as she accepted that there might never be one single, satisfying answer. “How do we experience time or memory? Or, put another way, how do we experience the conviction that we can remember something from the past; what does that conviction feel like in our bodies? Why can we say, I definitely remember this, but this other thing I definitely don’t remember, and what is it physically and mentally that makes that possible? I was still capable of writing,” she says. “If writing is invention, then why couldn’t I just invent what had happened again? I began to wonder, why was the conviction piece, the truthful piece, so vital to the work of writing, as well?
“Once in a while I’ll write a poem that just comes out. It literally comes out from beginning to end, and that’s some sort of weird miracle,” Hutton says. “That’s happened to me maybe three times in my life. The rest of the time—I’m not joking—it takes probably four years for the poem to get finished.”
But she won’t spend every minute of those four years hunched over her keyboard. Time is one of the essential components in her work’s improvement as she revises, draft after draft. “I write out a poem, and think it’s OK, it’s good,” she says. “Or good enough. Then I look at it two weeks later, and I see it’s really not that good. Or, I look at it two weeks later, and parts of it are good, and then I fiddle with it, put the poem down, and then show it to a friend and she might say she doesn’t understand part of it. It’s an iterative process.”
Part of putting the poem down is to pick it up again with new eyes—and a sharper set of responses. “I’m actually trying to subjectively re-experience it,” Hutton says. “With all of my writing, having some distance is a real aid in terms of recognizing that what I’ve written might make total sense to me, because of this weird, crazy network of meaning that’s attached to it in my mind, but it’s not going to be at all apparent to the reader. One-eighth of that might make sense, and seven-eighths might not...but it’s also important to see how that seven-eighths is still valuable and exploratory. So in the act of explicating that last seven-eighths more fully for myself, through the act of revising, I’m also working on the act of communicating with some reader.”
Hutton has found both solace and inspiration in the work of sculptor Eva Hesse, who features prominently in Hutton’s current poetry manuscript. Hutton is as engaged by Hesse’s history—for example, that she escaped from Nazi Germany through Kindertransport—as by her artwork. “Her work is very non-figurative,” Hutton says. “It’s abstract, conceptual art, yet the way she talks about it feels intimately connected with her particular history. Was it a way of coping with her own memory and her past to create this art that feels like a disavowal of the figuratively referential or nostalgic or confessional? She was very much reacting against those approaches—which are these traditionally female approaches to experience—yet I still sense her history in what she makes and does as an artist.
“Another fascinating piece, of course, is that a lot of her work is currently falling apart and degrading because she was using materials that didn’t last,” Hutton says. “She was working with these very organic forms, but she was also drawn to synthetic, man-made materials. Why? Partly, it seems, because it was new. But also, at the time, there was this idea was that the synthetic material was going to outlive all of us. And in some ways, they will. But the materials aren’t entirely permanent, or at least they don’t make permanent art, compared to, say, a marble sculpture in Florence. Some of her work is degrading, changing form, at this astonishing rate.”
She finds a familiar resonance in the situational irony of Hesse’s work falling apart. “I don’t want to attribute intentionality on her part to that,” she says, “but it’s still meaningful. Hesse seemed drawn to the ways that abstract art tries to slip the knot of time. But from an observer’s perspective, now, Hesse’s work seems to be very much about time, and the changes that time makes. It seems to return inevitably to that topic.”
Hutton points out that this erosion also happens in memory. “It’s like going back and finding a journal,” she says, “where you wrote about something very closely that you now no longer remember in the same kind of detail. As time passes, there’s this inevitable cloudiness that covers over the past. There’s a rawness that gets muffled as time goes by. As our remembering continues to chip away at what happened.”
