Dominic Teja Sidhu

19 Stories

Bobby Cannavale

'Vinyl' & The Transcendence of the Stage


Bobby Cannavale is perhaps best known for his television roles in Boardwalk Empire and the new HBO hit Vinyl, created by Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, and Terence Winter, in which Cannavale plays a music executive in New York during the 70s. However, Cannavale is a also a seasoned thespian, whose work, like The Motherfucker with the Hat, has earned him a plethora of accolades. In his own words, Cannavale told us about the transcendence of the stage, Louis C.K., and choosing to break free from typecasting.


I’m not really fooled by the action hero we’re being sold on these days. Then again, no one’s coming after me to play leading man roles; but frankly, I find those to be less interesting than they used to be. Usually, it’s the friend who’s more interesting, or the bad guy. That’s what I go for, the character roles. I’m proud of my decisions to be in movies that target a narrower audience. You can’t control what people write about you or what people think about you, so you decide what characters you want to play and which directors you want to work with. I get to work with people like Al Pacino and Woody Allen, people I’ve always wanted to work with—I can’t worry about what people say afterwards.


After Boardwalk Empire ended, I had to decide whether I wanted to typecast myself as “the mafia guy.” Every actor has that choice, and I just didn’t do it. I know actors in this business who get their shot doing something really well, and they spend their careers playing one character, but that’s not for me. I have to be unsure if I can even do it before I can get excited about it. I like to be scared and take on a challenge, and at the end of the day I can say that I love to go to work.


Going on stage is one of those challenges: it’s a different game, and it works for me. I get to play leads in theatre, and those are different from the lead in a rom-com, for example. Beyond that, there’s a methodical nature to theatre that I thrive on. I really like rehearsing. I like coming in, starting from the same place with everybody in the room, and building something. There’s also the thrill of performing eight times a week, with a new audience each night. It’s a totally different high than I get from being in a movie or a TV show. Don’t get me wrong—there are times when I go to the theater and I understand why people hate it. Sometimes it’s just really bad. When it’s great, though, it’s transporting, in the same way a great movie can be.


It makes sense. Plays are what got me into the acting game to begin with. I grew up with a single parent and I wasn’t allowed to go out much, so I went to the library and read a lot. I used to read a couple of chapters of a book and then put on a little performance for my family, based on the story. I’d write down the dialogue and make my sister do the scenes with me. I don’t really know where it came from because I don’t have anyone in my family who has any kind of artistic bent; it was just part of me. I had the bug early on, and it really came from plays.


A few years ago, I was in The Motherfucker with the Hat, with Chris Rock. Louis CK came—he always comes to see my plays—and after the show he said to me, “Man, I just can’t get over the fact that I can throw something at you.” Louis came to see that play three times. He told me that he had to come back to Motherfucker because he felt like he was in the room with us and shouldn’t have been there. When that happens, it’s incredible, because there’s no real logic to it. You’re sitting in the theatre right next to a stranger, and there’s people standing right in front of you, people you could technically throw things at—but instead you’re transported.


Photography: Brigitte Lacombe for NeueJournal

Guest Photo Editor: Janet Johnson


Facing Truth

Creative Channel: Juliette Binoche | Artwork by: Brigitte Lacombe w/ guest photo editor Janet Johnson | NeueJournal Issue 1

Juliette Binoche is a French actress, artist and dancer, but more than that, an intriguing figure of elegance and grace in the realm of international cinema. She collaborated with legendary photographer Brigitte Lacombe in making a portrait, and shared some pithy and poignant wisdom about acting’s relationship to vulnerability.


When a photographer asks me to do a picture without makeup, it touches me, because it reminds me of what I’m trying to reach in my acting.


To be bare makes you vulnerable, but also very strong, because truth is what we know we all have to face at a certain point in our lives. – Juliette Binoch


Photography: Brigitte Lacombe for NeueJournal
Guest Photo Editor: Janet Johnson


The Personal Desire to Destroy


Los Angeles-­based painter Lesley Vance reflects on the spiritual moment of art and  the personal desire to destroy.


