You Lost Your Glove, and Other News

Photographs of Lost Gloves: A Thriving Subculture

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On the Shelf


  • I took the photo above outside The Paris Review’s offices in December 2014. I still think about it sometimes, mainly when I’m listening to Prince’s Batman soundtrack or zip-lining between New York rooftops in my vulcanized rubber Batman costume, but also in lonelier, more solemn moments. It turns out there’s a whole subculture devoted to photos of lost gloves. Genevieve Walker, a kind of lost-glove pioneer, has given plenty of thought to the preponderance of these gloves, and of those who pause to photograph them. She writes, “I collect single, lost gloves. Photos of them—taken by me, and exceedingly by friends and strangers. Lost gloves have been found to grow proportionally with the local human population, in all climates—it is a symbiotic relationship, like with pigeons, stray cats, or certain viruses. Ubiquitous as they are, once one makes a habit of cataloging lost gloves in their natural habitat, one’s eye becomes keener, and even the most peculiar, unknown subspecies reveal themselves … What I’m interested in is the way gloves are like birds, having migratory paths, genus and family; how they carry identifying marks like a butterfly’s wing. I am interested in the gloves’ situational patterns, their socioeconomic indicators bright as labels. But most of all, I marvel that you, now, continue to send them to me, snapshots of the lost gloves of your life…”
  • While we’re in this innocent, childlike frame of mind, here’s Hattie Crisell on Eleanor Macnair, who reinterprets classic photographs entirely in Play-Doh: “Macnair’s colorful, three-dimensional homages are a labor of love: building one takes up to seven hours. The human figures are modeled as nudes first, then covered with clothes to give them a lifelike shape. ‘It’s a bit like when you’re a child and you have the cutout dressing-up dolls,’ Macnair says. She creates the Play-Doh image late at night, then leaves it under a cloth while she sleeps. With the morning light, she begins to photograph. ‘I’m totally working against the clock. The edges start to crack and dry, even within three or four hours, and the colors start to fade.’ Once she has what she needs, she immediately dismantles it, saving as much clay as possible to be used again. The project, she says, is partly about making art feel less rarefied and more democratic.”
  • Garth Greenwell on Édouard Louis’s debut novel, set in a parochial French town very much in the grip of Le Pen’s toxic nationalism: “The End of Eddy is a dark book, but it isn’t an entirely joyless one; nor is it ‘totalitarian.’ If the narrator occasionally offers a reductive view of his world, the novel itself doesn’t exclude what falls outside his system. Its characters act in ways that offer the novelistic pleasure of surprise … Even Louis’s use of academic language ultimately comes to feel less analytical than aesthetic and dramatic. For the young Eddy, refined language is a weapon, a way to turn the stigma of difference into the prestige of distinction. When Eddy uses the formal verb dînerat home instead of the familiar bouffer (‘to chow down’), his family takes umbrage. They accuse him of putting on airs, of ‘philosophizing’ (‘to philosophize meant talking like the class enemy, the haves, the rich folk’).”
  • Martin Filler considers the career of Irving Penn, whose photography is the subject of a new retrospective at the Met to celebrate his centennial: “Penn’s finest efforts now look better than ever. Among them are his classic portraits of midcentury cultural luminaries—Igor Stravinsky with a hand cupped around one ear; a prematurely world-weary Truman Capote; and the rail-thin Marcel Duchamp like a Giacometti sculpture come to life. All were posed against gray industrial felt backdrops or wedged into an acute-angled corner that somehow prompted his subjects into remarkable revelations through posture and facial expression. ‘They couldn’t run away,’ Penn explained to me of this canny compositional contrivance, ‘and they belonged to me as subjects for that moment of time. They felt good about it, too. Their rears were protected and they could project their attitudes outward in one direction’ … There can be a stiflingly hermetic quality to some of Penn’s studio work. I’ve never been a fan of his finicky early still lives, which are so overly art-directed that any relation to the messy abundance of the seventeenth-century Dutch paintings that inspired him is lost. Or the existentialist pretensions of the gutter trash series—clearly influenced by the postwar Arte Povera notion that there is something inherently profound in decay.”


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