Delaware Public Media

Susan Stamberg

Why do artists paint so many self-portraits?

For starters, they're always available, says Kim Sajet, Director of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. "In the middle of the night when the urge strikes, you've got yourself."

"I'm fascinated by the necessity of quick decisions," Inge Morath told me more than 30 years ago, when she came to NPR for an interview. Morath was in the business of quick decisions — as a photographer and photojournalist she was the first woman to be accepted as a full member of the Magnum photo agency.

Now, her life is the subject of a new biography by Linda Gordon. It recounts Morath's escape from Nazi Germany, her boundary-breaking career, and her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller.

For more years than we can count, on this Friday before Thanksgiving NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg has presented her mother-in-law's unconventional recipe for cranberry relish — it's tart, time-tested, terrific for some tasters and terrible for others.

The recipe is controversial — especially if you only like sweet cranberry sauce. Mama Stamberg's has the usual cranberries and sugar, but then you tart it up with onion, sour cream and — wait for it — horseradish.

Mark Bradford is an activist and abstract artist who tends to get described with a lot of adjectives — tall (he's 6'8"), black and gay; he's been both a hairdresser and a MacArthur Fellow.

"What's most important to me is that I'm an artist," Bradford says. "The rest of it is just — the rest of it is just who I am."

Bradford makes huge works of art that have garnered huge accolades. In 2017 Bradford represented the U.S. at the Venice Biennale. Now his work is on view at The Baltimore Museum of Art.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot painted thousands of landscapes — he did them well, and he did well by them. By the 1850s he was regarded as "a seriously successful, nationally renowned landscape painter," says National Gallery of Art curator Mary Morton.

Jackson Pollock's painting Number 1, 1949, is a swirl of multi-colored, spaghettied paint, dripped, flung and slung across a 5-by-8-foot canvas. It's a textured work — including nails and a bee (we'll get to that later) — and in the nearly 70 years since its creation, it's attracted a fair bit of dust, dirt and grime.

What do you get for the man who has everything? Stuart Weitzman's wife was fed up with buying gifts for her shoe designer husband. "After two or three ties and shirts that I ended up never wearing, my wife bought a pair of antique shoes that she thought I would like — and I did," Weitzman explains.

Alberto Giacometti is considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century — but he was consumed by self-doubt. He painted, drew and sculpted, and his sculptures made him famous.

After the traumas of World War II, the Italian-Swiss artist prodded and pushed and punched his materials — clay, plaster, even bronze — into skinny, blobby bodies of men and women, striding through life like shadows. Many of his works are on view at New York's Guggenheim museum until September 12.

Author Philip Roth was a hero of mine, and I interviewed him for NPR many times over the years.

The conversation I remember best was recorded in 1984. We covered several of his novels, including 1979's The Ghost Writer. In it, the book's hero, 23-year-old aspiring writer Nathan Zuckerman, turns a family fight about money into a story he'd like to publish. Zuckerman's father worries the story is bad for the Jews. I asked Roth if there were terrific stories that don't get written because they're bad for someone.

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