I’m really drawn to spiritualism in art, but I don’t know how to define that. I try to let the painting come to me. I have to start in a place of not knowing what I’m doing or what it’s going to look like. I try to not think about what I’m painting or what’s happening on the canvas for a while. I play. There comes a point where my brain—my consciousness of what’s happening—creeps in. That’s when it becomes more of a cerebral activity. A lot of the time the painting feels like it’s making itself and I’m just guiding it along. That’s a good energy to maintain throughout the whole process.


I do a lot of spacing out and staring at the painting. I take a lot of breaks because sometimes I need to see it new again. Often, I take a picture and look at it on the screen to see it more objectively. When you’re really in something, it can be difficult to see how it needs to change.

Artwork by Lesley Vance | NeueJournal Issue 1

Untitled, 2015. Untitled, 2015 Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, California. Photography: Fredrik Nilsen


Sculpture and ceramics are a huge influence, as much as painting. I love Ken Price and Ron Nagle, the intensity of color in their work and the singularity of the forms. There’s something interesting about this really meaty, rich color in ceramics—it’s color you can eat, and I think color in painting has the same power. I’m into rich color becoming an object.


I’m drawn to the act of destruction. I taught a class once, and one of the projects was to make something and then rip it apart, but I didn’t tell the students they were going to do this at the outset. It’s liberating to realize that you can destroy something you made and start anew. Sometimes an entire painting revolves around one moment, and then I finally realize that I need to discard that moment. It’s a powerful feeling when you aren’t attached to something, even though it’s work that you made. You can destroy it and it’s fine.

Artwork by Lesley Vance | NeueJournal Issue 1

Untitled, 2015. Untitled, 2015 Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, California. Photography: Fredrik Nilsen


My attitude is that every painting I create informs the next. It’s a challenge to make small work that’s not too precious; it requires a different kind of concentration. In big paintings, you don’t notice every inch of the painting. If you’re looking at a small painting you truly notice every brushstroke. Everything becomes hyper-important. I want to make paintings that are really vivid and deal with colors, while still being my own idiosyncratic, weird thing.


My husband, Ricky Swallow, and I work in the same building. We give each other a lot of creative support and advice. We like to get feedback from each other. Even though it might be difficult at times, it’s constructive. We don’t bring these discussions home with us. It helps to have a separate place. We have a different relationship there. It’s helpful to be with another artist—someone who understands it all. We’re both romantic artists. We’re both a bit hermetic.


Photography: Zoe Ghertner for NeueJournal 

Artwork: Lesley Vance

Creative Channel:

Meaningful & Specific

Creative Channel: Annabelle Selldorf | Artwork by: Brigitte Lacombe w/ guest photo editor Janet Johnson | NeueJournal Issue 1

Annabelle Selldorf’s design style — ambitious yet controlled, grand yet utterly precise — has made her one of the most sought after working architects in the world today. She is currently designing an expansion of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, but is probably most known for creating Neue Galerie New York, housed in the William Starr Miller House on Manhattan’s upper east side. Selldorf takes on a diverse range of projects, but she’s probably at her best when working on spaces that serve as arenas for the arts. Most recently, she collaborated with Gagosian’s Madison Avenue Gallery in presenting “Francis Bacon: Late Paintings”, an exhibition that it up this week and will remain on view until December 12th. Earlier this year, Selldorf contributed to the inaugural print publication of NeueJournal, revealing some of what drives her decision-making when she encounters a new challenge. 


My father was an architect and my mother was a designer, but when I started thinking about what I wanted to pursue professionally, architecture was the last thing that came to mind. I knew there would be many obstacles to surmount. But I think it was always in my blood and I’ve never regretted the decision. In fact, I’ve always felt extremely lucky that I found my passion at a young age.


I am not motivated by making big gestures just for the sake of making big gestures. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want my buildings to make powerful impacts on the urban condition or other landscapes, but that impact has to grow from something that is meaningful and specific. If a project doesn’t work at the human scale then it’s going to fail—there is much more to the success of a building than what you can see. I’m not suggesting that gestural architecture is always superficial, but solid reasoning has its place.


