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Meaghan McGovern

Meaghan is New York–based writer and editor who specializes in fashion and design. As an editor at Rizzoli, she has contributed to books by seminal authors including Tsumori Chisato, Mark Gonzales, OMA, Rick Owens, Jun Takahashi, Juergen Teller, and Pharrell Williams, among others.

Meaghan McGovern's Articles

Courtesy A Space

This Collection of Hand-Carved, Noguchi-Inspired Bowls Imbues Spaces With an Earthy Essence

In 2020, the Noguchi Museum opened “The Sculptor and the Ashtray”—an intimate, one-room exhibition chronicling the artist’s pursuit to create the perfect ashtray. The negative space employed in Isamu Noguchi’s designs, as well as the show’s culminating statement about design and its power to shape the modern world, inspired designers Anna Aristova and Roza Gazarian, founders of New York–based studio A Space, to make a collection of hand-carved bowls, produced from special material—Lebanese cedar—that has a signature balsamic scent.

Elizabeth Dee. (Courtesy Independent Art Fair)

Elizabeth Dee on Rethinking the Canon of 20th-Century Art

Since 1997, when she founded her eponymous (now shuttered) gallery, Elizabeth Dee has been a fixture of the New York art scene, a doer and seer known for having her finger on the pulse. A multi-hyphenate collector, curator, and writer, her robust resumé includes authoring monographs about artists such as Josephine Meckseper, Ryan Trecartin, and Meredyth Sparks; a stint as director of the John Giorno Foundation, a position from which she’s stepping down this month; and her most high-profile role, as co-founder and CEO of New York’s Independent Art Fair. An elegant, tightly curated event that remains an outlier in its efforts to elevate overlooked, underrepresented, and unsung galleries or artists, and an Independent champions discovery. True to its name, the fair, which Dee created with Matthew Higgs in 2009, stands out from the global art-circuit pack for its intimacy, intricacy, and consistent high quality.

Courtesy Yale University Press

A Sonic Journey Inspired by the Expansive Landscapes of the Nordic Region

Music put out by artists from the Nordic region—an emerging hotbed for progressive musicians such as the prolific singer-songwriter Björk and the post-rock powerhouse Sigur Rós—often stems from the region’s moody, expansive landscapes; severe season changes; and in their pursuit of stable democracies, individual freedom, and economic growth, historic political struggles.

Installation view of “Objects in Sculpture.” (Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago)

With His “Open Objects,” Jonathan Muecke Wants You to Think About Space

“What is the texture of scale? Can a surface be eliminated? Can space expand?” Viewers encounter these and other questions, which are printed on a wall, upon encountering the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition “Objects in Sculpture” (through Oct. 10), Minnesota-based designer Jonathan Muecke’s first solo presentation in a major museum. For Muecke, a graduate of the Cranbrook Academy of Art who has worked at the Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, objects are vessels through which to explore the connections between spaces, materials, and perception. Through his output—pared-down pieces in evocative forms and tactile mediums—he encourages viewers to think about how objects can shape the ways we interact with our surroundings.

Wolfhouse tarot cards

A Philip Johnson House, Transformed Into a Community Hub for the Future

Nestled in a cozy pocket of Newburgh, in New York’s Hudson Valley, is an architectural gem designed in 1949 by Philip Johnson, the American architect known for his noble modern and postmodern structures. Benjamin V. Wolf, a prominent owner of a department store in downtown Newburgh, commissioned Johnson to create the house, which is marked by the architect’s signature open-plan layouts, floor-to-ceiling windows, and fluid circulation. In 2020—as the architecture and design world was grappling with how to address Johnson’s legacy in the aftermath of his fascist views becoming more widely known—the property was purchased and restored by Jiminie Ha, the Guggenheim Museum’s director of graphic design and founder of the creative agency With Projects, and art director Jeremy Parker. Determined to establish the residence as a symbol of inclusivity, the two have reimagined it as the Wolfhouse, a community-focused cultural space and incubator with public programming centered around art, architecture, and design.