Soft Sculpture by Lizzie B. Hutton ’91
the nicest part of abstraction to me is it’s not about accuracy
that short conversation with whatever’s real in which the real always wins
the made resinous grid answers to a more moving kind of truthful
the shape of the animal waste in the gutter and spring waters running around
the tang of city metal on my hands like well-used places I hold in the subway
the peopledust I pick up with my shoes and imprecise folds in my skirt
I didn’t count among important people in my life any men in my life
I didn’t count among important people in my life they were all dead
they were all dead so by the time I was born it was like I was already dead
in New York the old high-up floors where I worked walls were layered with
thick white paint
drops of the thick stuff melted into the wooden and women-worked factory
enough above trees you could see the sun rising above the old Pan Am
at the end of the street one old high-rise was like a ship’s tilting mast
abstraction draws metaphors to other things only close to their utmost
the exercise keeps the mind from obsessively wishing it could live forever
I saw snow falling from the hospital bed and how it would melt as it fell
the constant night light of the city snow is what I hate most about this my
I hate the country more though for silence when crystallized meanings
there was a night when I was a child when there was no moon in the country
I realized I would die young as I heard the wind move among endless pine
I couldn’t see my own hand there in front of my face though I felt my breath
originally published in the Denver Quarterly, 51.3, 2017
Poet, Critic, Translator
Vincent Katz is a poet, critic, and translator. His work ranges broadly and profoundly across history—collaborating with contemporary artists as well as engaging classical texts and languages. He is the author of the award-winning translation of The Complete Elegies of Sextus Propertius, published by Princeton University Press in 2004, and he is currently at work on a novel based on his time at Oxford University.
“To be a poet, in addition to being a New Yorker, is exciting for me,” says Katz. “I feel as though, ‘This moment is happening right now, and I’m going to write about it.’” Katz is in good creative company. “Frank O’Hara would type poems during cocktail parties. He wrote Lunch Poems on his lunch breaks at MoMA,” he says. “I like the idea that writing poetry can be integrated into all the mess and chaos of daily life.”
This generative process of writing in the moment is natural for Katz and reflects the attentive artfulness with which he observes the world around him. But when he began writing his novel, he found that he had to look to another poet’s writing process for inspiration. “I was reading Andrew Motion’s biography of the poet Philip Larkin, and discovered that Larkin would write for two hours a day,” he says. “He worked as a librarian; he had a nine-to-five job. So he would come home, maybe have a sandwich, write for two hours—and then he’d go out drinking, because that was also an indispensable part of his day.”
Larkin’s two-hour rule appealed to Katz in its routine practicality—allowing the chaos of daily life to manifest after the requisite hours. “I like it because two hours go by quickly, but I also get quite a bit done,” he explains. “I put a two-hour timer on my phone: two hours of writing or reading something directly related to what I’m writing. If I take a break, I can pause it, work down to zero.”
The practice is not merely scrupulous—its structure galvanizes Katz to make real, inspired progress. “If I can get three or four paragraphs of an idea,” he says, “that’s a lot, because that means I’ve generated some energy in a certain direction that I can respond to later. Whereas if I hadn’t done those two hours, I would be nowhere.”
As a formally trained classicist, Katz is adept at uncovering connections across time. “The classics keep reviving themselves. Whatever period I study feels very alive to me,” he says. “I’ve been thinking about Henry VIII for the novel, and that period feels very alive. He kind of reminds me of Donald Trump, although he had more power. ‘Off with their heads’ versus ‘You’re fired.’ Both are highly insecure individuals.”
Bringing historical figures to life in writing is a challenge, but Katz points to recent autobiographies as a guide. “There have been a lot of autobiographies written lately by rock stars from the 1960s and 1970s,” he says. “After reading them, you realize that biography and autobiography are forms of fiction. Even when authors do all the research and have all the letters and the details, they have to recreate some moments through invention.”
In his own novel, Katz found himself compelled by a famous portrait he saw at the British Museum during his time at Oxford University. “This character in the novel goes down to London and goes to the British Museum, where there’s an incredible drawing of Anne Boleyn by Holbein, the court painter for Henry VIII, and it was done in the year in which she was beheaded,” he says. “That gives the drawing a special significance, and it brought me back to a kind of writing I’m very familiar with—writing about art—but in the service of a story.”
