You might think that an audio program about the visual arts is a contradiction in terms. Every three weeks, Tamar Avishai proves that's wrong in her podcast The Lonely Palette.
In each episode, Tamar picks a specific work of art, goes to the museum that owns it, and interviews visitors about their reactions. Then, drawing on her art-history training and her experience as a lecturer at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, she brings out threads within those reactions to weave a rich audio essay about the work's creator and the context of its creation.
Tamar's very first regular episode was about my favorite painting at the MFA: Cezanne's Fruit and Jug on a Table. Cezanne was a visual philosopher and a bit of a weirdo—there's no way around it—and Tamar goes right to the core of his art when she explains that he was exploring what it means to look at something with subjective eyes in a subjective head. "Cezanne wanted to capture what looking looks like," Tamar says. "And as it turns out, it's wonky."
The recording above is my full interview with Tamar from late October of 2016, for Soonish Episode 1.03, Can Technology Save Museums? We talked about Tamar's studies in art history, how she got her gig at the MFA, how that helped to spawn the podcast, and how she uses both the show and her MFA lectures to wriggle out of the straitjackets imposed by traditional art history and museum education and demonstrate how art can be fun, accessible, and moving.
(If you need further proof that great audio storytelling is actually very visual, check out Tamar's recent RadioPublic podcast playlist, Look With Your Ears.)