Reading List: Staff Picks by Gabriella Lacza

A woman with short dark hair reads a small book at a desk next to a stack of seven other books

Hi! I’m Gabriella, an Imaging Assistant at the Frick Art Reference Library. I’ve worked here for seven years now: first as a Page, then a Conservation Assistant, and now in my current role. I digitize materials for various library and archival projects—many of which are made available in the Frick Digital Collections—as well as for researcher requests. Most recently, we completed a grant project to digitize the sculpture section of our Photoarchive collection. Currently, we are digitizing the Frick family photo albums held in our Archives. I spend most of my days happily alone in a small dark room shooting photos and listening to audiobooks.

My ideal day would go something like this: Sunny with a tiny bit of snow. A long, scenic commute. Eating a fruit I’ve never tried before. A friend texts me something incredibly funny. Looking at every single item in a thrift store. Seeing a movie and crying at the end. My cat and I stare at each other with loving expressions for a while. It’s late, but suddenly I am inspired to rearrange my whole apartment, and it actually looks good. Falling asleep easily and dreaming of something nice that I can still remember when I wake up.

I had a lot of fun picking some of my favorite items from the library’s collections. I’ve worked closely with our materials, but I rarely take the time to just sit down and browse through them. I hope you’ll check out the items I have selected when you visit our reading room at Frick Madison, which is open for free by appointment.

A woman with short dark hair and glasses sits using a tool to digitize a work of art on paper
  1. Datebooks, 1964/65

    By Eva Hesse (2006)

    When I first opened the box containing these datebooks, I whispered, “No way...” I knew they were just facsimiles of the post-minimal sculptor Eva Hesse’s datebooks from 1964–65, but holding the tiny books in my hands and looking at her handwriting still felt magical. Included with the datebooks is a third volume with annotated transcriptions of each page. Between meetings with artists and travel plans, there are some more personal entries that give the reader a deeper insight into Hesse’s life. For example, on June 27, 1964, in tiny, messy handwriting, she wrote, “I still want to be a little girl and yet I resent when then I do not feel I gain respect as an adult.”

    A horizontal book in a box next to two smaller books, one black and one green
  1. About Stains, or the Image as Residue

    By Barbara Baert (2017)

    This book contains seven essays examining and rethinking the iconology of stains, from twelve-thousand-year-old handprints on cave walls to a grilled cheese sandwich with the face of the Virgin Mary. In the middle of the book there are full-page images of different “stains” that wouldn’t normally be thought of as such, like the dregs at the bottom of a teacup or patterns in marble. As someone who only wears secondhand clothes and recklessly eats borscht in my favorite white shirt, I appreciated the reframing of stains as relics—visible and often beautiful reminders of the past.

    Red book cover featuring a half-empty teacup with dregs in the bottom
  1. Thomas Struth: Making Time

    By Estrella de Diego (2007)

    Whenever I walk through Frick Madison, I love to see someone having a moment with a painting or wearing an interesting outfit, and I always think “that would be a great photo.” These are the kinds of photos I imagine! Thomas Struth began his series of Museum Photographs in 1989, going to famous museums around the world and photographing visitors including groups of kids on field trips, tourists with cameras, and couples on dates. This exhibition catalogue includes the photographs themselves as well as documentation of their installation at the Museo del Prado in Madrid.

    Book spread featuring photos of children in the Museo del Prado looking at Velázquez's painting "Las Meninas"
  1. The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington

    By Leonora Carrington (2017)

    The majority of my dreams involve weird meals and small animals acting like humans. These short stories by the British-born Surrealist painter and novelist Leonora Carrington feel like dreams I’ve had, except way more interesting. Hannibal Lecter hyena friends, ten-foot-tall girls who hate poetry, queens bathing in goat’s milk, soup made of “mock beef tea,” aquariums full of sausages, pork chops in pockets at masked balls, rats who are trained as surgeons... What more could you want? They’re totally deranged fairy tales. I thought I’d read just a couple, but I read them all and felt peacefully cursed. Read these and then look at some of Carrington’s paintings, and it’ll all make sense.

