Your eyes and ears on the world of art and culture. We remind you that 18 years of back issues of eMusings can be found on our archives page.

As more of the world migrates to the online universe, we find wider choices to steer you to. Here are some of the best that we have culled from hours and hours of looking.

Joy Labinjo brings us large-scale portraits of couples and families in familiar surroundings. She was initially struck by the absence of Black figures in her academic and literary environments. Perseverance and energy were her first impressions of other artists who succeeded in portraying life as a Black person. She became obsessed with the power of story-telling to deliver a message, and uses collaged items from her Nigerian heritage along with images from contemporary life, like catalogues and furniture websites. Her technique has been descirbed as "collage aesthetic". Regardless of the vocabulary, there is no denying the impact of her portraits.

The Balinese jungle is an unlikely location for contemporary architecture, yet here resides a stunning gymnasium for a private school, made entirely of bamboo. Designed by the architecture studio Ibuku, the double curved roof reflects the school's dedication to sustainability through learning. According to the architect, the 14-metre-high arches "are connected by anticlastic gridshells that curve in two directions to create a robust, tensioned structure." He goes on to say, "The Arc operates like the ribs of a mammal's chest, stabilised by tensile membranes analogous to tendons and muscles between ribs." The Green School, founded in 2008, also has campuses in New Zealand, South Africa, and New Mexico.

Another noteworthy piece of contemporary architecture, albeit at an entirely different scale, has appeared in Abu Dhabi in the form of a 21st century palace. Called Qasr Al Watan, the walls are composed of limestone and white granite. One enters through the Palace Gardens, with two Tower of Words sculptures. At night, the Palace in Motion light and sound show illuminate the facade of the palace, with a story describing the culture and history of the UAE.

What distinguishes Silicon Valley's entrepreneurs from other innovators is a subject that has received no small amount of attention, particularly as some of their companies turn into behemoths that dominate so much of contemporary life. One article has recently appeared in Intellligencer called "Peter Thiel's Origin Story" that gives a chilling picture. True, it is only about one man, but its implications reverberate throughout the industry and go a long way toward illuminating the kind of personality behind these powerful corporations. It is not a pretty picture, but does perhaps let us peek behind the curtains of high technology's hold over us. This makes compelling, if disturbing, reading.

A 25-year-old Brisitsh/American designer, Harris Reed is making his fashion mark by playing with gender fluidity. At an exhibition being planned for the Victoria and Albert Museum, Reed's fashions are shown alongisde of historical paintings. Reed's output, so far, has been limited but has drawn the attention of fashion aficianados. He describes his work as "demi-couture" and is fond of combining severity with gorgeousness. He is active on Instagram and has attracted a following of celebrities and performers. Frequently his designs will include extravagant and outsizied head pieces. Not only gender ambivalent, Reed's outfits are meant to stimulate conversation.

Art Basel's Fondation Beyeler presents an exhibition called "Close Up", highlighting eight female painters who speciaiize in the female figure. From Berthe Morisot to Cindy Sherman, each artist has her own room, giving the viewer gets a clear view of the changing attitude toward the female body over time. One critic commented, "A portrait can be the way to plunge into the sea of life.”

Anna Isabella Christensen juxtaposes self- portraiture with dramatic events in nature like volcanos. She explains that she likes being alone in nature and feels passionate about environmental causes. Working in Iceland, she recognizes that her images look as though they came from a fantasy world. In many cases, she has to be mindful of the dangers involved in being so close to lava flows, not only heat but toxic gasses, so she is sometimes accompanied by a search and rescue team that also measures gas levels.

Britain's eminent woodcarver, Grinling Gibbons, has been called the "Michelangelo of Wood". An exhibition called "Centuries in the Making" celbrates his work and emphasizes his influence on today's carvers. A critic in the Telegraph newspaper wrote, "Woodcarving so fine it seems to flutter before your very eyes". 2021 marks the 300th anniversary of his death. The Master Carver's Association offers a film and other materials about his intricately carved and glorious pieces.

Like many other art lovers, I have always been fascinated by Frans Hals' "The Laughing Cavalier", painted in 1624. A fascinating new exhibition from the Wallace Collection will show this charming piece alongside of Hals' other portraits of men. Additionally, Google has an extensive showing of many of the artist's works, revealing a delightful overview of his generous output.

SFMOMA (the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) brings us an elaborate presentation of paintings by Joan Mitchell. Mitchell had her first solo exhibition at the New Gallery in New York in 1952. She traveled back and forth between Paris and New York as her reputation grew. One description of her technique noted the physicality of her oil paints, adding that she "squeezed it from tubes directly onto the canvas, scraping, throwing, flicking, and whisking it through the air to land in bewildering webs, threads, shreds, and droplets". Mitchell herself commented, "The solitude that I find in my studio is one of plenitude. I am enough for myself. I live fully there."

One of my favorite glass artists, David Ruth has created a new body of work, further extending his masterful adventures in cast glass. Based in Oakland, California, Ruth is adept at combining polished surfaces with rough textures. His pieces range from architectural installations to intimate reflections of ice.

The Guardian newspaper offers a frank discussion called "I Feel a Bit Rusty: Has Covid Killed our Sex Lives?". Writer Zoe Williams looks into whether long covid distroys our sex drive, how fear of catching the virus affects our sexual activity, how lockdowns and social distancing have influenced our desires for intimacy, and whether we have become unduly consumed by hygiene. Not incidentally, the opening graphic is pretty dramatic. (thanks to GS for this.)

c. Corinne Whitaker 2021