Katz was even more intrigued by what was unfamiliar about such a well-known figure. “Anne Boleyn was famously beheaded by Henry VIII. Was she guilty of intrigue? Did she have lovers? Was Henry threatened by her intelligence and independence? Historians don’t know the answers definitively,” he says. “This is a very significant moment in history. Everyone knows her name. Yet, historians can’t agree on exactly why she was killed. I am drawn to moments that have that sense of indefiniteness, because they are lifelike.”
The pleasure he gets from considering that “indefiniteness” shows in his writing, whether as an art critic, a poet, a classicist, or a novelist. “I feel that anybody who’s delved into history or classics feels the same way. The poet Charles Olson was very interested in Mayan culture. Anne Carson, the contemporary poet and classicist, makes Sappho feel very alive in her work,” he says. “But what’s interesting is, we really don’t know anything about their lives. We don’t know much beyond what’s in their written work, so we’re getting a feeling of the person through the literature. It’s exciting that we can have that connection over so much time.”
Now a Trinity parent, Katz was struck by the parallels he sees in his and his son’s educational experiences. “Everything that I liked about Trinity as a student is still here: the passion for learning and the dedication and the seriousness,” he says, marveling. “Oliver has taken four years of Latin here, so to see him reading Catullus and Virgil, and now Horace, remembering doing that myself at his age, has been an extraordinary experience.”
The thought of his son tracing his footsteps makes Katz reach for the metaphysical. “As life goes on,” he muses, “you get the perception that this is going to go on without you, after you’re gone. Some people find that thought to be really daunting.” He’s thoughtful for a moment. “To me, it’s kind of exciting,” he continues. “It’s almost the inverse of my looking back to ancient poetry: These experiences are going to continue for somebody, somewhere.”
Passing Generations by Vincent Katz ’78
I seem to be in some random place,
Like much of America: malls, shops,
Pizza joints, but this is not random,
Is our place, molded, fashioned, of love.
Those difficulties keep cropping up,
I can’t keep track of things,
Nor does poetry seem valid enterprise.
That does not, however, diminish
The over-riding goal. Twenty one years ago
On this date, I wrote a poem about the
Moving of things in and out of a life.
Now I try to see behind the things we
Worry about, to transfer passions from
Generation to generation, respect for things.
People are not often aware what
Goes on behind, or underneath.
originally published in Odes,
Vincent Katz & Alex Katz,
Bernard Chauveau Editions, 2015
Author Profile – Andrew McCarron, Head of Religion, Ph...
Reviews of books by Diana Murray ’90 and Andrew McCarron, Head of Religion, Philosophy, & Ethics Department
Groggle’s Monster Valentine
by Diana Murray ’90
Sky Pony Press
Video Profile: Watch an interview with the author
Did you know that monsters celebrate Valentine’s Day? If you are thinking of roses and chocolate, you are in for many surprises when you meet Diana Murray’s character Groggle, an adorable furry monster with a pink heart-shaped nose who is searching for the perfect valentine for Snarlina, his “beast” friend in the whole wide world. Murray’s fourth picture book, Groggle’s Monster Valentine, is not only a beautifully illustrated and cleverly written story to read aloud to children on Valentine’s Day, but also a resourceful mentor text that Lower School teachers can use to teach literary devices to their young readers and writers.
Although I have yet to read aloud Groggle’s Monster Valentine to our Kindergarten students, I am certain it will become one of their favorite Valentine’s Day picture books. Much like adult readers, children love stories that strike a balance between relatability and unpredictability. Murray has a keen insight into how to let her readers relate to Groggle and also knows when and how to surprise her unsuspecting readers.