    Book cover with an artwork detail of a woman with wild brown hair seated in a blue chair
  1. Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson, 1954–1994

    Edited by Elizabeth Zuba (2014)

    When Ray Johnson writes on a scrap of paper, “I am sailing for Latvia tonight and a feather said to the sun since the weather will be gold tomorrow shell we look at a rock,” it makes me wonder if he and Leonora Carrington were friends. Johnson is best known as a correspondence artist, creating ephemeral works of art that were often mailed to others to complete. While this chaotic collection of selected writings was a delight to dig into, what really compelled me was the playful and heartfelt essay by Kevin Killian, which begins with an admission that he gets Johnson confused with the poet Ron Johnson, poking fun at the former’s status as “America’s best-known unknown artist.”

    Book spread featuring a sketches over a boy's face in red, a typewritten letter, and the handwritten words "Conceptual art fan club"
  1. In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States

    By Ilene Susan Fort (2012)

    This publication delves into forty-seven female artists from Mexico and the United States who reshaped Surrealism’s legacy through their explorations of gender and self-identity—a contrast to the European men who began the movement and featured women merely as muses or objects of desire. While some of the artists included are well known, such as Frida Kahlo and Louise Bourgeois, I was introduced to figures I had never heard of and whose work has been overlooked in the past. I found the essay about Surrealism’s impact on contemporary feminist art particularly interesting and am still haunted by the image of Teresa Margolles’s work En el aire (2003), in which an empty gallery is filled with bubbles made with water from a morgue.

    Book cover on a shelf featuring an artwork detail of a stylized woman with short brown hair and an abstract object on her head
  1. Part Object Part Sculpture

    By Helen Molesworth (2005)

    This exhibition catalogue from the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, stood out to me because it includes many artists whom I admire and have looked to for encouragement at times when I didn’t feel like a “real” artist. The artists brought together in this show all make work that lies in an “uneasy place between art and something else,” which I find both reassuring and inspiring. When this exhibition was presented, I was attending middle school just an hour and a half away. I wonder if my life would have changed if I had gone to see it. Would I have more quickly become who I am now? The book itself is designed beautifully, with artists’ biographies printed on translucent vellum and many examples of each artists’ work.

    Book spread featuring images of an art installation with groups of string lights
  1. Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector

    Edited by Lincoln Dexter (2015)

    Coming from a family of collectors—from my grandma’s cupboards full of empty sour cream containers to my parents’ antique fallout shelter signs hanging in their bathroom—I am fascinated by people’s collections, how they store their items, and their reasons for collecting. This book explores the collections of fourteen artists and includes an interview or essay about each collection, along with photos of their display or storage in artists’ homes and studios or in parents’ basements. My favorite collection, and probably the most complex one, belonged to the painter Martin Wong. He and his mother Florence collected a wide variety of items together for many years, up until his death in 1999. Not knowing what to do with their massive collection and unable to find a museum interested in acquiring it, the artist Danh Vo worked with Florence to turn it into an artwork itself.

    Book cover on a shelf featuring a collection of knickknacks and other small objects

Rapid-Fire Q&A with Gabriella

Fiction or nonfiction?


Print or e-books?


Reading or audiobooks?


Iced or hot drinks?

To be honest, room temperature

Favorite season?

End of fall/beginning of winter

Favorite library (besides the Frick)?

Jannes Library at the Kansas City Art Institute

Favorite depiction of your job in media?

I agree with Hannah: Party Girl, 100% forever until the end of time

Most interesting question you’ve received in your job?

When I was working at a public library in 2011, someone was returning the movie Antichrist and brought it directly to me, whispering, “Why does the library own this?”

Advice for hopeful future librarians?

Be open to library roles that aren’t exactly what you imagined for yourself. I have learned so much and developed new skills and interests from working in many different library roles throughout the years!

Woman with short brown hair reading a book on a black bench in a museum lobby with a large screen and a ceiling covered in circular lamps

Photo of Gabriella in the imaging lab by George Koelle; all other photos by Joseph Coscia Jr.

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