Summer Reading

By: Olivia J. Kiers

9781594205378 large Its What I Do

It’s time once again for Art New England’s annual summer reading recommendations from the New England arts community. Based on this summer’s responses, 2017 will be remembered as a year of soul-searching. And little wonder: following a fraught election year from which many are still reeling, books on history and cultural identities dominated. Alongside this, a parallel trend emerged: Many are taking refuge in (and inspiration from) poetry this summer.

See what was chosen—and why—below. And remember to visit your local bookseller when summer book shopping.

Barbara Prey
Artist and Member, National Council on the Arts, New York and Port Clyde, ME

Recently commissioned by MASS MoCA to produce the largest watercolor painting in the world, Barbara Prey is focusing on architecture by diving into Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King. Yet Prey’s reading plans hardly end there. She is also a member of the National Council on the Arts, the advisory board to the National Endowment for the Arts. “Part of my job [with the council] is voting on all the grants to support the arts in America. I am really fortunate to read some amazing literary work as a part of this.” Add to that her own penchant for exhibition catalogues and historical narratives, and Prey’s summer reading list runs the gamut. One book she particularly recommends is William Dalrymple’s historical travel book From the Holy Mountain. “It is very timely—a book about the Middle East that needs to be read now, as culture is disappearing.”

Sam Moss
Musician, Somerville, MA

Musician Sam Moss has many books on his reading list, and chances are it won’t be long before he has dipped into each. “I’m semi-regularly reading from Free Love by Ali Smith, Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin, and some assorted Lydia Davis texts. I always have a long queue of books that gets shifted around depending on my whims.” Moss prefers reading slow-paced fiction. “I like the language to have me constantly reaching for a pencil to underline. If I can’t help but furiously underline passages, then I know I am reading something that matters to me…I usually keep a notebook with me, as sometimes my song ideas are sparked by passages in novels. I am always ready to stop reading and start writing instead.”


Salvador Jiménez-Flores
Artist-in-Residence, City of Boston and Harvard Ceramics Program, Boston and Cambridge, MA

For some, summer reading choices can seem like fate. Ceramicist Salvador Jiménez-Flores decided to read Ralph Ellison’s American classic Invisible Man when “the book title started appearing everywhere in some form or the other.” It appeared before Jiménez-Flores’s eyes in Kerry James Marshall’s Black Painting and in the movie Barry, when a young Barack Obama is given a copy of the book. Less providential perhaps, but just as timely, Las venas abiertas de America Latina (Open Veins of Latin America) by Uruguayan poet and journalist Eduardo Galeano is also on Jiménez-Flores’s list. While “its content is very visceral and hard to digest…[f]or anyone who is interested in learning about…Latin America history, this is an overt way of opening our eyes, making us question everything and encouraging us to take action.”

Tricia Y. Paik
Florence Finch Abbott Director, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, MA

“I’ve always been more drawn to poetry and nonfiction, in particular, the memoir,” says Tricia Y. Paik, director at Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. “Perhaps it has something to do with being an art historian, someone who enjoys history and reflecting on the past.” Paik is reading two memoirs, Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay by Christopher Benfey and It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario, as well as Claudia Rankine’s genre-blending book of criticism and poetry, Citizen: An American Lyric. All are related to Mount Holyoke College in some way. “Benfey is a much-admired professor at the college, and the Addario memoir is of interest as her work is represented in the museum’s collection…Rankine’s Citizen [is MountHolyoke’s] 2017 Common Read… Everyone on campus is invited to read the book to be part of the dialogue.”

Enrico Riley
Painter, Norwich, VT

Vermont painter Enrico Riley is always prepared to transport his imagination through reading, even in the midst of real-life travel. While in Rome this summer, Riley found the 1985 American Western novel Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry at the communal library of the American Academy. He loved it from the first sentence, and has been reading it alongside award-winning poet Vievee Francis’s recent collection, Forest Primeval. “Whether one reads a lot or a little, it is transportive. Reading can act as a device to take one away from one’s surroundings and, at the same time, reveal nuances of that same, very known place.”

Citizen An American Lyric Claudia Rankine Courtesy Graywolf Press
Francis Kingsley award cvr

Antoine Banks-Sullivan
Dancer, Pilobolus, Washington Depot, CT

When he is not dancing with the acclaimed New England company Pilobolus, Antoine Banks-Sullivan enjoys a good read. “In school, we always had summer reading assignments,” he remembers. “It kept kids immersed in our education all year. Now, as a dancer, I read to wind down at night or on a lunch break…At the same time, the more you read, the more you know—and reading books has an effect on my emotions, so it does affect my work when I’m creating a piece.” Banks-Sullivan is currently reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. “It’s about what it is like to be a black male in America, written as a letter to Coates’s son. It’s very relevant right now.”

WarAgainstPuerto 1
From the Holy Mountain

Shey Rivera
Artistic Director, AS220, Providence, RI

As a practicing artist and artistic director of the nonprofit AS220, Shey Rivera reads to rediscover her native Puerto Rico while gaining inspiration for her social practice in Rhode Island. With books like Nelson Antonio Denis’s War Against All Puerto Ricans, Rivera is “digging deep…trying to understand more of what’s going on and creating awareness over here of what is happening on the island.” But summer is still a time to recharge and feel rejuvenated, so her bookshelf also contains Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. “I think Rupi Kaur’s book is really important because it’s about self-care, and it’s genuine. It’s very minimalist and refreshing, especially at a moment in time where there is so much bombardment of information. I really appreciate that book as a sort of dessert.”

Olivia J. Kiers is the editorial assistant for Art New England. She holds an MA degree in the history of art and architecture from Boston University.

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