In the book, Groggle has been up till the wee hours on Valentine’s night working on his cards for Snarlina. Ask any Lower School student, and they can share with you that making even the simplest valentines, let alone some elaborate ones, for your entire class will take longer than you imagined. Groggle collects some bog slime and carefully squirts everything he wants to say in bold, gooey letters. He sprinkles on shiny beetle glitter and gingerly ties on snake bows to decorate his cards. Groggle pours in all this time and effort, to no avail, all due to his monster appetite! Gobble, crunch, crunch, slurp—he scarfs down his card before his bog slime ink has even dried! Not many will know what it is like to guzzle cards like Groggle, but it’s an entirely different matter when it comes to sweets—after all, what fun is it to make valentines without munching on one too many Hershey’s Kisses? After the seventh failed attempt at curbing his monstrous appetite, Groggle decides to hurry over to Snarlina’s with what is left of his last card—slobbery and wrinkled with one smudged word left for her to read: “friend.” When readers meet Snarlina for the first time, she is a sight to behold. Who would have thought Snarlina to be a one-eyed monster that is quadruple the size of Groggle, with deadly fangs and claws? How will she respond to Groggle’s half-eaten valentine? I can just imagine our young readers holding their breaths, fearing the fate of our adorable furry friend Groggle. However, as soon as she sees Groggle at her doorstep, she purrs like a kitten, beams from ear to ear, giddily stomps her hairy feet, and gives him a monster hug after plopping the card in her mouth! Nyum, nyum, nyum, gulp! Murray has taken a somewhat clichéd topic and has created an entirely original narrative that conveys a heartwarming message that your best effort and intentions will be recognized and appreciated.
While children will be smitten with Murray’s whimsical characters and Bats Langley’s magical rendition of them, Lower School teachers will value this book for another reason: Groggle’s Monster Valentine is a great tool for teaching writing. The simple letters that Groggle writes to Snarlina are a great model to teach the basic format of letter writing to beginning writers.
Every April, which is National Poetry Month, this book needs to be on constant display in the classroom. It provides a humorous example of an acrostic poem, not to mention the plethora of examples of rhymes and alliteration that Groggle uses in his poems: “Roses are red, Garbage is grimy, Here is your valentine, Icky and slimy” or “Your teeth are so green. You’re the prettiest monster that I’ve ever seen.” Murray explicitly wrote on her Web site’s homepage that she “especially love[s] writing in rhyming verse,” and to make teaching rhymes even easier, the words that rhyme pop out from the page since they are highlighted in matching colors! Also, the series of sounds that Groggle and Snarlina make while they munch on their valentines—gobble, crunch, burp, slurp—are perfect examples of onomatopoeia. Last but not least, Murray’s frequent useof oxymorons like “horridly fabulous” and “monstrously super” is in line with the paradoxical motif of a tiny cute monster professing his love to an ill-tempered and nasty beast who drools.
If you are in search for a funny and refreshing Valentine’s Day picture book to read with your little monster(s) at home or at school, grab a copy of Groggle’s Monster Valentine for an awfully delightful experience.
Caroline (Kyung-Eun) Lee
Teacher of Kindergarten
Light Come Shining
by Andrew McCarron
Oxford University Press
Video Profile: Watch an interview with the author
When I was asked to write a review for Andrew McCarron’s new book, Light Come Shining, I took the opportunity to reacquaint myself with Bob Dylan’s extensive body of work. Having lived through the 1960s, toured in a band with my husband for seven years, and raised a family of musicians, I have experienced Dylan’s monumental impact on American music and culture from different viewpoints in my life. But to listen to his work again, this time accompanied by McCarron’s insights, was an experience altogether new.
