Podcasts

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Headshot of a woman.
Photo © Tony Powell

Sculptor and three-time NEA grant recipient

Sculptor and three-time NEA grantee Ursula von Rydingsvard’s art is unlike anything else. While she works with all manner of organic material—including the fourth stomach of a cow—von Rydingsvard is best known for creating large-scale, often monumental sculpture from 4x4 cedar beams. These are cut, stacked, assembled, glued, and laminated before being rubbed with graphite. The result are textured, many-faceted surfaces, work that’s both sensuous and massive—that at once conveys solidity and movement. Born in Germany during World War II to a Polish mother and Ukrainian father who spent time in a Nazi labor camp, von Rydingsvard and her family made their way to the United States after years in refugee camps. She senses a connection between her work and Poland—much of her work is given Polish names—but the connections are so subtle that’s she’s unsure of their meanings herself. In this podcast, we talk about von Rydingsvard’s four-decade long career. She explains how she makes her labor-intensive massive sculptures, her early years as an artist when she was poor but joyful about creating art, the importance of her NEA grants, coming to the U.S. as a child of seven, and why she began to make art with the fourth stomach of a cow.

headshot of a man with book cover.
Photo by Kyle Cassidy

Author of NEA Big Read title Borne

Jeff VanderMeer writes fiction that defies classification—it has elements of speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and eco-fiction, with an attention to language that literary fiction would envy and a voice that is utterly distinctive. VanderMeer’s novel Borne, which is a recent addition to the national community reading program NEA Big Read, is a case in point. Borne is a post-apocalyptic novel about a woman and the mysterious creature she finds in a city broken by a biotechnical company and terrorized by a five-story-tall flying bear. It sounds crazy, but it is a compelling, moving page turner that looks at the connections creatures make, or try to make, with one another. It’s an unpredictable cautionary tale—quite an unlikely combination. But so is VanderMeer. He spent a good part of his childhood in the Fiji Islands, immersed in the natural world with his parents, an entomologist and a biological illustrator. He was enraptured by the biodiversity of the islands and became an avid birder, which led him to writing. He remains immersed in the natural world and entranced by life in all its forms while living in Northern Florida, where he spends a great deal of time hiking through swamps and parks. In this podcast episode, we hear about it all—from Fiji to Florida. VanderMeer talks about his singular creative process, the themes he returns to in his work, his interactions with readers, and his excitement about Borne and the NEA Big Read program.

Mike Vlahovich
Photo by Edwin Remsburg, courtesy of MSAC

Master Shipwright & 2016 National Heritage Fellow

Restoring wooden boats and keeping alive the culture of the working waterfront.

Kasandra Ver Brugghen head shot.
Photo courtesy of Spy Hop

Executive Director of Spy Hop

 Teaching the next generation of digital artists.

Head shot of Dan Vera
Photos courtesy of Dan Vera

Poet

Speaking Wiri Wiri and translating the immigrant experience.