Sarah Lewis is an assistant professor of history of art and architecture and African and African-American Studies at Harvard University. She is the author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery. A Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library, she is currently finishing another book on the role of photography in exposing the fiction of racial categories. Before participating in the Zócalo/Getty “Open Art” event, “What Does Blackness Mean?,” she talked about her biggest pet peeve, the most underappreciated modern artist, and her favorite ballet.
How do you like your steak?
Who do you think is the most underappreciated modern artist?
David Hammons. I don’t know if he’s underappreciated in the art world, but maybe at large. One thing that’s great is the way he allows us to reconceive notions of black masculinity or blackness and representation.
What’s your favorite plant?
I like flowers. I like calla lilies.
If you didn’t live in the U.S., what country would you want to live in?
I think I might live in the U.K.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Lack of rigor.
As the author of The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery, what’s the failure that you personally learned the most from?
I think the biggest failure in anyone’s life is to not to take a risk, not to venture to do something they should’ve done.
What social media website do you spend the most time on?
What’s your favorite ballet?
I like Balanchine’s Jewels.
What’s your favorite place in the New York Public Library?
What was the most important year of your life?
Last year or the year before. So many things happened at once. I had a lot of work that culminated in a Ph.D., a job at Harvard, the publication of The Rise.
Who was the last person to leave you a voicemail?
Probably my mother.