McCarron is aware—and makes sure the reader knows that he is aware—that his book is a new addition to already exhaustive library of Dylan exposés. McCarron insists, however, that his approach, the “psychobiography,” sheds a different light onto an already overexposed subject matter. The central assumption of McCarron’s psychobiographical method is that, by analyzing key moments in a person’s life, one can create a holistic portrait, or what McCarron calls a “common script.” McCarron’s project is especially apt for a figure such as Bob Dylan, whose famous transformations and conflicting identities have dumbfounded many a fan and critic. In addition, the mountain of speculation, rumor, and fanaticized theory-making surrounding Dylan has elevated the artist to legendary, almost mythical status, making Dylan himself indecipherable to the point of mysticism. McCarron aims to undercut the noise with this psychobiography, certain that somewhere in Dylan’s many transformations and manipulations lies the common script of his life.
McCarron’s exposé focuses on three defining moments in Dylan’s life: his 1966 motorcycle “accident” in Woodstock, New York; his religious conversion during the born-again movement of the 1970s; and his midlife recommitment to songwriting and performance starting in 1987. To many a fan and analyst, these turning points represent points of major personal and artistic changes and add to the Dylan mystique. To McCarron, they offer key turning points, but instead of seeing chaos, he sees a common thread: “The best place to find Dylan’s unique psychological fingerprint is within the twists and turns of his changes.”
McCarron also explores Dylan’s coping mechanisms in dealing with the insurmountable difficulty of separating his personal life from his public life—a common theme among celebrities. Dylan would don outlandish attire—a blond wig, dark glasses, a skull-cap—to hide his identity. Because of the constant public intrusion into his life, Dylan became a “paranoid recluse,” whose eccentric lifestyle also became part of his mystique. Yet McCarron again sees these transformations as an opportunity to reveal a common thread, surmising that “although there is little doubt that some of his masks are calculated stunts and tricks of a wily performance artist, his appropriations are important expressions of his deeper sense of self and identity.”
No doubt, though, that Dylan manipulated the script of his past to create a more alluring public persona. He hit the New York music scene as a fully formed fictional character. He manipulated the details of his life to enhance his own story. Dylan’s transformations were not just cosmetic—they seemed to permeate into his internal life. McCarron relays that there was sincerity about Dylan’s quest for self-knowledge, often taking the form of religious experiences that Dylan refers to in his writing: “A God of time and space— that creates people with specific destinies in mind.”
Light Come Shining is McCarron’s ambitious venture to see logic where others see chaos, to find a common thread when others are bewildered by Dylan’s existential meanderings. McCarron’s prose is at times intimidating for readers unacquainted with academic psychology, as well as for those non-initiated in the literature surrounding Bob Dylan. Still, whether you are a fan of Dylan, McCarron’s psychobiography is well worth reading. I recommend reading it as I did—while listening along to Dylan’s work as it is referenced in the book. If you are familiar with Dylan’s work, McCarron provides refreshing context for listening and experiencing Bob Dylan anew. If you are uninitiated, this book can be your curator through your exploration of the artist’s legacy and intimidatingly expansive body of work.
Teacher of Grade Two
Recent Alumni and Faculty Books
Deyan Ranko Brashich ’58
New Meridian Arts, 2017
Nicholas T. “Nick” Bruel ’83
Bad Kitty Camp Daze
Roaring Brook Press, 2018
Samuel Charap ’98
Everyone Loses: The Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Eurasia
Aleksandra Crapanzano ’88
The London Cookbook: Recipes from the Restaurants, Cafes, and Hole-in-the-Wall Gems of a Modern City
Ten Speed Press, 2016
Michael de Guzman ’56
Cosmos DeSoto’s Last Case
Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017
John Freeman Gill ’84
The Gargoyle Hunters
William G. Franklin ’63
What is UP, Doc? Ruminations of a Solo Cardiologist
Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017
Alexandra “Alex” Fribourg ’00
(writing as A.F. Brady)
Park Row Books, 2017
Vincent Katz ’78
Lunar Chandelier Press, 2016
William Green Miller ’49
A Wreath of Friends
Oxford: Amaté Press, 2007
Diana Murray ’90
Doris the Bookasaurus
Grimelda and the
Spooktacular Pet Show
Katherine Tegen Books/ Harpercollins, 2016
William F. Pepper ’55
The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Skyhorse Publishing, 2016
Diana H. Polley ’88
Echoes of Emerson: Rethinking Realism in Twain, James, Wharton, and Cather
University of Alabama Press, 2017
Last Word – Janine Cuervo
A Middle School Teacher of Mathematics Considers Time
By Janine Cuervo
Favorite Math Concept: Golden Ratio
Favorite Poem: "Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann
Favorite Book: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Favorite Hobby: Yoga
Favorite Sport: Tennis
Favorite Sports Team: Green Bay Packers
Every summer as the school year inches closer, I reflect on my time spent at Trinity and think about the time I will spend teaching in the upcoming year. I embrace the combined feelings of enthusiasm and anxiety as I begin to think about the number of things I must prepare before the first day of school. I feel the constant pressure of time, wishing for more hours in the day, every day. Many of us feel the same limitations of time in some context, whether you’re a fellow colleague, parent, or even student. With the busyness of our day-to-day life, time can often present itself as a constraint, but this year I will try to look at it with new eyes and view time as an opportunity.
