Sorry not sorry! You’re about to be obsessed with Marjorie Ingall—writer, wit-wielder, and authority on all things apology-related. Ingall is a columnist for Tablet Magazine and author of Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children, a super resource that trashes the tired trope of the overbearing Jewish mother while dishing out loads of savvy, straight-talking guidance that’s a godsend for any parent intent on raising cool, kind humans. She’s also the co-creator of SorryWatch, which (a warning) is so good it may single handedly account for the loss of your afternoon. She and fellow SorryWatcher Susan McCarthy are expert apology analyzers, mining the news, media, literature and history for some heavy hitters (good and bad alike) with a side of sense of humor. Follow them on Twitter for all the most urgent apology updates. In the not-so-distant future you’ll even be able to get your hands on the bound-to-be-brilliant book they’ve been working on—Sorry Sorry Sorry, slated for 2022. Our future selves are flipping out about it.
In her 5+5, Ingall singles out 5 favorite 20x200 artworks and answers 5 questions. We were especially wowed by her original, thoughtful and enthusiastic takes on each piece she picked, touching on (for instance) her longing for old-timey NYC, and why she stans for artist Florine Stettheimer. She also discovers she's drawn to the psychedelic. (We’re here for a hallucinatory segue.) For her Q+A, Ingall clues us into a particularly fascinating Yiddish-speaking architect who went from working-class immigrant kid to opulent designer. She talks about a colossal Campari poster that testifies to her late father’s love of the classic aperitivo, and proffers some hot tips for parents serious about making sure their kids get an A+ art education when school art programs aren’t up to snuff. And in an extra special bonus Q, she goes in on why there are so many bad apologies right now, and (importantly!) how not to be a Bad Apologizer. — Team 20x200
5 Perfect Picks
It's so deliriously psychedelic! At first I thought it was Peter Max, but surprise, it turns out to be a representation of something totally logical, mathematical, rational: A NASA geological map of the moon, designed to show safe places for astronauts to land. And mapped by a pioneering female astrogeologist after whom an asteroid was named. Just stop already, give me it.
I came of age in a world of seemingly endless magazines. I love this dude pondering his gazillion reading options (or hey, a 10-cent malted milk). All those faces! on all those covers! and all those cool fonts! This image makes me mournful for a lost world, but it also makes me remember what it was like to feel young in the city, thrilled to work with words, viewing the future as infinite possibility.
The magazine where I work ran a piece asking “Was Florine Stettheimer a Good Painter?” and I was all, grrrrr, does anyone ask that question about male artists? (People also asked the question about Marie Laurencin, whose work I also love and who, like Stettheimer, was interested in fashion. Shocker.) I love the humor—ooh, pretentious people! poseurs and gatekeepers! pre-Haring radiant baby!—and the gorgeous colors and lettering and the kinda Maira Kalman-y vibe. It’s just fun to look at people and their clothes.
Gee, I seem drawn to psychedelic pieces; who knew? But I’ve always loved mosaics and tilework—my first job was writing for the Let’s Go Travel Guides in Crete, a whole island of spectacular mosaics. Here the Persian influences Ahkami invokes are much brighter and richer, and I feel like there's such a modern, witty and pointed spirit at play: Look at the teeny Statue of Liberty—which OUGHTA be a symbol of our history of welcoming immigrants—getting swept away in whorls of water and weird nuclear drippings.
I've lived in NYC's East Village for 19 years, but Rhode Island, where I grew up, is a big part of my identity. I'm pretty sure this painting depicts Newport, where Pennington lived for a time. I like that it’s the beach but without blue sea or yellow sand or crowds or picnics. It’s so dispassionate and cool and socially distanced. I like that you can’t see faces, and that you have to blink for a sec to see whether it's a painting or vintage photo. That lady’s long skirt is so Victorian-y, but the beach and sky feel timeless and eternal. To me the quiet forever-ness is soothing.
5 Q's + 5 A's
1) What's your favorite museum?
Museum of the City of New York. Lots of historical photography, and a great reminder that various fights for social justice have gone on in NYC for a long time.
2) What's your most coveted coffee table book?
Too Much is Never Enough: The Autobiography of Morris Lapidus. Working-class Yiddish speaking immigrant kid grows up to design grand hotels like the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc n Miami as well as WPA public pools and playgrounds in NYC, is considered tacky by architectural establishment but unashamedly loved these dramatic curves and excesses. And he was funny.
3) Do you prefer a single statement piece or a salon wall?
Single piece. We currently have my late dad's huge (5 foot tall?) Campari poster—he LOVED Campari. For another naked wall, I want a giant version of one of James and Karla Murray's rainbow collages of East Village signage.
4) If you could be reincarnated as an artist, who would you want to be?
Ugh, someone who was rich and appreciated during their lifetime without being a hack? Them.
5) In your book "Mamaleh Knows Best", you tap into a rich history of Jewish motherhood and your own experiences to share some tried-and-true tips for raising quality humans. Since school arts programs are so often overlooked, undervalued, or underserved, what advice/suggestions/direction would you give to parents who wanna make sure their kids get a good art education extracurricularly?
Good question! Take your kids to museums! Do not stay long, even if it seems like a waste of money (go at a free or reduced-price time, or hit up some galleries with colorful work)—most kids can't focus for more than an hour or two. Plan to point out colors, draw your favorite things on a sketch pad you bring along, make up stories to go with paintings, draw parallels from your kid's life to things you see in an artwork. Anything outdoors—like museums with outdoor sculpture gardens—or with things you can touch is good. Pair a museum jaunt with a treat if you can—something small from the gift shop or something yummy at the cafe. If you do a bit of homework first and learn something about an artist whose work you're seeing, you can probably tell that artist's story in an engaging way to your kid, and keep asking them what THEY think about the artist's life or art, and how it relates to the wider world. Art, to me, is a way to make kids less narcissistic and more open to seeing the world as all interrelated and full of beauty and struggle.
Bonus question! As a Noted Apology Expert and SorryWatch co-creator, tell us why there have been so many shitty apologies of late, what makes them bad, and how could they be better.
Social media has necessitated (and amplified) more public apologies. Terrible CYA apologies have always been with us, but nowadays we see SO MANY, and we viscerally recognize when an apology is bad even if we can't always articulate why. Bad apologies are almost universally defensive, oblique about what they're actually apologizing FOR, and more about the apologizer's intrinsic goodness and good intentions than they are about the offense they've committed or the hurt they've caused others. Right now, with our country's collective focus on #BLM and the old guard's resistance to grappling with how deep racism in America goes, curators and institutions are grappling with their history of white supremacy, with profiting from Black pain, with silencing and ignoring Black artists, with "All Lives Matter"-ing the art world. Speaking generally, here are SorryWatch's rules for apologizing well: 1. Use the words "I'm sorry" rather than "We regret" or "it is regrettable that." Apologize privately AND publicly. 2. Say exactly what you're apologizing for (rather than obliquely, hand-ravingly apologizing for "the situation" or "recent events." (WHAT SITUATION? WHAT EVENTS?) 3. Show you understand the impact of what you did; show you know exactly how you caused harm. 4. Don't make excuses. 5. Tell us the steps you're taking to make sure the offense doesn't recur, and tell us how you'll make reparations. 6. Pledge to listen more than you talk. Let others have their say.
The 411 on Marjorie Ingall