A dense, sometimes revelatory read, best appreciated by advanced students of art or psychology.

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Art and Intuition

BORDERLINES AND BOUNDARIES, REFLECTIONS AND REFRACTIONS OF THE GAZE IN PAINTING TODAY

In a scholarly debut, Paxson explores the origins and outlets of intuition and its relation to the creative process.

Since Freud “discovered” the unconscious mind, its processes have been the subject of science, art, psychoanalytic study and countless theories. To illuminate “the broader idea of intuition” and what she calls “the unthought stage of image making,” Paxson consults the works of several major thinkers: Jacques Lacan, J.F. Lyotard, Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, and Anton Ehrenzweig, among others. Paxson, a working painter, acknowledges Bataille’s paradox of a rational mind trying to plumb the unconscious, yet she feels compelled to investigate the roots of creativity, especially within her own studio. The book’s revelations escape a succinct summary, but notable among Paxson’s efforts are her hybridization of theories, combining Lacan’s “signifiers” and his concept of the “gaze” with Lyotard’s “libidinal energy,” the flow of which, Paxson agrees, is “the basis of the unconscious.” She also sees validity in Ehrenzweig’s contention that death overrides sex in the overall human equation. Paxson puts much weight in the work of Deleuze and Guattari and their theory of “schizoanalysis,” in which “breaks and flows” affect libidinal energy—what they called “a basic force of life”—and “a synthesis of ‘machines’ that ‘produce.’ ” Additionally, Ehrenzweig’s three stages of creativity connect the author’s collected theories, “specifically in the arena of making art.” However, although Paxson raises a few interesting ideas and has clearly put a great deal of thought into the unthought stage, the book tends to read like an intensely focused master’s thesis. Without some background in psychoanalysis, philosophy, semantics and art history, readers may find the text overwhelmingly pedantic. In hazy black-and-white reproductions, Paxson includes some of her own artwork as examples of the various intuition-based concepts she cites. Unfortunately, they aren’t especially helpful in furthering the discussion or simplifying the reading experience.

A dense, sometimes revelatory read, best appreciated by advanced students of art or psychology.

Pub Date: April 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-1462862108

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2013

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A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

HOW TO BE AN ARTIST

A noted critic advises us to dance to the music of art.

Senior art critic at New York Magazine and winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, Saltz (Seeing Out Louder, 2009, etc.) became a writer only after a decadeslong battle with “demons who preached defeat.” Hoping to spare others the struggle that he experienced, he offers ebullient, practical, and wise counsel to those who wonder, “How can I be an artist?” and who “take that leap of faith to rise above the cacophony of external messages and internal fears.” In a slim volume profusely illustrated with works by a wide range of artists, Saltz encourages readers to think, work, and see like an artist. He urges would-be artists to hone their power of perception: “Looking hard isn’t just about looking long; it’s about allowing yourself to be rapt.” Looking hard yields rich sources of visual interest and also illuminates “the mysteries of your taste and eye.” The author urges artists to work consistently and early, “within the first two hours of the day,” before “the pesky demons of daily life” exert their negative influence. Thoughtful exercises underscore his assertions. To get readers thinking about genre and convention, for example, Saltz presents illustrations of nudes by artists including Goya, Matisse, Florine Stettheimer, and Manet. “Forget the subject matter,” he writes, “what is each of these paintings actually saying?” One exercise instructs readers to make a simple drawing and then remake it in an entirely different style: Egyptian, Chinese ink-drawing, cave painting, and the styles of other artists, like Keith Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe. Freely experiment with “different sizes, tools, materials, subjects, anything,” he writes. “Don’t resist something if you’re afraid it’s taking you far afield of your usual direction. That’s the wild animal in you, feeding.” Although much of his advice is pertinent to amateur artists, Saltz also rings in on how to navigate the art world, compose an artist’s statement, deal with rejection, find a community of artists, and beat back demons. Above all, he advises, “Work, Work, Work.”

A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08646-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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