The truth is, there are many components of time in a teacher’s life, in addition to teaching. These responsibilities and classroom interruptions sometimes encroach on the time we have with our students or time to plan and reflect on our lessons. However, instead of perseverating on lost time that we cannot always control, I have begun to think of the opportunities that time does allow. This year I choose to see time as an opportunity within three core areas of my teaching practice: future planning, present teaching, and past reflection.
Planning lessons with my math colleagues is representative of the future time I will spend with my students. We set aside time to plan together and discuss how our students engage and grasp the material. Designing each lesson with a variety of learning experiences helps us focus on the learning objective, student engagement, enriching questions, and ways to assess understanding. We will continue to maximize our planning time together because we cherish building on each other’s ideas to create the best learning opportunities for our students.
Present teaching is the time I spend with my students daily—the classroom is my stage, and each day is a new beginning, with both predictable and unpredictable opportunities for learning and growth. Teachable moments—where students share their own experiences with math by exploring topics and engaging in conversation—represent the most valuable time we spend together. When they occur, I face a choice: to pursue the conversation or to move ahead with the curriculum. In previous years, my mindset would repeat, “There’s not enough time! I must teach the quadratic formula so they know it in ninth grade! I need more time!” But this year, I want to truly embrace these moments of unexpected learning and focus on the time that I do have with my students.
Everyone needs time for reflection to improve. Over the summer I use time to reflect on my work in the previous year and to refine previous lessons. I am thankful that Trinity provides me with the opportunity to engage in grant work so that I can review what has gone well, make improvements on my curriculum, and collaborate creatively with my colleagues. This additional time for reflection helps me learn, grow, and offer a fresh, more meaningful perspective moving forward. How can we find more opportunities for reflection to inspire our future?
Moving forward with this new mindset I will not let the constraint of time control how I plan, reflect, and especially teach. After all, being with my students, seeing their “light bulb” moments, learning from them, laughing with them, and crying with them, is the heart of my career, my passion, and my life. I challenge you to also choose to unlock the opportunity of time in your life, career, hobbies, time spent with family (and friends), or reflection.
Classroom Comment – Sonia Kanwar ’26
A Grade Five Student Writes About Her Experience of Time
By Sonia Kanwar ’26
Favorite Movie: The Sound of Music
Favorite Food: Sushi
Favorite Books: The Harry Potter Series
Favorite Holiday: Valentine's Day
Favorite TV Show: The Loud House
Favorite Sport: Squash
Favorite Author: Enid Blyton
Favorite Place: The beach
Life is all about time.
I used last summer to think about what time means to me.
