The Misadventures of Wenamun

Adapted by ROLF POTTS
Illustrated by CEDAR VAN TASSEL

Marco polo comic

One enticing thing about travel tales from distant centuries is the way they suggest so many more stories that haven’t been told. While we assume that Marco Polo was a pioneer in his journey to the Far East, for example, we learn from his own narrative that he encountered other Europeans – Germans, Lombards, Frenchmen – in the cities of China. Polo’s contemporary, William of Rubruck, traveled across Asia and found Greek doctors, Ukrainian carpenters, and Parisian goldsmiths working in the Mongolian capital of Karakorum. As intriguing as these thirteenth-century accounts of Marco and William are, imagine a rich trove of unknown travelers’ diaries stretching far deeper into antiquity.

Emily EverettThe Misadventures of Wenamun

Martha Willette Lewis: An Unreal Atlas


Our relationship with maps has changed drastically in the last ten years, from the pinpoint ease of Google Maps to global positioning systems rendering us a blinking blue beacon on a grid of streets. Rarely are we explorers in the completed cartography of our planet. Visual artist Martha Willette Lewis has given us new, unreal spaces to explore by combining diagrammatic drawings, biological systems, and topographical forms. These spaces manifest as works on paper that are often folded, crumpled, or bisected. Lewis takes visual cues from systems that are usually not in contact and, in doing so, creates a skewed sense of reality. Hers is a hybridized vision shared by artists and technological innovators. The paper and drawing are real, but the vision is of an impossible place.

Martha Willette Lewis art

Folded Stellar Hive, 2013
Pencil and India ink on paper and cardboard housing
12x18x7 unfolded

Elemental Reasoning and Limited Resources, 2013 Pencil and India ink on paper and cardboard housing unfolded approx 20.5 x 30 x 7 inches

Elemental Reasoning and Limited Resources, 2013
Pencil and India ink on paper and cardboard housing
unfolded approx
20.5 x 30 x 7 inches

Lewis provides a constructed topography for her unreal spaces. One folded work invoking a map, “Folded Stellar Hive, 2013,” lives as a three-dimensional form. The drawing, like a common map, folds in on itself. In this work, Lewis builds a place for us out of things we recognize, but she creates an amalgam well beyond our possible range of experiences. Filled with color and disorder, the piece’s patterned perimeter begins to yield to the complex forms that mesh within. The geometric forms evoking the spiritual forms of mandalas and rose windows blossom across the paper to build the structure of a hive. In “Elemental Reasoning and Limited Resources, 2013,” ancient gothic vaults and swirling pools of deep space bleed into a pixelated grid. An architect or an engineer could attempt to read this as a technical drawing, as it appears factual, and is based on facts, but the result is fiction.

Brane 3, 2013 India ink on crumpled paper 4x3x4

Brane 3, 2013
India ink on crumpled paper

Lewis also creates topographies in painted, crumpled paper. The complexity of these crumpled forms expand imagined space by giving them dimension. Lewis embraces the paper’s weight and volume, and the work’s objectness becomes a physical presence greater than the viewer thought possible for paper alone. Lewis’s works are worlds within worlds and exist as their own tiny satellites.In “Brane 3, 2013,” the painted crumpled paper form could be a landmass, a brain, the physical cosmology of our universe, or an abstract object. Lewis, a polyglot of various disciplines, intends it to be as all of these.

Membrane, 2013 Ink on crumpled paper on styrofoam plinth 9x10x7

Membrane, 2013
Ink on crumpled paper on styrofoam plinth

Like maps, Lewis’s works are compiled into an atlas, but one that is unreal.  Her forms evoke charts, diagrams, and maps but often comingle their unlike disciplines. Rather than direct the viewer to a known destination, this unreal atlas delves into the land of exquisite variability.

hive 3, 2013 watercolor and pencil on mulberry paper mounted on panels, 20x20x1

hive 3, 2013
watercolor and pencil on mulberry paper mounted on panels,

Untitled world, 2012 Watercolor, marker, pencil on cut leaves of paper, 4ft x 5ft

Untitled world, 2012
Watercolor, marker, pencil on cut leaves of paper,
4ft x 5ft

Martha Willette Lewis earned her BFA from the Cooper Union in New York, and an MFA from Yale University. Her art engages issues of science, technology, and archived human knowledge.

Jeff Bergman is currently Associate Director at Pace Prints in Manhattan. He earned his BA from Hampshire College, where he studied art history and theory. He is the editor of a weekly art newsletter called Atlas.

Julia PikeMartha Willette Lewis: An Unreal Atlas

Across Gymnasium Bridge


“We have the mind, body, and the mind/body all organizing this building,” offers architect Chris McVoy, metaphorically describing the Campbell Sports Center that opened this fall at Columbia University. The building is the outward expression of an athlete’s inner journey. In a short film, McVoy and his partner and mentor, Steven Holl, discuss their design intentions and the character of experience they’ve created.

Julia PikeAcross Gymnasium Bridge

The Art Palace of the West


emery collection

I am a sixth-generation Texan who married a fiercely native New Yorker, which means I have a keen appreciation for the ways in which places shape lives. When I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in the dead of winter last year, it was an odyssey that once again challenged my sense of identity. Cincinnati is worlds apart from both Texas and New York, and unlike those proudly parochial states, this city can lay a strong claim as the heart of America. It was settled in 1788 on the banks of the Ohio River, and at the turn of the century, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow named it “the Queen of the West”:

Julia PikeThe Art Palace of the West

Lab of Literary Architecture


Last month I enjoyed following media coverage of an unusual writing workshop and design studio held at Columbia University. Italian architect and writer Matteo Pericoli originated his “Laboratory of Literary Architecture” course in Turin, and brought it to New York this spring as a joint course for students of the School of Writing and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Julia PikeLab of Literary Architecture

From Place to Place: The Portrait Photography of Lauri Lyons


Curated by Alicia Lubowski-Jahn

man selling newspapers

Although the photographer Lauri Lyons calls New York home, she is ever on the move through her creative projects. Her current body of work spans Africa, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Europe, and the United States, and has connected the globe through African diaspora and identity formation themes. Often pictures and languages within her portrait photography evoke origins that are both ancestral and geographic. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the photojournalism magazine NOMADS, which is also dedicated to the peripatetic state. 

Emma CroweFrom Place to Place: The Portrait Photography of Lauri Lyons

Interpreted for Viewing


Curated by Jeff Bergman

man in suit fallen on sidewalk

Jeremiah Dine records moments of brisk movement, still unreflective silence, and unstinting labor with equanimity. The images that sit obligingly still now are the distillation of activity by the artist and the subject. Dine uses his lens to interpret the field of view and render the whole image from minute elements linked by chance and purpose. Each fragment flattens, and what is left becomes the single instance worthy of illumination. Each image is now interpreted for viewing as RAW file. In the past, the practice of printing an image signaled a work’s finality. With Dine and many other contemporary photographers, an image’s final state can be digital—it need not be printed and exhibited. Of thousands of images and the wide range of themes that Jeremiah Dine records, certainly not all could be reviewed in one exhibition. These images were chosen because they exemplify a single moment of candid street photography.

Emma CroweInterpreted for Viewing

Speculative Summer School


At the threshold of summer, the sunglasses are on. Running in blue-sky mode, I’ve been talking up some ideas for multiplying the writing workshop times the architecture studio. Their product would be a format for storytelling across media, an alignment of complimentary strengths really well suited to engage the built environment.

Julia PikeSpeculative Summer School