P E R S O N

by Gilda Davidian

Even*Cleveland is one of my very favorite stops on the internet. Curated by Stephanie Madewell, the site is a collection and reflection of various themes. Whether it be veiled women, tennis, or sharks, Stephanie manages to construct visual essays which have me thinking about a hundred different things through a single lens. Here she is talking to us about her life and her current obsessions.

Hi Stephanie! What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up early and check my email to see if any work has come in. I do creative odd jobs – copywriting, editing and the occasional illustration, all of which I get via emails. If something shows up, I fix a cup of tea and sit down to work. I usually stop around 10:30 for a bite to eat – yogurt and honey, or some kind of whole grain cereal that tastes like punishment. If I have a writing-oriented deadline, I chain myself to my desk until it is done. If I’m drawing, I put on music and try to focus. Sometime in the middle of the day between 10 and 2, I take the dog for a walk. Fortunately, she is a happy-go-lucky creature and patiently waits until I hit a break. We go 40 – 60 blocks, rain, snow or shine, which takes about an hour. I come home and either work more, or research job listings until I bum myself out. I figure I’ve written a novel’s worth of cover letters by now. Then I go to the gym and exercise like fury. My brain is so noisy that if I don’t get myself totally physically exhausted every day, I have trouble sleeping. I spend the evening making dinner and reading. My husband will get home between 7 and 9, and we’ll eat, share stories and sometimes go for a walk. I usually end the day curled up with a book or watching TV.

On days when there is no work waiting, I read. Sometimes the internet, sometimes magazines, sometimes books. Each season, I make myself a reading plan so that I can cover as much ground in as much depth as possible. I try to limit blog-work to one day a week so my life doesn’t become tied to screens. I also go to libraries, museums and galleries. Occasionally I’ll meet a friend for lunch as a treat and sometimes I’ll mess around with a craft project or cook something complicated.

What is something you are looking forward to?
The release of Overlook’s new Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy. I haven’t read anything by Mervyn Peake, and I think it will be a good way to spend cold November afternoons.

What are 3 things you are currently obsessed with?
I’ve developed a sudden fixation on poached eggs. Fortunately, my husband is equally infatuated, so we collude together to include them in as many meals as possible. I love them with very runny yolks floating in noodle soups or broken over salads with leafy greens and roasted fall vegetables. Lots of cracked black pepper is crucial. Fall 2011 is the season of the egg.

Impostors. I’ve been researching cases of people claiming to be someone else: the Tichborne claimant, the False Dmitrys, Cassie Chadwick. Also Capgras Syndrome, a mental disorder that makes you certain that a friend or family member has been replaced by an impostor. An interest in identity as a construction is sort of inevitable for me – the thing I find most fascinating about blogs is how they are used to construct identities. In the online world, the audience places a premium on authenticity without having any sort of concrete parameters to measure it. It’s amazing how easily a whole believable world can be constructed from fragments.

Indian painting. Right now, an exhibition called Wonder of the Age: Master Painters of India, 1100-1900 is on view at The Met. I’ve been twice already. I could use a whole battery of hackneyed expressions to describe my feelings about it but I’m reading Walter Benjamin, and in his essay ‘The Storyteller’, he quotes Paul Valéry:
He speaks of the perfect things in nature, flawless pearls, full-bodied, matured wines, truly developed creatures, and calls them ‘the precious product of a long chain of causes similar to one another.’ The accumulation of such causes has its temporal limit only at perfection. ‘This patient process of Nature,’ Valéry continues, ‘was once imitated by men. Miniatures, ivory carvings, elaborated to the point of greatest perfection, stones that are perfect in polish and engraving, lacquer work or paintings in which a series of thin, transparent layers are placed one on top of the other – all these products of sustained, sacrificing effort are vanishing, and the time is past in which time did not matter. Modern man no longer works at what can be abbreviated.’
These paintings are completely unabbreviated works. Each one represents massive time, distilled to perfection. It’s a rare (and intoxicating) thing to see.

What are you currently reading?
Walter Benjamin: Illuminations
Jorge Luis Borges: Collected Fictions
Mina Loy: Stories and Essays
Susan Howe: My Emily Dickinson
Shakespeare: Henry VI, Part I

Thank you, Stephanie!

Even*Cleveland