Susan Stamberg

Los Angeles jazz singer Judy Wexler has no record label. She is like many musicians in that way. But unlike many others, every few years, Wexler puts together and circulates a CD herself. That's right — not a streamed album, but a physical CD.

Wexler is a friend of NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg, who started wondering: why, in the age of streaming, would an independent artist go to all the trouble and expense of putting out a CD? And what would that process involve?

Legend has it that when Jacopo Tintoretto was 12 years old, he was so good at drawing that he rattled Titian — the master artist of Venice, 30 years his senior. Young Tintoretto was an apprentice in Titian's workshop and — as the story goes — the old master gone away for several days, and when he came back he found some of Tintoretto's drawings.

The legendary Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard opened before there was a Hollywood sign. For 100 years now, stars, studio heads and writers have settled into the restaurant's red leather banquettes to negotiate, gossip, drink and eat.

Anyone who has dined at Musso's has an opinion about it — and after 100 years, that adds up to a lot of opinions. They include: "It's our favorite place to go for special events," and "We go for the martinis, not the food" and "The food's not bad, especially the chicken pot pie every Thursday."

Painter Robert Rauschenberg really loved his job. "My greatest joy is in working," he told PBS in 1998. "That's when I feel a wholeness and a celebration of a unity with everything about me."

So when Rauschenberg walked the quarter mile from his house to his studio in Captiva, Fla., that short commute was a journey toward joy.

"He talked a lot about working in that fertile, creative space between art and life," says Katia Zavistovski, an assistant curator at Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

André Previn, a celebrated musical polymath, died Thursday morning; he was a composer of Oscar-winning film music, conductor, pianist and music director of major orchestras. His manager, Linda Petrikova, confirmed to NPR that he died at his home in Manhattan.

There are three pianists involved in making the music of the Oscar-nominated film Green Book. The first is Don Shirley, who was popular in the 1950s and 60s, both in person and on vinyl. The second is actor Mahershala Ali, who portrays Shirley in the film but does not play piano. And so, the third pianist is Kris Bowers, who does all the playing for Ali in the film.

A mysterious young woman has come from abroad and taken up residence in Pasadena, Calif. She wears a white satin dress, pearls and a ruby ring and has a slight smile — and nobody knows who she is.

In letters, the Venetian Renaissance master Titian referred to the elegant woman as his "most precious being" and the "mistress of my soul." But he never named the subject of his 1561 painting Portrait of a Lady in White.

Love it, hate it, or just hate the traffic, everyone has an opinion about Los Angeles. A new literary olio gathers hundreds of those opinions together, in a book called Dear Los Angeles: The City in Diaries and Letters, 1542 to 2018.

Editor David Kipen has dug up centuries' worth of excerpts about California's largest city. The book, he says, is "a collective self-portrait of Los Angeles when it thought nobody was looking." The excerpts he's picked roughly divide up between Los Angeles as heaven and Los Angeles as hell.

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.

Sam Gilliam found inspiration for his signature artworks in an unlikely place — a clothesline. In a Washington, D.C., studio that was once a drive-through gas station, the 84-year-old artist works surrounded by yards of vividly-painted fabric, hung like laundry from a line. The sheer, silky polyester puddles to the floor, catching light on the way down. The idea, he explains, is "to develop the idea of movement into shapes."

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.

It's not often that a parent and child become masters of two different art forms, but an exhibition at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia proves it's possible: Renoir: Father and Son explores the work of 19th-century Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his 20th-century filmmaker son, Jean Renoir.

Like many fathers and sons, they had a loving, but complicated relationship. Take, for example, the fact that in 1920, the year after his father died, Jean married his father's last model.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

I fell in love recently — with Mel Brooks. It was my almost-next-to-last day in Los Angeles, and I'd gone with my producer, Danny Hajek, to interview the great writer-director-producer-composer-lyricist-mensch, whose movies include Young Frankenstein, Robin Hood: Men in Tights (my favorite film title ever), Blazing Saddles and other knee-slapping hilarities.

Rufus Hale was just 11 years old when artist David Hockney painted his portrait. Rufus' mother was making a movie about the prolific, octogenarian artist, and brought her son with her to work one day. He was sketching in the corner of the studio when Hockney asked, "Why don't I paint you?"

Now Rufus' portrait is among 82 currently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in an exhibit titled "82 Portraits and 1 Still-life."

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination on April 4, 1968 shook the nation. For me, it was a devastating re-awakening to changes that had taken place in America, in the years I had been away.

We snap a selfie with the tap of a finger. We're used to preserving smiling moments.

At the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, there's an exhibit right now which goes to darker places with a camera. The images in "Real Worlds" are from three major photographers, taken over half a century.

A guide at the Jasper Johns exhibition at The Broad museum in Los Angeles smiles. Then she urges: "Go look at that one."

Brianna MacGillivray points at "Flags," from 1965. The painting is enigmatic, yet direct — much like the artist.

He's painted two rectangles on a gray background. The top one has black stars against an orange background; the stripes are black and green. There's a tiny white dot on one of the green stripes. Below this rectangle is another one, all gray.

One hundred years ago, the most powerful woman in Hollywood was a producer, a studio head and a major force onscreen.

Margery Simkin is a casting director. Her job is to look at thousands of faces, and her gut reaction — how she feels about what she sees — can lead to movie and TV roles.

But for this story, she isn't looking at a headshot — she's looking at a painting. "This wouldn't be somebody that could be a bad guy," she says. "There's a softness. There's a kindness in his eyes."

A lot of very hard work is going on at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

A muscled guy in an undershirt tightens a big bolt with his wrench; a farm worker bends almost in half, filling his sack with cotton; Rosie the Riveter rolls up her sleeve to tackle her factory job. They're all part of an exhibition called "The Sweat Of Their Face: Portraying American Workers."

But not all the laborers are big and burly.

Some artists in New York may be wishing to get older faster. A gallery there caters to artists age 60 and older. No kids allowed.

Some 200 artists have exhibited at the Carter Burden Gallery since it opened nine years ago in Chelsea. Business is good, and works sell from $200 to $9,000. It's a lot like hundreds of other galleries in New York — except for one important thing: The Carter Burden has an age limit. Why?

Independent, graceful, agile, adorable when they're small — if cats are where it's at for you, the Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery of Asian Art has you covered. Their new exhibition is called Divine Felines, and it features images of cats both big and small from the land that honored them as holy: Egypt.

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