Another Go At It

This time maybe not the dry ones.


I decided to take these books back to the 700 shelves, unfinished.

The book on the left I was halfway through. It's a 500 page book of 30 some essays about artists by Ingrid Sischy who wrote for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, etc.

This book did introduce me to the some new celebrity names of artists that I hadn't heard of before. (Which apparently isn't saying much. I hadn't heard of many of the artists mentioned.) The name Robert Mapplethorpe for instance was mentioned in several of Sischy's essays. I learned something new.

I had two favorite essays however (from the ones I read). One about Miuccia Prada. Here's an excerpt:

"Mostly she received the kind of advice you often get when you've done something ahead of its time: people tried to persuade her to add elements that would transform her creation to fit the moment's formulas of success."

And an essay on Keith Haring. Here's an excerpt:

"Those who saw him create were amazed at how quickly he tossed off images; to belabor was to risk the pure exuberance and spontaneous feeling he so often transmitted."

Overall though I could not get into this book. It was work to read nearly every essay I did finish. It felt like I was at a schmoozy party in New York, where Sischy was trying to introduce me to famous people as we mingled with a crowd I didn't relate to, but felt obligated to be kind to because they were a real somebody. I felt like the drinks were too fancy and my dress too tight and the food plates too small. Namely, I felt bored and stuffy. I tried, really I did. But finally I folded and it felt like I traded the party for comfy pajamas, a cold beer and some much needed alone time. 

The book to the right, Culture as Weapon, would have been a book we read in my Communications/Journalism courses in college if I was going to college in the time of social media. The beginning of this book was basically the history of media (i.e newspaper, radio, tv, social media). It talked about how artists were good at conveying a message that connected to people's emotions, and marketing took these ideas from artists to manipulate people to do their bidding.

I grew tiresome of the dramatic approach to how wicked media is, or rather the people behind the media. I don't enjoy reading a book that warns me of the danger around every corner. This is a cautionary tale that I just couldn't stick with, especially when I felt like it kept wavering between it could be really bad or it could be really good, it just depends. Yeah, I got it. There is so much to love about art, I gave up on this book, because I just don't have the energy anymore to get all up in arms about the potential evil.

I was hesitant to return to the 700 shelves. Maybe I will just stick to Robert Henri and The Art Spirit for awhile. But when I returned these books to the library I let myself meander back over to the 700s again.


There they were, the first two books I read. Man, those were a heavy load too. I wanted to pat them on the spine, my little love/hate relationships. Why is this 700 challenge such a struggle when I love art so entirely?

I picked the next book off the shelf, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science and flipped through it. I tried. I mean there was a lot of good art in it, but it was too much information, too much explanation. I kept thinking, "But I don't care."

I am beginning to think this is a project that would have gone much differently if started in my twenties. In my forties, I just don't have the patience for that which doesn't instantly hold my attention. I am entirely intuitive and can tell where a book is heading.

I put the book back and pulled the next one off the shelf, Your Creative Career. I read through the Table of Contents. "Nope, nope, nope," I thought. Things like building a brand, marketing myself, all the things I've been told I should care about. No. I put it back.

The next book was basically an encyclopedia. Great for research if you need to look something up in an index, great historical timeline and great for eye candy, but no way am I going to wade through that as reading material.

Then I did the unthinkable, I panned the shelves as a whole, rather than limiting myself to the very next book alphabetically. "Does anything catch my eye?" I asked myself. "Does anything have 'the art spirit' in it?"

I saw the title "You Might Be An Artist If..." in bubble letters along the spine. I pulled it off the shelf and flipped through it. A series of comics. I sighed in relief. This felt promising. This one came home with me.

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Today as I was leaving my home with a freshly washed box of classroom art smocks, I threw the book of comics into the box, knowing I would have a moment or two between teaching and visiting a children's art show to read a few pages.

Later in the day I read the forward. Here's an excerpt:

"There's a hammer in our office that hangs on the wall. Lauren gave it to us when she came in one day: she'd collaged a series of uppercase letter from various printed media onto the hammer in a manner that resembles a ransom note...'Smash Boring Art Yeah Yeah.'"

Someone else gets fed up with boring art. Good to hear! Lauren's hammer might just be more powerful to me than Thor's. Life's too short for the art (or art books) I find boring. It's important to me to know when to move right along.

Suffice it to say, I plan on reading "You Might be An Artist If..." all the way through. 

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