Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tip of the Day: Tower.com

Okay, so I check out these sorts of things. I like to see where neoNuma Arts books are available.

Well, it turns out the best deal I've found by far on neoNuma Arts titles is, unexpectedly, at Tower.com.

So you can find Christopher E. Ellis's excellent collection of plays, The Fatal Gift of Beauty and Other Plays for only $9.99, 38% off the cover price. Similarly, at the same discount/price is Able to... , the first neoNuma title (which I'll probably blog about some more sometime soon, as I've never felt it really found it's audience). Jill Alexander Essbaum's Necropolis gets only a 36% discount, but still, it's a steal at $8.99. Heck, even my "practice" book, Thirty-Six Echoes, gets 31% off (going for $8.99 as well)---which doesn't affect me at all and I'll still give the same $1.30 to Lutheran World Relief for every copy sold. (I haven't blogged about Thirty-Six Echoes, I don't think. It's a collection of writings that were originally published in The Echoes, the newsletter of First English Lutheran Church between 1995 and 1998. Since I originally published them there for free, I'd decided to donate my "royalties" to LWR---one of the more highly regarded hunger and disaster relief organizations. So a purchase of this book also helps victims of disaster around the world.)

So, how's that for a deal? Hie thee over to Tower.com and check out the neoNuma titles---and check out what else you might find there. It may be the best kept book-buying secret on the web!

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Monday, September 01, 2008

modern art (in a postmodern world?)

Last spring, when I went to see the touring show of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company's Chapel/Chapter, I stayed for the artist "talk-back" afterwards. I'd just written a profile of Bill T. Jones for OutSmart and wanted to hear more from the man with whom I'd had about 15 minutes on the phone.

One of the things he said, in response to a question from the audience, was that the best way to look at modern art was to look at yourself looking at it. (He may have been quoting someone else and of course I'm paraphrasing here. If anyone knows the source of this, I'd love to know it.)

I've been thinking about this, of and on, ever since. I've also, of course, been watching myself looking at modern (or postmodern or contemporary---choose your term and realize each has its own set of luggage) art. Reactions vary, of course, depending upon what I'm seeing, the day I'm seeing it, my mood, and (sometimes) who is the artist. Among other factors.

Watching myself look at art, I find I'm sometimes dismissive. Or judgmental in that really awful way. Sometimes, I'm awed, if the piece meets my personal set of aesthetic sensibilities. Sometimes, I'm just curious.

If I am not awed, it's that last response that I'm working on cultivating. What is that? What is it trying to say? Why would someone do that? This seems, to me, a much richer engagement with art. I may walk away not liking the artwork, I might walk away disagreeing with what (I perceive) the piece is saying, but the process of engaging the work beyond the initial, "what is this crap?" is proving to be rewarding.

Being dismissive or judgmental is just too easy and I find I spent a lot of my life having those reactions. "That's not art!" "Who does the artist thing s/he's fooling?" Or my (least) favorite: "A five year old could have done that!"

Yes, I've had all those reactions. And as I've grown in art education, I find all those reactions were made out of both ignorance and out of a culture that rejects what is unusual or unfamiliar. Is that who I want to be? It seems I can make some decisions about my own reactions. And maybe I can apply those decisions to not only art but to my fellow human beings.

So what do you see when you see yourself seeing art? The artwork itself may be irrelevant. The revelation may come from behind your eyes.

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