Friday, December 12, 2008

Whatcha reading?

Melinda accuses me of reading over her shoulder all the time. I say, I'm just easily distracted. Have you read anything lately that gets you so excited, you want to discuss it with anyone that sits by you for more than 30 seconds?

I've had a bunch of books recommended to me by the (extremely well-read) visitors to the Fice and other friends, and so I've been able to single-handedly keep UPS in business, while limiting the recent layoffs at ebay to the mere ten thousand that they felt impelled to do, to impress the stock analysts.

Currently on the nightstand:

Has Modernism Failed? by Suzi Gablik
Silvina gets the credit for recommending this one... it is dense, but intense! Check out this hammer blow on the contradictions of marketing art for a social good:
...since the individual who has a career in mind will obviously be eager to promote his or her own cause, ideals must be bent to suit the demands of our times. "As artists we have sold off inspiration to buy influence," the Minimalist sculptor Carl Andre has said. "We have always had the historical choice of either lying through or living through our contradictions. Now through the genius of the bourgeoisie we have the chance to market them."

Gablik's book is a series of essays on the role of art -- in essence, the conflict between art as individual expression or as a social force -- and whether or not modernism succeeded in moving art forward, or getting it lost. Along the way, she demolishes Clement Greenberg's art for art's sake, the Art Industry, and 'anxious objects.' I'm still devouring this book, sometimes cheering for Gablik, sometimes rolling my eyes -- but there's no question that every page challenges me to reevaluate what I think art is about.

The Vein of Gold by Julie Cameron
A gift from a fellow Creative, this is a companion (or maybe sequel) to Cameron's essential work in unblocking creativity, The Artist's Way. Where Way was about breaking through blocks, excuses and self-criticism to become creative, Vein provides a series of approaches (and those inevitable exercises) to finding one's way to an internal landscape of experience and feeling, suitable fodder for art expression. For the activist artist, Cameron's approach may seem too individual-expressionistic, but her touch is light and she has no agenda on your art, and simply provides methods of tapping into the currents that drive us.

The Artist's Mentor ed. Ian Jackman
Misleadingly subtitled "Inspiration from the World's Most Creative Minds" the Artist's Mentor is a fairly obvious attempt to trade on the success of Jackman's previous title, The Writer's Mentor.
Unfortunately, it isn't inspirational to read quotes about the transformation of the artworld in the 80's into a grinding industry of rock-star poseurs and flashes in the pan — or any other chapters. Jackman takes an even-handed approach to diminishing every worthy preconception you harbor about art and working in art: that your work matters, that art is a landscape of progression, that plein air painting adds something (or that it doesn't).
A patchwork of contradictory quotations from artists and critics, you can find a quote to support anything you like, here. And one to support the opposite, too. Snarkiness and pessimism abound. Inspiration? I don't think so. Avoid this one, if you still harbor a love of fairy tales. But you can find some occasionally self-deprecating humor, if you like to include quotes in your blog:

"Have you ever met an artist that didn't want to be famous? Artists are the greatest delayed-gratification people in the world." — Mary Beth Edelson

Creative Authenticity by Ian Roberts
Still in the beginning stages of reading this one, which I grabbed on impulse from the shelves at Borders.
Subtitled "Sixteen Principles to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision," Roberts makes an initial case for Beauty, and as I'm a stickler for words, I have the sense that he's mis-applying "beauty" in his argument. I think if he and I could agree on the proper term, we'd probably not be far apart in viewpoint. His writing is accessible and his anecdotes are interesting. Semantics aside, the book is motivating — and inspirational — for artists that are seeking to fan the flame of their artistic calling: like Julie Cameron's lectures, but without the exercises.

So ... what's on your holiday reading list?


Karen said...

1) Problem Solving for Oil Painters by Gregg Kreutz. A book about essential questions and problems we encounter in the painting process (concepts, values, paint quality, etc.). Beautiful examples in the Leffel tradition.

2) The New Munsell Student Color Set by Jim Long and Joy Turner Lake. Details the Munsell color system, plus added bonus of wonderfully excruciating exercises in assembling a couple hundred small color chips into the Munsell color charts. Perfect for instructors.

3) Henche on Painting. Beautiful writings on the Cape Cod School colorist tradition.

4) The Onion. The best newspaper around.

my croft said...

Morning, Edgar,

Thanks for stopping by the croft. I think the key to contentment in the letter writing exercise is not expecting to get anything back. And not gushing like a school girl with a crush ;-)

Ii'm on a bit of a fiction tear right now (Unsworth's The Songs of the Kings) but while tidying last night I ran across two of John Berger's books (The Sense of Sight and Ways of Seeing) that I didn't know I had and pulled them off the shelf so I rememebr to read them. Also in that grouping The Mystery of Consciousness by John R Searle.

