Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Art Attack: Reading about the World of Art

Through March and April, the Halifax Public Libraries are celebrating the arts with a program series called Art Attack: No Holds Barred Arts and Crafts.

I have a pretty diverse interest in art, which, coupled with my interest in reading, means I'm always intrigued by a good art tale. Many art books have moved away from the format of pages of plates and perfunctory historical details to offer detailed, intriguing tales that teach us about art in the context of its age. The people and places of these books are often as interesting as the art itself in these great reads that will certainly draw (pardon the pun) you in.

The Age of Homespun: objects and stories in the creation of an American myth
by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Historian Ulrich explores the crafts and material culture of 19th century New England in this book that sheds light on not only the crafts, but the individuals and the culture that created them. Each chapter focuses on a single item; from an Indian basket, to a linen tablecloth to an unfinished stocking.

America's Medicis: the Rockefellers and their astonishing cultural legacy
by Suzanne Loebl

While Ullrich focuses on those who created art and craft out of necessity, Loebl looks at the history of family whose wealth left them little in the way of needs, but who nonetheless had a huge impact on artistic culture. This book chronicles the role of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and her husband, John D. Rockefeller Jr as art collectors and museum builders in 20th century America.

Defiant Spirits: the modernist revolution of the group of seven
by Ross King

King is a Canadian novelist and nonfiction author who frequently focuses on art. This book is a sort of collective biography of the men who made up Canada's most famous art movement: The Group of Seven. Quill and Quire magazine said:"King’s elegant prose is a joy to read as he introduces each figure, giving the reader a rare glimpse into the lives of young men who were united by the desire to create a distinctly Canadian painting style at a time when critics, collectors, and the public were hostile toward the aspiring modernists."

Spiral Jetta: a road trip through the land art of the American West
by Erin Hogan

When I first saw this title, I thought it was a typo: but it's not. It's a travel memoir of an American woman who took a break from her art world career (director of public affairs at the Art Institute of Chicago) to hop in her Jetta and explore Midwestern Land Art, including Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. As with most travel memoirs, it's as much about the author's personal emotional journey as the physical one.

Vanished Smile: the mysterious theft of the Mona Lisa
by R.A. Scotti

I didn't know the Mona Lisa had been stolen in 1911 and was missing for 2 years before it was returned. named this a book of the month in August 2009, telling readers that the book "investigates this largely forgotten caper, and along the way we're treated to a tour of turn-of-the-century Paris, the birth of modern forensics, and a biography of the enigmatic painting itself."

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