September 2, 2020

During these uncertain times, SMoCA has invited artists and staff to utilize our blog Inspire as an outlet to make meaningful connections by sharing personal reflections and insight into their practice. 

Laurie Simmons, Kaleidoscope House, 2000. Plastic, mixed media; 28 in. x 22 in. x 28 in.

This Museum Musings, we hear from SMoCA staff who share their favorite thing to read, watch, or see this summer . . . from home. Our precious subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Kindle, Amazon Prime, etc. have been a main source of at home entertainment. Admit it, we have all taken a day or two to binge watch shows that help us escape—Game of ThronesThe Walking DeadLOST—or remember a different time when the only thing on our mind was the boy/girl next door—Gilmore Girls or Veronica Mars. Most of all, we have found ways to stay connected to the things we love. We hope you find some common interests or recommendations in our staff picks.

Raechel Miller
Assistant Retail Manager

During this quarantine bummer summer, I’ve decided to take time to expand my art knowledge and to reconnect back to humanity. I am currently reading the catalog Postscript: Writing after Conceptual Art produced by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver from their self-titled exhibition in 2014. This catalog has expanded my already growing interest in writing in art, but also shows how visual artists and writers mutual support each other. My second pick are the feel-good shows Queer Eye and Love on the Spectrum on Netflix. Watching these shows remind me how vulnerable and adaptable we are to change and lessens the pain of being socially distant from one another during these times. Each episode from both series make me happy cry and it heals my soul.

Keshia Turley
Curatorial Assistant

Favorite reads: Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall, Circe by Madeline Miller, and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. 

Favorite Movies from old, comfy favorites to new releases: In the Tall Grass (2019), Parasite (2019), Jodhaa Akbar (2008), Grease (1978), Clue (1985), and Frozen 2 (2019).

Favorite Series: The Frankenstein ChroniclesPeaky Blinders, and Kingdom.

I definitely did try to escape reality, but that’s not a new normal rather an old familiar standby. Escaping reality for me comes with decompressing and self-care. Sometimes it’s just necessary to lose yourself in a good plot and tune-out everything else. My sister and I are post-apocalyptic/SciFi thriller junkies, so it was no surprise we turned to our favorite genre during quarantine. Sometimes it helps to know things could be worse. We also can’t be the only ones that have a strategic plan for the first zombie apocalypse, right? It pays to be prepared. Some of my favorite post-apocalyptic films are Snowpiercer28 Days LaterCloverfield Lane, and Stalker.

Jennifer McCabe
Director and Chief Curator

I began the quarantine by watching the movie Contagion, which was also the last pandemic-related media I indulged in. Of course, I devoured the news, which has been stranger than fiction anyhow. I took a 14-week meditation course and from that would recommend Wherever You Go There You Art: Mindfullness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kata-Zinn. Currently, I’m reading The Next Great Migration by Sonia Shah, a prizewinning journalist, who upends our centuries-long assumptions about migration through science, history, and reporting—predicting its lifesaving power in the face of climate change. My favorite show was Taste the Nation, featuring Padma Lakshmi, who travels across the country exploring the rich and diverse food culture of various immigrant groups, seeking out the people who have heavily shaped what American food is today. The series was amazing but too short, so I had to start binge-watching Top Chef to follow it up. Most importantly, we adopted “quarantine kitties.” They are two sisters, Oak and Ash, who have brought endless love and entertainment!

Virginia McInnis
Public Relations Specialist

Being mostly indoors since March allowed me to focus on my 2020 reading goal of 20 books in 2020. Since March I have read seven different books spanning many different genres and experiences. The books I read: MiddlesexThe HoursThe Casual VacancyLet’s Explore Diabetes with OwlsWhen They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter MemoirSupper Club, and The Bluest Eye. I am currently reading Stephen King’s memoir On Writing. I had more time to cook and bake. I almost perfected gooey chocolate hazelnut cookies and a lemon turmeric loaf. I am still trying to find the best buffalo cauliflower “wings.” Trying to recreate my favorite restaurant dishes has been fun as well.

