Surrealism: Inside the Magnetic Fields by Penelope Rosemont
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read a book on “the making of an art historian”, then read Peter McGough’s memoirs of an artist in the 1980s, (he covered more years than that) and this popped up as a recommendation. I have an affinity to surrealism in the visual art form (more on non-visual below…), being partial to Magritte and Dali especially, so I requested a review copy of this, which was granted by the publisher through Edelweiss.
I guess I need to read more about surrealism because I had a hard time buying some of her narrative. Living with an artist, knowing many artists, even engaging with many artists over the past decade, politics is always present, but I’ve never thought it drove an entire genre. I may be wrong, but my inner primitive brain tells me no. I think Ms. Rosemont trafficked in anarchical circles and just happened to art at surrealism as well. Continue reading
Appeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill, and the Road to War by Tim Bouverie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This might be my last review of a book received through the discontinued Penguin Books First to Read program. I requested 29 since 2015 and was selected for 19 (I might read one more that I was not selected for, thus the “might”) and I appreciate the opportunities.
Bouverie has composed an incredibly thorough relation of a narrow history of a particular time for a particular country, and particular players and their particularly disastrous choices of action. His political journalist chops are apparent…his research is extensive. For a reader not of his country, the insights were well received, including the acerbic observations throughout (on the future Edward VIII and his hands off opinion, Bouverie said “[l]acking intelligence and a sense of constitutional propriety, the Prince made his views clear …”) There are lessons here that are not being heeded in the country of this reader. I may draw crosshairs for finding parallels in a particular political party’s appeasement of the heinous actions and comportment of the current (as of this writing) elected executive. There are other observations that parallel today; one being:
I have the impression that the persons directing the policy of the Hitler Government are not normal. Many of us, indeed, have a feeling that we are living in a country where fanatics, hooligans and eccentrics have got the upper hand.
– British Ambassador to Berlin [Sir Horace Rumbold] to the Foreign Secretary [Sir John Simon], June 30, 1933
Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power by Anna Merlan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I admire anonymously the monumental efforts like those of people at Media Matters, who endure hours upon hours of the likes of Fox News so that the sane of us don’t have to watch to see what nonsense is being spewed at any given instance. And then there is Ms. Merlan, who takes such to extremes, diving into the belly of so many beasts to write this she has to have brain bleach on autorefill. Hat’s off and bravo. There have always been conspiracists and their theories – whacky, out there, unreal. I semi-argued in frustration with someone some years ago who thought the feed from the International Space Station was faked, as was the moon landing (it was faked, of course, by Stanley Kubrick, but he always liked to shoot on location 😉 ). Sadly, she wasn’t the only person I’ve known who believed that mind-boggling gem, and I know anti-vaxxers, some who think fluoride is poison brainwashing, and a few Deep Staters and birthers just for starters. The fallout from 2016 is alarming enough that when I saw this, I requested and was sent an Advance Reader’s Edition from the publisher through LibraryThing.
Ms. Merlan calls this “a surreal time”, where the subcultures she writes about are “achieving a hallucinatory new level of fame.” In the western hemisphere, conspiracies have been around since the Euro-occupants (my term) got here. She says
Conspiracy theories tend to flourish especially at times of rapid social change, when we’re reevaluating ourselves and, perhaps, facing uncomfortable questions in the process. In 1980, the civil liberties lawyer and author Frank Donner wrote that conspiracism reveals a fundamental insecurity about who Americans want to be versus who we are.
Well, one need only look to religions to see the same thing. Continue reading
Foursome: Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Paul Strand, Rebecca Salsbury by Carolyn Burke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was provided a review copy of this from the publisher through First to Read. I admit unfamiliarity with three of the foursome, though I recognize Strand and of course, O’Keeffe (I got to see an exhibition of some if her works in Oklahoma some 30 years ago, too young to truly appreciate them) and I didn’t make many notes in this reading… just absorbed. There are intimate stories here. I do not know how much is known already to students of these four, but I suspect – obviously, as the book had to be written – that having them all together is new, and perhaps unknown.
More than a telling of their stories, Ms. Burke also frames the times that shaped them, shaped their arts. New arts to the world, new visions, self discovery and explorations. One of the things I appreciate about Ms. Burke’s exposition and sometime dramatization is that she qualifies any speculation; if she found no evidence to support suspected relationships, interactions, she doesn’t embellish. Or at least those parts of her narrative where she caveats “tempting to think … but impossible to know” would indicate.
We tend to think in two dimensions, and might think of a “foursome” as a rectangle/quadrangle, but they were rather a tetrahedron, with Steiglitz at the apex for most of their relationships. O’Keeffe eclipsed him in fame and ascended to that apex, but his … seniority … tended to prevail. This is not to say that any of the other three were not their own people, individual and distinct. Clearly, they were, but he was the progenitor of that foursome. They fed off of each other. Built. And also held each other at bay. To preserve their individuality.
This is about the people, and much less their arts, which serve to support here but not stand center. So what do I take away? Well, I looked up Salsbury’s reverse oils on glass, and Stieglitz’s and Strand’s photographs. And I revisited O’Keeffe. And I have things to think about.
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Posted in Art, biography, Book review, Books
Tagged Alfred Stieglitz, art, Carolyn Burke, Foursome, Georgia O'Keeffe, Paul Strand, photography, Rebecca Salsbury, review copy