Chance Encounters

Magazine Brigid Hughes October 28, 2015

Introducing Issue 23

The idea for this issue started at the Housing Works Bookstore in New York City. At the one-dollar cart, where the undervalued and damaged books are put for sale, Bette Howland’s memoir, W-3, was discovered. A search for the author first led to numerous dead ends, then to her son, a cache of unpublished work, and a safe-deposit box in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with postcards and letters from a forty-year correspondence with Saul Bellow.

The idea of this issue also started with a talk by Martha King about her summer as an eighteen-year-old student at Black Mountain College in its final years. And how a sense of responsibility toward a personally defined way of life shaped her.

Other chance encounters led to the Italian writer Elisabetta Rasy, the Portuguese artist Ana Hatherly, and the Austrian author Friederike Mayröcker—accomplished in their own countries but little available in American bookstores. An exhibition of Etel Adnan’s paintings at Galerie Lelong in Manhattan led to the discovery of a lifetime of her literary pursuits.

These encounters—with writers, artists, filmmakers, architects, dancers—seemed to gather, not quite around a theme, but within a direction. It coiled around a group of women artists; their lifetimes of work; and questions about anonymity in art. What is it to seek public attention; to receive it; to lose it; to flee from it; to disregard it. This issue built itself around a weft of discovery: of artists who have been lost to a kind of erasure, intended or inflicted; and works that do not stack on obvious shelves.

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