Good Reads-Recommendations from PrintMatters Members

This month I thought it might be fun to see what our members are reading and what they might recommend. I put a call out to the membership and got some good recommendations.

First,  I heard from Cathie Kayser. The books she recommends had a major impact on the direction of her work. In particular, she mentions the essays in Walking the Wrack Line by Barbara Hurd. Hurd wandered along the shoreline from Massachusetts to Morocco examining the flotsam of beaches and writing about the metaphors contained therein. Cathie says, “Her searches for ‘unifying metaphors’ paralleled those I was searching for in my own work.” Cathie also recommends Six Drawing Lessons by William Kentridge. About this book,  Cathie comments, “Kentridge’s book is a collection of his thoughts on art-making and the studio. When I am feeling insecure and full of doubts about my own work, I am comforted to know that Kentridge could also be wandering in circles in his studio, unsure of the solution to his latest art question.”

Katherine Fields also recommended a book from a prominent name in the world of modern art. Wassily Kandinsky‘s Concerning the Spiritual in Art is considered a seminal work. It explores his own theory of painting and crystallizes the ideas that were influencing many other modern artists of the period. There are two parts: in the first he calls for a spiritual revolution in painting to liberate and express the inner lives of artists and in the second part, he discusses the psychology of color and the language of form and color. Katherine notes that a new introduction and preface put Kandinsky’s life and the theories he proposes in their proper context.  Katherine says, “Making the book even more valuable are nine woodcuts by Kandinsky himself that appear at the chapter headings. It is a seminal text within my pedagogical practices. It sets the stage for the artist to comprehend the crucial nature of his/her choices within the value of aesthetics.”

Nancy Luton suggests some good fiction for a little variety. Her recommendation is Spending by Mary Gordon. Gordon, Nancy writes, is particularly good at creating amazing women characters. This book is about a painter at a crossroads in thinking about her work and the turn it takes with far-reaching implications. The title refers to all means of spending whether financial or personal, psychological or sexual. Nancy comments, “It’s the best novel I’ve ever read with art/the artist’s process as its subject. A good read for summer or anytime.”

Eileen McClellan’s latest read is Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell by Deborah Solomon.  Joseph Cornell started making his art on the kitchen table. This work would be labeled, for lack of a more succinct term, “toys for adults” by art critics. He would later be considered a Surrealist, then a part of the Abstract Expressionist movement. Finally, he was grouped with the Pop Artists. He seemed to meld into each one of these “isms”, but at the same time, remained very unique. He was not formally trained in art, but was inspired to create his famous shadow boxes as a result of a desire to capture the spirit of and pay homage to some of his female obsessions: Hollywood starlets and ballerinas. Eileen enthusiastically praises this biography, “I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about artists and the revelations that come from peering into their lives. There is much more to this man than has been shared in art history books. I am seeing his work in a completely new light. There are many surprises in this biography. I especially like the stores that involve Yayoi Kusama and Marcel Duchamp, among others.”

My own suggestion come from a completely different genre. I have been reading Shut Your Monkey by Danny Gregory. You know that nagging little voice in your head? The one that picks your work apart, makes you feel badly about yourself, questions your motives and undermines your efforts? Gregory refers to this inner critic as a monkey. This book examines ways to deal with and silence the inner critic and set yourself free to be more successfully creative. While light-hearted in tone, Gregory takes a serious approach to this problem. Through stories and a bit of humor, Gregory provides practical suggestions to help and much food for thought about the origins and nature of this noodge in all our lives. Gregory also has a podcast to go with the book. I found a lot to consider in this simple little book.

Our last suggestion comes from new member, Eileen Glaser.  She has enjoyed Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream by Sue Prideaux. This book is the first in-depth look at the artist in an English-language biography. Enlivened with excerpts from his diary, Prideaux looks at the elements that shaped Munch’s life and work from his troubled personal life to  the times he lived and his associations with radical Norwegian intellectuals. Eileen says, ” There’s a lot to learn from this book. As you know, Munch was a great printmaker. A friend of mine in Houston has three of his prints: two woodcuts and an etching.”

I hope this has given you some reading material for the coming months. Thanks to all the members who provided suggestions. If you read something interesting and would like to share, send the title, author and your thoughts my way. I’ll be collecting those suggestions for a future post. As an additional note, comments have been turned on. Let’s open a dialogue here on the blog! Feel free to “like” or “share” as well.