Even when times seem difficult they are usually meaningful. Last summer I moved to a new neighborhood. It was hard for me. I didn’t want to leave the apartment where I lived for the last seven years. I have some really special memories in my old neighborhood where I learned to ride my bike, sled in the park across the street, and begged my mom to get me ices. But I have a lot to look forward to in my new neighborhood—playdates with my friends who live close by, being closer to Central Park, Chelsea Piers, 16 Handles (which is in my new building), and also Trinity. Now I’m looking forward to being able to sleep for five whole minutes more, which is just another way to think about time.
Another thing I realized was that time can pass differently depending on what you like and what you don’t like. Waiting for my brother’s choice on the TV feels like a million years, while on the other hand, me watching TV alone seems to pass in two minutes. Waiting for my dad’s cheeseburgers on the grill seems to take a lot longer than it takes to devour one. I love ceramics, so making pots shaped like my dog, Murphy, takes no time at all.
I also realize that long periods of time—such as school years—can also seem to pass by very quickly. Kindergarten seemed to go by the quickest, maybe because it was my first year at Trinity. Now it’s a little surprising to me that I’m already in fifth grade.
We all have special moments in time that seem to stand out. Looking back at my five years at Trinity, some of those include the Halloween parade in first grade, the Harlem Renaissance in third grade, and the South Asian Chapel that I participated in. One of my favorite times was researching the borough project in social studies where I got to take my family through Brooklyn, to a great part called DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). We also went to a cool museum, Prospect Park, and ended the day with Brooklyn famous pizza.
Friends can make time feel more special, such as this summer when I spent time with friends in the pool and took surf lessons. We walked to get ice cream at my favorite ice cream place. Going to the beach, playing sports, doing craft activities, playing board games and puzzles, and having water fights all seem so special when you get to do them with friends.
But it doesn’t all need to be full of activities. Some of my favorites times are doing nothing, or simply reading, staring into space, or maybe annoying my little brother just a tad. (Shhhhhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone. I don’t want to be grounded for life!)
Sometimes we spend more time worrying about something than it deserves. For example, I spent a lot of time worrying about falling off the surfboard if I stood up. Finally, I just decided to pop up and I fell down, but I realized it really wasn’t worth spending time worrying about. Then I got to ride the waves a few times and realized it was really a lot of fun.
Time also teaches you the importance of making good choices. It takes a lot less time to make a mistake than it does to fix it. And that time spent fixing can teach you how to make a better choice the next time around. I learned this the hard way when I spilled a container full of watermelon all over the floor even though I was told not to play with it. It took a whole twenty minutes for me to clean it up. I’m not doing that again.
Another way time can go by slower is if I’m really hungry and just ordered food at a restaurant. It can feel like hours before it finally gets to the table.
At the end of the summer, I made some goals for how I want to spend my time. I decided I want to spend it making memories with friends, working hard, learning new things, and most importantly, having fun.
I hope now you see how important time is!
Author Profile – Diana Murray ’90
Diana Murray ’90—the author of City Shapes, Doris the Bookasaurus, Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch, Groggle's Monster Valentine, and Ned the Knitting Pirate,—describes her life as an author of children's books.
Author Profile – Daphne Uviller ’89
Author Profile – Marguerite F. Elisofon ’74
Nick Bruel ’83 – Author Profile
The author of Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble, Bad Kitty Goes to the Vet, Bad Kitty Makes Comics and You Can Too!" and many other books describes how he became an author and illustrator.
Catherine E. Price ’97
Watch an interview with the author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food and learn about her research into the history and current use of vitamins.
Brian DeLeeuw ’99
Kristina Pérez ’98
Kristina Pérez ’98, talks about her book, The Myth of Morgan la Fey and discusses the changing roles and interpretations of one of the most powerful and enduring female characters in English literature. Her book is reviewed in the summer 2015 edition of Trinity Per Saecula.
Charles Edel ’97
Charles Edel ’97, talks about his book, Nation Builder:John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic and the importance and relevance, in today’s world, of the sixth president of the United States. His book is reviewed in the summer 2015 edition of Trinity Per Saecula.
David Huyssen ’98
Emily J. Levine