In the spring of 2010, Cabinet magazine invited poet and cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum to begin writing a regular column. Entitled “Legend,” the column had a highly unusual premise; every three months, the editors of the magazine would ask Koestenbaum to write one or more extended captions for a single photograph with which they had provided him. Drawn from obscure vernacular, commercial, and scientific sources, all of the images were unfamiliar to the author. After eighteen installments, Koestenbaum concluded his column in the winter of 2015. Featuring an introductory essay by the author, Notes on Glaze collects all the “Legend” columns, as well as their accompanying photographs.
It had been the intention of the editors to provide a venue for Koestenbaum’s aphoristic brilliance and his uncanny ability to pinpoint the unexpectedly telling detail in a given image, with each installment imagined as its own discrete encounter. But over time it became clear that there were profound correspondences between these individual exercises in sympathetic-critical observation and that Koestenbaum was quietly advancing an aesthetic position, one that suggests how to read cultural artifacts without foreclosing one’s own desire. Refusing the distancing language of critical disinterest, Koestenbaum’s columns always locate the author in intimate proximity to the subjects portrayed in the photographs and to the impossibly variegated cast of characters—ranging from Debbie Reynolds, Duccio, and Barbra Streisand to Hegel, Pee-wee Herman, and Emily Dickinson—who pass through these texts.
About Wayne Koestenbaum
Wayne Koestenbaum is a poet, critic, painter, and musician. He has previously published seventeen books of poetry, criticism, and fiction, including The Pink Trance Notebooks (Nightboat Books, 2015), My 1980s & Other Essays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013), Hotel Theory (Soft Skull Press, 2007), and The Queen’s Throat (Poseidon Press, 1993), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Koestenbaum’s first solo exhibition took place at White Columns in New York in 2012; a survey of his paintings appeared at the University of Kentucky Art Museum in 2015. He has given musical performances at the Kitchen, New York; REDCAT, Los Angeles; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. Koestenbaum has taught at Yale University, both in the English Department and as a visiting member of the painting faculty of the School of Art, and is a Distinguished Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.
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