I start my design process from the inside out, whether it’s an art gallery or a private residence. By being attuned to the uniqueness of each client and location, I’m able to distill the essence of the place. I begin by taking stock of all of the key elements of the client’s needs and site context.


Many times I grapple with the question of what to build new versus what to renovate, how to navigate these two options. It always needs to be fully studied. For instance, when David Zwirner first purchased the property on West 20th Street where the new gallery now sits, there was an existing three-story garage. My initial instinct was to work with it. I don’t believe in tearing down good buildings that can be intelligently repurposed. But when we fully evaluated all of the gallery’s needs and the site conditions, it became clear that keeping the garage would be impractical and would never properly satisfy the requirements. In the Neue Galerie for German and Austrian Art, we refurbished as much historic detail as we could, but not in an arbitrary way. The second floor maintains much of the original character and detail, with subtle modern insertions, such as the lay light in the main painting gallery. The third floor, where all of the historic details were already removed, we completed in a more contemporary language, giving the museum greater flexibility for installing temporary exhibitions.


I hope that the legacy of my work is the contribution it has made to the quality of life in the public realm. I strive to create buildings and spaces that inspire and elevate.


Photography: Brigitte Lacombe for NeueJournal
Guest Photo Editor: Janet Johnson 



More or less impulsive

Creative Channel: Gay & Nan Talese | Artwork by: Brigitte Lacombe w/ guest photo editor Janet Johnson | NeueJournal Issue 1

Gay and Nan Talese have had storied careers and a storied marriage. The two legendary figures of the New York literary world celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary a few years ago, and through that half century, have coexisted in a partnership, both domestic and creative, that reads a bit like fiction. For our the inaugural print publication of NeueJournal, we gained some insight into what makes the Taleses tick, both as individuals, and as a couple. 


GAY TALESE: It’s typical. This morning I said, “We’ll go away Thursday.” Nan’s been looking forward to getting out of New York; it’s been cold, and she doesn’t like New York so much . . .


NAN TALESE: Too noisy. I love the country, and Gay loves the city.


GT: . . . but this afternoon I said, “I just can’t deliver this thing to The New Yorker. I’m working on it and I thought I’d be finished this weekend and I’m not, so I have to work through the weekend.” She understood, “Okay, so we won’t go.”


I think that our marriage, which was more or less impulsive, was characteristic of the way the rest of our life has gone. I was in Rome during the summer of 1959 writing a piece for The New York Times Magazine when Fellini was making La Dolce Vita. The movie had sprawled itself out from the studio on the fringes of the city and was a living episode of the daily traffic of Rome, and the nighttime atmosphere as well. I called Nan up—she was at Random House then—and asked, “Do you want to come over? This is fabulous.” She decided that this was going to be a marital trip and bought a one-way ticket—


NT: That’s because I didn’t have enough money then for a two-way ticket.


GT:—and she called my parents [to tell them] we’re going to get married. That shows you that at times one person is more decisive than the other.


NT: You never wanted to get married.


GT: Well, that was before the edict was delivered. I knew [she] was the person, if I didn’t marry, at least I should marry, if not now, then at sometime—but then that sometime became eliminated by her determination. So that was it. Both of us had a Catholic education, but we did not get married in a church [much to her parents’ chagrin]: We got married in the atmosphere of La Dolce Vita.

We’ve had a very episodic life. There were instances good and bad, glamorous and dreary, that we’ve tolerated and accepted as part of the truism that marriage is a long marathon, not a sprint.


NT: I remember when [our daughter] Catherine was about to get married and she asked, “Mummy, what’s it like to be married?” and I said, “Well it’s like being on the front of a roller coaster: You go up and down, up and down, and that’s marriage.”


GT: The reason that we were initially attracted to one another intellectually was that we both were fond of the same books. About a year before we got married, we lived together and had a library that was partly hers and partly mine. One of the deterrents to breaking up was that we’d have to return the books, which would have been too inconvenient, so we stayed together for fifty-seven years. The books have become more numerous—there are now 4,000–5,000 books all through the house.


NT: We care very much about books [and appreciate the same things. . .although we’re opposites in other ways]. We [also] have a very strong work ethic, and I think we’re pretty considerate of each other.


GT: Nan has made her living all of our married life editing and acquiring books from American and some international writers, as well more than five decades of being an acquiring editor and a pencil editor line editor. And along the way I have written books, magazine pieces, and sometimes newspapers articles. She goes to the office on Broadway and 56th Street, and I go to a subterranean apartment below the house that I call a bunker. Our routine from 1959 to 2015 hasn’t changed all that much.


On March 7, 2015 I [had] a front-page article in The New York Times that opens by describing a landscaper in Selma, Alabama, digging holes alongside the street and inserting pansies and certain kinds of shrubs. I didn’t know what kind of shrubs. . .


NT: Gay can’t tell one flower from the other] so I told him what they were: pansies, azalea bushes, and small evergreen trees. They all would have sounded the same if he had done it. I [also] read aloud everything Gay’s writing before it goes to the publisher.


GT: I like her reading aloud, because when you hear your work coming back at you with a different voice, there’s a different perception. You get clarity about it. So anything I don’t like I can more readily change when I hear it in Nan’s voice.


NT: And actually what I’ve learned from Gay, which has been very helpful to my authors, is that I know what it’s like for an author to be alone all day and to be writing on a blank piece of paper.
This conversation has been edited.


Photography: Brigitte Lacombe for NeueJournal
Guest Photo Editor: Janet Johnson 



The face of failure

Artwork by Brigitte Lacombe w/ guest photo editor Janet Johnson | NeueJournal Issue 1

Bartlett Sher has been heralded as one of today’s greatest American theatre directors, winning a Tony award for the Broadway revival of South Pacific in 2008, and scoring nominations for a handful of other productions. Nico Muhly is a contemporary classical music composer whose fingerprints can be found on everything from indie rocks hits to modern operas. We had these collaborators interview each other, hoping they might reveal a bit of insight into their respective creative mentalities. 


NICO MUHLY: When your play is in previews, does fear of failure enter the equation?


BARTLETT SHER: Yes, directing a play makes failure interesting. You don’t have enough time for rehearsals, and then you have to fix what’s wrong with the production in front of the audience. That part is stressful. What’s most stressful is that you don’t know how to fix it yet. So you end up watching it grow, but not really knowing what it is yet.


NM: Have you had any disasters?


BS: I just did Woman on the Verge, which was the greatest failure of my life. The first time was really brutal; it didn’t work at all. We were humiliated in a major way.


NM: That’s pretty crazy. Sometimes I need someone else to call attention to a problem, because even though I may know there’s a big problem, I don’t want to talk about it.


BS: Right. We redid it in London recently, but it was filled with all the trauma of the first time. When you do a new piece, it doesn’t have any parameters, which makes it more difficult than working on something that’s already established.


NM: If you’re getting close to building a solid production, it’s like walking into a room that you know and wondering, “Why is there something off here? Oh, right, it’s this thing.” It’s really hard to know until you’re seeing it with people or seeing it through someone else’s eyes.


BS: In a Broadway show, you build up to a point where you can rehearse during the day and modify at night. In opera, everything is already established the first night, because the musicians don’t know how to absorb changes that quickly.


NM: In most opera houses, the show opens and then on opening night, by 10:30 the curtain comes down. The whole set moves and turns into Tosca for the next morning’s rehearsal.


BS: Forty previews definitely make a show better. I did Light in the Piazza more than ten years ago. We performed one version in Seattle, had a different director in Chicago, and then a different version plus forty previews in New York. After that, the show was close to being really great, but still, you can’t find a process for evolution over time.


NM: You end up doing a little bit less here, a little bit more here, until you think that something is seismic. But then you realize that fucking up is seismic too. It’s the little things that will sink you.


BS: Musical theater is a honing art. You keep shaping it and shaping it. The face of failure is usually in relation to unnecessary expectation. If the expectation is outsized in relation to the event, there’s no way to squish the gap between the expectation and what you actually made, and you’re going to create a problem between those two things. But something is always going to go wrong.


NM: Last night, I dreamed that the button on my trousers popped off when I was getting dressed. And then I had to make my plane. I went to the seam- stress and she told me that she didn’t have any buttons. I said to her, “Well, how am I going to make the plane?” That’s what I dream about, really practical shit going wrong.


BS: Exactly. Something is always going wrong. Opera is at the highest level of the interpretative scale, where a piece has been performed a million times, and the experience of seeing it references the four hundred times someone has seen it. Each new viewing becomes a new way of seeing and spinning the piece.


NM: It’s interesting, that part. I feel like it’s not necessarily referencing all the four hundred times, it’s referencing that first time you saw it. What’s hard is making something new, which is the most rewarding accomplishment of all, producing something new in the cultural arena. The beautiful thing about Two Boys is that we found the sound of how we behaved in 2014. We wrapped up all those behaviors in the sound of the piece and locked inside a chest for people to discover a hundred years from now.


NM: I’ve always felt, with a piece of art, if you just tell the truth, then you’re fine.


BS: One thing is certain: if you do it correctly, if you experience some level of failure in your own time, you do this all for yourself, because perhaps no one at the time is going to be able to understand it. That’s the objective. I’ve never really had a goal. Going through the motions is all that’s asked of you. Just get up every day and make the thing. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways after the fact, but it’s not up to you to do that. You just have to keep making it, and it drives you completely bat-shit crazy.


Photography: Brigitte Lacombe for NeueJournal
Guest Photo Editor: Janet Johnson


Lightness of being

LACOMBE_COON_15029_8D_F10_010_B copy

In this rare collaboration with NeueJournal, Brigitte creates a series of portraits  investigating the most nuanced and directional voices in contemporary art, film, music,  and science. An ongoing personal series captured in her Lower East Side daylight studio,  these images are underscored by a quiet intimacy unique to the space itself.


I’m drawn to darker roles, and I’ve never been afraid of going to dark places and giving myself to the deep hurt in my characters. I think I have a lightness of being when I’m in the world, but that’s not what people tell me they see when I’m working. With my work there’s no limit on the extreme. I’m looking for complexity. I’m looking to experience something that is deeply human, and I’m willing to be in pain for my characters. Compassion is crucial, and I don’t believe that compassion or empathy should have a limit. If you constrict that then you’re violating the nature of compassion. By definition, it’s limitless.


Most of the time when people are doing something cruel that we don’t understand, the person doing it is damaged in some way. With my characters, I feel a drive, a responsibility to explore the source of that damage and release it. It’s empathic, but it’s also very physical. There’s something mysterious in the body—if you can concentrate, you can locate emotion and let it go. The body can allow you to do this again and again. Take after take.


But in my life right now, I’m in the middle of trying to figure out what my belief system is and what place that darkness has. It’s really hard for me to wrap my brain around the senseless cruelty in the world. Cruelty that feels very human. Something in human beings that is broken. I don’t know sometimes how the divine factors into that and how I feel about it. I don’t have access to that right now, it’s something I’m trying to locate. I don’t understand where God is in that and where I am in God.


I do know, though, to do the job I’m doing, you have to sort of give yourself over to the idea that human beings are capable of great love and great cruelty. You have to acknowledge that you yourself are capable of anything. That can be a really, really scary thing to confront in yourself. But to limit that exploration is doing ourselves a tremendous disservice. In the space of my work, I’m very clear about this, and I feel protected by the work itself.


The truth is kind of this elusive thing. Isn’t that what everybody’s trying to figure out? It’s a confrontation I’ve found in my characters. I feel like we have to be very mistrustful about the narrative we are telling about ourselves. How we become the person we are in the moment. My characters have a story they tell themselves, tell the world. But that doesn’t mean it’s true. I think that our own narrative, true or not, can have a lot of power in our lives, and I think that’s something we have to be careful of.