The main space in Kvadrat’s New York showroom. (Photo: Daniele Ansidei)

Kvadrat’s First New York Showroom Is an Elegant Homage to the Square

Squares, with their even proportions and sharp corners, evoke a sense of honest, hard-edged rationality. The shape has deep connections with Kvadrat, the 54-year-old Danish textile company known for its forward-looking, often vibrant fabrics and artistic collaborations. The brand’s very name is a Danish word for the four-sided form, which, in the old days, before the advent of computers, covered the graph paper used to record textile patterns. The square literally lay at the core of its fabrics’ structure.

Ekosfere products

In the Bronx, a Shop for Everyday Essentials Operating Under a Zero-Waste Ethos

During a recent sort through my recycling—paper-towel tubes, condiment containers, and other receptacles—I noticed that the cardboard and glass bits were very few compared to the number of plastic bottles overcrowding the bin. Globular vessels of moisturizers, glass cleaner, and laundry detergent abounded. I paused and wondered: How can one person output so much packaging?

Chef Jennifer McLagan

A Case for Bringing Blood, Bones, and Offal Into the Kitchen

Jennifer McLagan’s award-winning cookbooks celebrate ingredients that many Western cultures reject or ignore. They include Bones: Recipes, History, and Lore (2005), Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal (2011), and Blood (2019). Far from a marketing stunt, each compendium reflects a topic that McLagan, who grew up in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, and now lives in Toronto, genuinely reveres. She has worked in the culinary industry for more than three decades as a writer, caterer, food stylist, and chef, the latter of which took her to kitchens in London, Paris, and New York. As she traveled, she noticed a distinctly American trait: a detachment from the origins of their food—meat, in particular—as well as how it’s processed, and what’s left behind. By writing about these ingredients, McLagan thought, she could reframe them as perfectly usable (and often, nutritious and delicious) assets for food, and show readers how to incorporate items such as animal testicles, gizzards, hearts, and kidneys into everyday meals.

The Smell Podcast host Katie Boateng

A Podcast Creates Community for People Coping With Smell Loss

​​The human nose allows us to detect all manner of scents. But when the organ is impacted by viral infections, nasal polyps, and other ailments can lead to the total inability to smell—a condition known as anosmia. Its diagnosis often takes people by surprise, leaving them feeling disconnected from the world they once knew. Some have found a lifeline in The Smell Podcast, a project created by Katie Boateng—who lost her sense of smell after a viral infection in 2008—to provide resources and a safe, supportive environment for sufferers while educating listeners along the way.

Installation view of “A Decade of Discovery: Clyfford Still in Denver.” (Courtesy Clyfford Still Museum)

The Genius of Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still

Born in Grandin, North Dakota, in 1904, the artist Clyfford Still was among the first generation of Abstract Expressionists who, using emotive brushstrokes on large canvases, established a bold, evocative approach to painting in the years following World War II. Perhaps the movement’s most enigmatic practitioner, Still followed a rigorous methodology to produce potent paintings that convey a profound sense of energy and quiet strength. Unlike most of his peers, who bought paint from art-supply stores, Still typically mixed his paints by hand, grinding pigments and blending them with linseed oil. He believed that an artist’s work was best understood when viewed collectively—preferably in its entirety—and that, taken together, each piece told a story that was greater than the sum of its parts. (Still held on to nearly all of his output during his lifetime to prevent it from falling into the hands of someone who might not appreciate it, and rarely allowed his paintings to travel.)

Kanchan Koya

The Surprising Health Benefits of the Spices in Your Cupboard

When Kanchan Koya started adding cardamom and clove to her seven-month-old son’s baby food, many moms she knew were shocked. But Koya, who holds a Ph.D. in biomedicine from Harvard, knew that spices can be beneficial to the body—not to mention exciting flavor-enhancers—and decided to set the record straight. In 2014, she started Spice Spice Baby, a blog that debunks misconceptions around spices and demonstrates how to incorporate them into easy, everyday meals.