Laura Best
Exhibitions Manager

When I have time to myself I tend to work on house projects or paint in my studio, rather than relax and watch TV. So, I’m a terrible person to ask what I’m watching right now. I always slow down for my kids though, and am something of an expert in the pop culture of six- to ten-year-olds. So I’ll share some of those favorites. Our go-to shows tend to be epic fantasy-action-comedies that are embedded with inclusivity, representation, and heart. I’m always amazed by the caliber of writing that goes in to kids’ shows compared to the ones of my own childhood. Recently we have rewatched all of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Avatar: Legend of Korra, as well as Steven Universe and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts. All amazing shows that my husband and I enjoy as much as our kids. Every night before bed we read chapter books together. Since March we have worked our way through most of Roald Dahl and Judy Blume and just finished the first Harry Potter.

Charlotte Quinney
Campus Engagement Coordinator

This summer, I didn’t stray too far from my typical film fare of 80s nostalgia and horror films. In particular, I have indulged in some quite moving and elaborately detailed horror documentaries. I’ve always found myself intrigued by the social and cultural history of the genre, and the development of special effects technologies, including miniatures and makeup. On my watch list this summer was Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini (2015), To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story (2017), In Search of Darkness: A Journey into Iconic 80s Horror (2019), Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019), and Scream, Queen!: My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019). While Smoke and MirrorsTo Hell and Back, and Scream, Queen! focus on the poignant stories of individual actors and artists, Horror Noire is based on the academic book of the same title by Robin R. Means Coleman, and examines the limits and possibilities of representation for Black actors and directors in horror. After attending in-person horror film festivals for the past seven years, I’m looking forward to attending my first virtual fest this fall!

Carrie Tovar

I spent a large part of the summer preparing to teach my Art of Ancient Egypt class online, which is very different than teaching in person. I reread our textbook and several other things having to do with Ancient Egypt. For pleasure, I wish I had more time to read but I did love Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Five Days Gone by Laura Cumming. I have begun, but not yet finished, How Do We Look by Mary Beard, which address how we depict ourselves and others in art as well as how we see and view works of art—it is fascinating! I have also been devouring the news and reading articles in Vanity FairThe Atlantic, and The New Yorker because these tended to serve my shorter attention span a little better. I really didn’t want to watch anything having to do with the pandemic. Needing a little escape, I love this program called Escape to the Country, which is about people who are choosing to leave city life in Great Britain and look for houses in the countryside. It seems so relaxing, peaceful, idyllic, and lovely. It is wonderful watching shows set in cooler climates than our Phoenix summers—I love seeing the cloudy, cool, rainy, and misty days! I also love to watch mysteries such as Endeavor that are set in a different time or thrillers like The Americans, which I am thoroughly enjoying! Another favorite summertime activity has been spending such a great amount of time walking in the early mornings with my dog and spending time with my animals in general. In a time of great anxiety, they have brought incredible joy!

Lauren O’Connell
Assistant Curator

I have to admit that the first book I read once we were all in quarantine was Severance by Ling Ma—a story about a woman in New York City who survives a fungal pandemic that kills almost everyone in the entire world. Somehow, apocalyptic novels (philosophical or thriller) help me feel like things aren’t that bad. A lot of my reading is research for exhibitions, but they often are not about art. A quick list of books (all genres) I’m reading (or have read) this summer: All About Love by bell hooks, Bunk by Kevin Young, One Nation Two Realities by David C. Barker and Morgan Marietta, The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne, and What Comes After Farce by Hal Foster. An artist recommended a book of poetry by Danez Smith titled Don’t Call Us Dead (2017) that painfully and poetically parses the topic of racial violence towards black men/boys in the United States—a must read! As for watching, I like to get lost in stories that have nothing to do with me. Right now, I’m watching the British forensic cop show Silent Witness. I’m also a sucker for comedy of all kinds and coming of age movies. My favorites that I’ve seen this summer include The Half of It (2020), Booksmart (2019), and Palm Springs (2020). And lastly, I’ve watched a lot of kid movies and TV shows that are of interest to a 3-year-old . . . but we won’t go down that rabbit hole.

Laura Hales
Curator of Learning & Innovation

I typically have a 40-minute commute to work, so to me, the quarantine meant 80 extra minutes in my day. Over the last five months, I used those 80 minutes to go on some great bike rides. I think that is what has kept me sane, because after a long ride in the heat, it really feels OK to not move much for the rest of the day! I also had a compulsion to read, endlessly, so I must have been trying to escape! I read over 20 books: some artist autobiographies and several murder mysteries. (Life doesn’t seem that bad after reading those!) I also read some powerful books about racial inequities and I feel that this was such an important time to listen, reflect, and learn. I found that using a blowtorch felt great—like I could control something! So, I dove into encaustic art, taking an online course and setting up my studio. It’s my new passion.

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