Susan Stamberg

Hanukkah Lights: 2020

Dec 10, 2020

Hanukkah is a time to share light, miracles and faith. It's been a difficult year and these stories will reflect that. They're darker than usual. But we hope the miracle of Hanukkah casts its light through these stories. We think the tales will resonate with you because of their mixture of sadness and strength.

Dwight David Eisenhower was one of the towering figures of the 20th century: A five-star general, he led the D-Day invasion and helped defeat the Nazis. A two-term president, he brought stability to postwar America.

Since his death in 1969, memories of the man called Ike have faded. But this week, the dedication of an Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C., will bring him vividly back to mind.

This memorial is not like any other presidential monument in Washington. No sky-piercing white obelisk (George Washington), no massive, looming statue (Abraham Lincoln.)

I begged her. But Ann Hoenigswald was resolute. The National Gallery of Art's Senior Conservator of Paintings (now retired) is a dedicated museum professional. Also she knew I'd blab it to everyone. So, firmly and very sweetly, she smiled and said, "No."

It's raining statues all across America. Artworks that have stood in public places for generations are being defaced or deposed, destroyed or relocated, as Americans confront attitudes on race and stereotyping.

For Los Angeles sculptor Alison Saar, art came from both sides of the family. Her mother, Betye Saar, 93, is a well-known artist. Her father, Richard Saar, was a conservator and ceramicist. The sculptures and prints Saar makes echo themes her mother has touched for decades. Betye Saar's collages reflect the anger of the civil rights generation; her daughter builds on that history.

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It isn't hard to imagine yourself inside an Edward Hopper painting — having a coffee at a late-night diner, or staring out the bedroom window at the bright morning sun.

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Ingrid Bergman was a so-so typist. Katharine Hepburn's signature was indecipherable. Marlene Dietrich signed her letter to Ernest Hemingway as "Your Kraut."

A collection of letters, memos, telegrams and other written communiques from the golden age of Hollywood are collected in a new book. Letters from Hollywood, edited and compiled by Barbara Hall and Rocky Lang, is a delicious peek into very famous people's private lives.

Sculptor Augusta Savage once said: "I was a Leap Year baby, and it seems to me that I have been leaping ever since." Born on Feb. 29, 1892, Savage leapt from the Jim Crow South to public attention in the Harlem Renaissance, but is little known today. Now, her work is the focus of an exhibition at the New-York Historical Society, curated by Jeffreen Hayes and coordinated for the historical society by Wendy N.E.

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