Category Archives: art

time will tell

People of the Book  by Geraldine Brooks 2008 (372 pgs)

A riveting novel that explores the way that objects connect people through time. In the wartorn mid-1990s the Sarajevo Haggadah, a precious 500-year-old religious text, has resurfaced. A restorer is rushed in to evaluate its condition and make any necessary repairs. The years of wear and the small pieces of debris she finds are clues that tell the history of the text’s survival if only she can connect them. Brooks uses these clues to jump progressively further back in time to tell the stories of various people tied to the historic text. Each vignette is so richly drawn that they could easily be stand-alone novellas; when used to tell the single tale of the life of the Haggadah itself, the novel forms an intricate latticework of history that is much more than the sum of its parts.


state of the art

My library consortium is lucky enough to include an art college. Which means I get to gobble up pricey art books without bankrupting myself. Yay!

Recent “reads” (okay, so I really just look at the pictures):

Bactrian Gold from the Excavations of the Tillya-Tepe Necropolis in Northern Afghanistan by V. I. Sarianidi. from Aurora Art Publishers 1985

Mleh. I thought it might include something about the excavation itself and the culture of the people who lived there. But really it was just a bunch of photos of gold pieces- removed from placement and all shiny-ed up.

Robert Mapplethorpe compiled by Richard Marshall. Whitney Museum of American Art in association with New York Graphic Society Books, 1988

Considering their overtly sexual nature, Mapplethorpe’s photos are surprisingly stark and emotionless. They seem more like statues than living flesh.

John Firth-Smith: A Voyage That Never Ends text by Gavin Wilson. Craftsman House, 2000

An Austalian modernist with heavy doses of nautical iconography. Viewing modern art by book always leaves me frustrated. Anytime a work measured by feet is scaled down to postcard size, it loses the majority of impact. I have the feeling I’d like Firth-Smith’s work better in person.

Les XX and the Belgian Avant-Garde: Prints, Drawings, and Books ca. 1890 edited by Stephen H. Goddard. Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, 1992

Text heavy (which translates to me impatiently flipping through.) But there were several interesting artists, with designs strangely similar to American Art Deco.

Hand to Earth: Andy Goldsworthy Sculpture, 1976-1990 edited by Terry Friedman and Andy Goldsworthy. Henry Moore Center for the Study of Sculpture, 1990.

I enjoy the subversiveness of Goldsworthy’s work, using natural elements in the most unnatural way.

The Blue Four: Feininger, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, and Klee in the New World edited by Vivian Endicott Barnett and Josef Helfenstein. Yale University Press, 1997.

I’m just in it for Feininger. Jawlensky bores me, Klee leaves me cold, Kandinsky’s too sterile. But Feininger… He’s cubist-influenced without being totally removed from the natural form. More like he’s painting echoes than breaking up images. The painting are full of space, soft, almost impressionistic. I especially love his nautical themed works.

make you an offering you can’t refuse

Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Peru  edited by Elizabeth P. Benson and Anita G. Cook 2001 (211 pgs)

More accessible than you’d think, the intriguing essays by various experts focus on textile, pottery, and forensic evidence of sacrifice among the pre-Incan societies in Peru.


Worlds of Amano  by Yoshitaka Amano 2004/2006 US

I don’t buy many books. I read too heavily to support my “habit” with anything but library books. I tend to purchase my favorites after I’ve read them, while visions of re-reading are dancing in my head. My weakness is graphic novels- I love “owning” the art that I admire.  If I can’t afford to put it on my walls, at least I can hold it in my hand. Amano’s graphic novel work, specifically Sandman: The Dream Hunters,  was my original introduction to his work. This art book, a compilation drawing from several of his projects, is my latest purchase.

Amano’s art is compelling. His central motif is an aloof, melancholy woman surrounded by a sea of elaborate, diaphanous cloth. Rarely does he provide a full figure- a face, a hand, an occasional foot float like masks. The faces are almost incomplete, mere thin brushstrokes, and mostly colorless. All lines and an excess of color lead the eye to that blank spot, an absence of color. The result is dually of removed emphasis and hyper-focus.