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Author Talk

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore and Chloë Bass


Thursday, December 14, 2023
6:30 – 8 pm EST
Scheuer Auditorium

A mixture of memoir, biography, criticism, and social history, Touching the Art is queer icon and activist Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s interrogation of the possibilities of artistic striving, the limits of the middle-class mindset, the legacy of familial abandonment, and what art can and cannot do. As she sorts through her grandmother Gladys’s paintings and handmade paperworks, Sycamore examines the creative impulse itself. In fragments evoking the movements of memory, she searches for Gladys' place within the trajectories of midcentury modernism and Abstract Expressionism, Jewish assimilation and white flight, intergenerational trauma and class striving.

Sycamore writes, “Art is never just art, it is a history of feeling, a gap between sensations, a safety valve, an escape hatch, a sudden shift in the body, a clipboard full of flowers, a welcome mat flipped over and back, over and back, welcome.” Refusing easy answers in search of an embodied truth, Sycamore upends propriety to touch the art and feel everything that comes through.

Sycamore will be joined for this reading and conversation by artist Chloë Bass. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing after the event. Masks are strongly recommended at this event.

Tickets: $10 General; $5 Students, Seniors and Jewish Museum members
Includes Museum Admission

Doors open at 6 pm.

About the Speakers:

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the award-winning author of The Freezer Door, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, one of Oprah Magazine’s Best LGBTQ Books of 2020, and a finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. Winner of a Lambda Literary Award and an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book, she’s the author of three novels and three nonfiction titles, and the editor of six nonfiction anthologies, most recently Between Certain Death and a Possible Future: Queer Writing on Growing Up with the AIDS Crisis.

Chloë Bass is a multiform conceptual artist working in performance, situation, conversation, publication, and installation. Her work uses daily life as a site of deep research to address scales of intimacy: where patterns hold and break as group sizes expand. She began her work with a focus on the individual (The Bureau of Self-Recognition, 2011 – 2013), concluded a study of pairs (The Book of Everyday Instruction, 2015 – 2018), and will continue to scale up gradually until she’s working at the scale of the metropolis. She is currently working on Obligation To Others Holds Me in My Place (2018 – 2023), an investigation of intimacy at the scale of immediate families.

Touching the Art by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore