Phoebe Chen

  • Seeing and Being Scene

    LAST YEAR, THE FIRST Chinese American movie star was saddled with yet another pioneering honorific: Anna May Wong became the first actress to have the figurative currency of her face made literal, minted on a US quarter. This star, born on silver nitrate, found an afterlife in copper-nickel. I can think of no wrier fate for someone trailed by so much ornamental simile, most often compared to things: Wong’s ex-lover Eric Maschwitz thought her “a piece of porcelain”; Walter Benjamin called her a “chinoiserie specimen” and likened her name to “full moons in a bowl of tea.” I am doing laundry the

  • culture January 17, 2020

    This Side of Paradise

    In Provincetown, a collection of portraits taken in the late 1970s and early ’80s, Joel Meyerowitz captures bodies amber-locked in the beach town’s summer lassitude. The photographer discovered some of his subjects by placing, in the local paper, an ad in search of “REMARKABLE PEOPLE”; others he plucked from crowds with what he calls a “visceral knowing.” Located at the hooked tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Provincetown is buffeted on all sides by the mercurial Atlantic. The town’s reputation as a sanctuary dates back to the seventeenth century, when it was a port for weary Pilgrims on the