There’s an empathy and channeling that goes into locating those disparities, and I do look to my own life for clues. The decade of my twenties was horrific, like everyone else’s. Lots of bad decisions. Lots of lying. Lots of manipulation. Lots of all the things you do before you figure out how to be a person in the world in a way that has some integrity.


My childhood is a source too. It’s not that my home was volatile in any way, but there were a lot of people. I’m the middle child of many siblings. And I learned to take the temperature of a room, how to navigate the emotions of other people—to empathize with both sides of the story. The experience was that of losing track of my voice and what was best for me. That is not a good way to live. You kind of get twisted around in the world if you’re living that way.


I’ve always been of the opinion that actors can be some of the luckiest and healthiest people, because they are invited to fully express themselves. I’m grateful I know what it means to be present, and I know what it looks like, and I know what it feels like. I know everyone struggles with this, but it’s not always easy to do.


Photography: Brigitte Lacombe for NeueJournal
Guest Photo Editor: Janet Johnson

Creative Channel:

Anxiety about the Passing of Time


In this rare collaboration with NeueJournal, Brigitte creates a series of portraits  investigating the most nuanced and directional voices in contemporary art, film, music,  and science. An ongoing personal series captured in her Lower East Side daylight studio,  these images are underscored by a quiet intimacy unique to the space itself.


The physical world of the play always comes to me first. Theater is really about trapping people inside a space, so I like to think about the kind of spaces that will feel new or challenging to audiences while also feeling kind of familiar.


I want people to be sitting in the dark, with their phone turned off, filled with anxiety about the passing of time, and I want them feel a little weirded out, but also deeply understood.


I’m definitely not a person with lots of ideas. I’ve been lucky enough to always have the next play in my mind while I’m in rehearsals for the current one, but I can’t see beyond that.


Photography: Brigitte Lacombe for NeueJournal
Guest Photo Editor: Janet Johnson 



The Lovecrafter by Patti Smith

Creative Channel: Patti Smith | Artwork by: Brigitte Lacombe w/ guest photo editor Janet Johnson | NeueJournal Issue 1

No matter what medium she’s working in, Patti Smith is, in essence, a modern-day bard. She’s a master of lyric and story, of saying the unsayable and simplifying the complex. Although her 2010 memoir Just Kids may be her most renown piece of writing, it’s in poetry that she is at the peak of her powers of poignancy and fluency. So, we are honored that on the occasion of our inaugural print publication of NeueJournal, Smith wrote a poem that accompanied a portrait of her taken by legendary photographer Brigitte Lacombe. 

Her upcoming book, M Train, is scheduled to be released this October via Knopf Doubleday. 


I saw you who was myself

slightly stooped whistling mouth
with leather sack and breeches brown

striding the naked countryside


with summer bones long and dry

into the breadth of our glad day

midafternoon the longer night
 as you tread bareheaded bright


I saw you a wraith bemoan
stir the fires of the ancient ones

scarred with sticks pome and haw

as the nectar for their script


I saw you walk the length of fields

far as the finger of Providence
far as the mounds we call hills

ranges cut from the heart of slate


I saw you dip into your sack

scattering seeds where they may

as the woodsman hews his way

through oak ash and variant pines


for writing desks that shall reflect

a sheaf of lines that speak of trees

all sober hopes required within
all drunkenness as sacred swims


I saw the book upon the shelf

I saw you who was myself

I saw the empty sack at last

I saw the branch your shadow cast


Photography: Brigitte Lacombe for NeueJournal
Guest Photo Editor: Janet Johnson


Gloria Steinem

Freedom for all

Creative Channel: Gloria Steinem | Artwork by: Brigitte Lacombe w/ guest photo editor Janet Johnson | NeueJournal Issue 1

In this rare collaboration with NeueJournal, Brigitte creates a series of portraits  investigating the most nuanced and directional voices in contemporary art, film, music,  and science. An ongoing personal series captured in her Lower East Side daylight studio, these images are underscored by a quiet intimacy unique to the space itself.


Photography: Brigitte Lacombe for NeueJournal
Guest Photo Editor: Janet Johnson