A surprisingly bloodless biography mapping Nevelson's construction of an outrageous persona to pursue art and success. When she died in 1988, Nevelson had cast her original image far--both through her often-photographed, opulently staged appearance, and the sculpture she placed in cityscapes across the country. She had spent the century transforming herself--a Russian-born child growing up in a Jewish family in Rockland, Maine. Strategically favoring imagination over reality, she revised history with the same calculated flare she employed in costuming herself in furs, hats, and other dramatic regalia. According to Edward Albee, she ""told half-truths to most people."" Trying to pierce Nevelson's facade, Lisle (who wrote a 1980 biography of Georgia O'Keeffe) touches on the many forces at work in Nevelson's painful struggle, and confronts her dark side. Ruthless, aggressive, promiscuous, often depressed, Nevelson exploited whomever was necessary--her son included--to go her own way. But a fair-minded reticence prevents Lisle from bridging the distance Nevelson so artfully kept. Even at the end, when the author had access to the artist, her companion, her son, and her dealer, she hesitates to hammer down facts or risk a strong point of view. Only sometimes do we see the offstage Nevelson--scrounging the city for material, or surrounded by assistants as she moves from piece to piece in her wood-filled Manhattan studio. One-note prose leaves but a partial glimpse of the pulse and personalities of the New York art world. Amid scores of the artist's secondhand quotes, her ten-year-old son's pleas for his mother to come home stand out as moving moments. Although wanting a powerful evocation of Nevelson and her work, the book competently outlines a daring life stuck with the ""specious glamour"" a critic once saw in the gilding on a Nevelson sculpture.