Jeffrey J. Boron said...

My goodness...I'm afraid my reading leans more to the escapeism
vein and usually has a cop or gumshoe in it often the moment I am devouring a wonderful series by the recently late Tony Hillerman. All of them revolve around Navajo Tribual Policeman Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee in the 4 Corners Area. All of the novels have language, history, cultural and geographical information intertwined in the storyline. Sadly I am almost at the end of the dozen or more books in the series.
I'm in the middle of 'Sacred Clowns".
Coyote is always waiting and he's always hungry!


Melinda said...

A good post again, Edgar.
I've just started reading the book Karen suggested--A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit. Excellent, it is. Beyond that...well, I'm mostly enjoying looking at Southwest Art and other bloggers' work.

Note to Jeffrey:
Love the Tony Hillerman series! We've watched a couple of the made for PBS movies recently. Yes, Coyote is always hungry!!

Edgar said...

Karen — your hard study puts us to shame - but I can see increasing control and sophistication, just in the time I've been visiting your blog this year. [I loved the Onion's video "Diebold machine inadvertently reveals results of 2008 presidential election early."]

My Croft — happy to see you! Speaking of materialist art criticism (Berger)- you could have been a great help in our "talk me down" discussion.

Jeffrey — Hey! Thanks for stopping by. Those PBS adaptations are the closest I've come to the Hillerman books - but the TV show is a real treat because of the footage of the beautiful Navajo country. (I left out my genre fiction reading, only because it's an "art" blog, and bringing up sci-fi would only sully my air of pretension.)

Melinda — If you're planning on being lost, take a pochade and a cell phone, 'k?

Anonymous said...

Two books I've read recently related to art are:

"What is Painting? Representation and Modern Art" by Julian Bell. Very thought provoking discussion about what makes a painting and how modern trends in art have challenged our views about that. Bell is a painter himself, so it's not just from a critics viewpoint.

"The Modern Mind" by Peter Watson - a good overview of the intellectual history of the 20th century so it covers a lot more than art but does include a lot of discussion of the arts.

Anonymous said...

I thought you would find Gablik's book engrossing. It was recommended to me by Bill Sharp, another artist who blogs. I wanted so very much to write a summary or at least an opinion about Has Modernism Failed, but was afraid I couldn't do it justice. You've expressed it so well in so few words. Thanks for this informative review of books on art. Merry Christmas!

Marian Fortunati said...

Mostly I read to escape reality so I read murder mysteries!! Although sometimes I do read art books... Just finished Leffel's most recent book... (gorgeous plates of his paintings!)
Loved reading a book about John Singer Sargeant called "Strapless" a while back..
My most recent non-murder, non-art book was a Ken Follet book called Pillars Of The Earth!

NOW... the reason I came to your site... I posted the question after you commented on my site but I didn't get a respons and I KNOW... you are a techie wizard...
Can you figure out WHY the widget on blogspot that you (and now I) have on the sidebar called My Blog List, doesn't accept the URL for certain blogs??? (like mine??)
The widget works fine for almost all of the URLS I put in including yours, but it doesn't work for Faye Christian Phillips... (or mine) and I can't figure out why!!


Happy Holidays to you!

Melinda said...

Read this, Edgar:

You have talent.
You can water color.
Making decisions aren't so hard the second after you make them.
Create the time for your art.
Set up the pochade twice a week.
Laugh more.
Remember Amelie, Frida, Joan and Fritz.
Free the artist!
--your fellow comrade

TSL said...

I am ashamed to say at this particular moment I have no reading list but I intend to remedy that in three days.

Karen Appleton said...

Anything with Van Gogh in the title. :) Currently, "The Yellow House, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Provence."

Great suggestions Edgar!

Edgar said...

Bob— I think you'd like what Ian Roberts has to say - he specifically brings up the difference in the way that painters look at other paintings vs. how art critics look at them.

Sylvina— Thanks for turning me on to it. Makes me feel all radical and revolutionary when I read it.

Marian— I don't just read art books, either. It's a good thing. Else, I'd really just be a troll under a bridge.

Melinda— This is advice I'm going to try to follow. Thank you.

Tina— Thanks for coming by. Let us know what you come up with. [Why three days?]

Karen— Sounds like a good obsession to have, so long as you just like the art, not the whole insanity thing.

TSL said...

Why three days? I am headed out of town in just a little bit, and the first stop is a huge Books-A-Million about 85 miles in the direction I am traveling. I will let you know what I come up with.
Edgar, I can't locate email address for you, but I want to say thank you. You might know why already.

Edgar said...

Tina— Can't think of anything I've done for you that needs thanking, but I've been toying with putting my email address on my sidebar, so you've helped with that decision. Promise you aren't sending me an hilarious Forward, k?