“Me + You,” an A.I.-powered installation by Suchi Reddy

This Sculpture Wants to Know How the Future Makes You Feel

In a single word, how does the future make you feel? A towering sculpture by architect Suchi Reddy, founder of the New York firm Reddymade, asks viewers to speak their answers into its base, then transforms them into a spectacle of color and light.

Clothing from Patagonia’s ReCrafted collection. (Courtesy Patagonia)

The Best Way to Buy Used Outdoor Gear? From Outerwear Brands Themselves

Clothing designed to endure such harsh conditions as sub-zero temperatures, damp romps in rainforests, or icy traipses through the snow typically calls for high-quality materials. But keeping bodies warm and dry often comes at a cost: Gore-Tex, the ubiquitous weatherproof fabric made from a synthetic resin, is nearly impossible to break down, and studies have linked manufacturing runoff from the chemicals covering most rain jackets with neurological and immune system damage, and cancer. That’s not to mention the fashion industry’s many other contributions to environmental, economic, and humanitarian damage, as journalist Dana Thomas discussed on Ep. 69 of our At a Distance podcast.

Snow-capped pine trees in Lapland, Finland. (Photo: Vincent Guth Vingtcent)

Fall Asleep to the Ambient White Noise of Nature, Captured From Sites Around the World

Last year, when the pandemic put much of Sydney, Australia–based coder and user-experience designer Adrian Ciaschetti’s work on hold, he kept thinking about a conversation he’d had with his partner before the lockdowns began in which she had told him about the night she had the best sleep of her life. It was during a camping trip to Jervis Bay, a village on the southern coast of New Scott Wales, while the gentle sound of rain pattered against her tent. Ciaschetti began to wonder how dozing in different environments might benefit a person’s quality of sleep, and how those advantages could be re-created in a moment when travel was largely banned.

Enlightenment Wines’s Night Eyes mead. (Courtesy Enlightenment Wines)

A Brewery in Brooklyn Adds a New Dimension to Mead, or Honey Wine

Mead, a medieval alcoholic beverage made of fermented honey, water, and yeast (and sometimes spices, herbs, fruit, or hops) has long gotten a bad rap for being stodgy, cloyingly sweet, and exceedingly boozy. But thanks to an uptick in micro-meaderies (and possibly, the drink’s consumption in Game of Thrones), the so-called “honey wine” is making a comeback. According to the American Mead Makers Association, the number of commercial meaderies in the United States has increased more than sevenfold since 2003, and some 200 meaderies are slated to open in the next two years.

Maison/Made's Extrait de Maison

Aromatic Face Oils, Made by Regenerative Farms in France

In 2017, Carolina Prioglio and Adrien de Bontin took over management of a farm in Burgundy that’s nestled in the rolling hills that dapple the South of France. The property, which they co-own, has been part of de Bontin’s family since 1152. His aunt, who had been operating it as a regenerative farm for 30 years, taught the couple how to implement her practices, which included composting, pollinator-habitat restoration, prohibiting pesticides and industrial tillage, and other measures that create nutrient-dense soil. The pair decided to use the rich, bountiful earth of their newly acquired land as the foundation for a skin-care company, Maison/Made, which they launched in 2019. It’s one of the first beauty brands to achieve Biodynamic certification, an accolade awarded by the Demeter Association, which typically bestows the designation to vineyards. (Biodynamic farms—self-contained, self-sufficient entities that follow the cycles of their local ecology—must adhere to strict regulations in order to maintain the classification.) Since Maison/Made grows many of the plants used to make its products, which are all made by hand in small batches on the estate, its concoctions contain a plethora of phytonutrient compounds—a distinct, sweet-smelling treat for the skin.

Toyin Ojih Odutola’s 2019 drawing “Imitation Lesson; Her Shadowed Influence.” (Courtesy the artist and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)

A Fictional World Created by Toyin Ojih Odutola Calls Into Question Real-Life Systems of Power and Gender

New York–based Nigerian artist Toyin Ojih Odutola often uses her creations—eclectic multimedia drawings and works on paper—to tell fictional stories that offer new ways of thinking about real-life issues. The pieces she created for her solo exhibition “A Countervailing Theory” currently on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. through April 3, 2022, are possibly her most elaborate experimentation with form and narrative to date. (If you’re in town, we also recommend stopping by the Phillips Collection to view the exhibition “Intersections,” a new body of work by artist Sanford Biggers, who was the guest on Ep. 66 of our At a Distance podcast, on view through Jan. 9, 2022.) Commissioned by the Barbican Art Gallery in London, where it was presented from August 2020 until this past January, the show features 40 large-scale, monochromatic drawings that act as an engaging storyboard for an allegorical tale that considers the ways in which we engage with systems of power, culture, gender, and history.

Neuroscientist Nina Kraus

How Everyday Sounds Shape Our Brains

The raison d’être of professor Nina Kraus’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, at Northwestern University, is understanding how the brain makes sense of sounds. By conducting studies involving thousands of participants from ages 0 to 90, her team has found that the sonic environments we live in shape the biological infrastructure of our auditory systems, be it in favorable ways (as experienced by those who are bilingual, or who play music) or unfavorable ones (known to those who have experienced hearing loss or concussions). The “hearing brain,” as Kraus calls it, also affects other internal functions, including emotions, movement, and thought processes. Because of the profound ways that sound impacts who we are, the lab’s findings suggest, developing an awareness of soundscapes—and learning how to create and surround ourselves with positive ones—is of utmost importance.

Hare with amber eyes netsuke figurine

Visualizing a Family History by Gathering Fractured Pieces of the Past

“The Hare with Amber Eyes” (on view Nov. 19, 2021, through May 15, 2022) is a remarkable, meditative exhibition at New York’s Jewish Museum based on the New York Times bestselling family memoir of the same name by London-based artist, author, and master potter Edmund de Waal (who was the guest on Ep. 99 of our At a Distance podcast). The show traces the history and migration of the artist’s relatives, who descended from Charles Ephrussi—a Paris-based art historian and collector whose family rose to prominence in the first half of the 19th century and lost its fortune to Nazi looting during World War II—and contemplates the ways in which objects can serve as vessels for human narratives, symbols of resilience, and markers of an enduring familial legacy.

Fermentation expert Sandor Katz

Sandor Katz Documents Fantastic Ferments From Around the World

For self-proclaimed “fermentation fetishist” Sandor Ellix Katz, fermentation is a subversive act. The age-old process—which involves preserving and metabolizing food by letting bacteria convert its starches and sugars into alcohol or acid, resulting in a distinctively tart taste—battles the pitfalls of big-factory food, cheap imports, and the fading away of elaborate, centuries-old culinary traditions. He details his wide-ranging experiences with, and reverence for, the practical procedure in his upcoming book, Sandor Katz’s Fermentation Journeys: Recipes, Techniques, and Traditions from Around the World (Chelsea Green Publishing), out next month. “Like any other manifestation of culture, fermentation practices must be used in order to maintain relevance and stay alive,” he writes. “We must cherish and celebrate the diversity of fermentation practices around the world, and document and share them.”

Truffle expert Rowan Jacobsen

Rowan Jacobsen Sniffs Out the Seductive Scent of Truffles

The olfactory experience of truffles can stick with you. One intoxicating whiff might ignite an insatiable fascination with, and pining for, the fragrant fungi that knows no bounds. Coiled up in the smell of this culinary gem, journalist Rowan Jacobsen says, is an emotion akin to love—an experience that you can’t stop thinking about, and that makes you stupid and invigorated at the same time. In his new book Truffle Hound: On the Trail of the World’s Most Seductive Scent, with Dreamers, Schemers, and Some Extraordinary Dogs (Bloomsbury), out next week, he investigates why these strong-smelling nuggets appeal to the many noses they might encounter before they’re gobbled up.